Last updated: 02:00 PM ET, Wed August 12 2015

Exploring Natural Italy from Milan

Destination & Tourism | James Ruggia | August 12, 2015

Exploring Natural Italy from Milan

PHOTO: The Dolomites have a different look and a different geologic essence than the other Alps. (Courtesy of Dolomite Mountains)

Milan, the capital of both Lombardy and the world of international fashion, is this year the center of the foodie universe as well. The Milan Expo 2015, with its theme of Feeding the Planet, is hosting the exhibitions of the foods of more than 140 countries through Oct. 31 when the show ends. The Milan Expo 2015 is also an opportunity to explore the agri-food and gastronomic traditions of each exhibitor country. It’s also a chance to explore Italy’s second largest city and the region around it. And the autumn in Northern Italy is arguably its most beautiful time of year.

There are many hotels trying to attract Expo attendees. Milan’s Palazzo Parigi, for instance, has a two-night Expo package, from €1,245 ($1,375), which includes a Classic Room for two, “A Taste of Italy” welcome amenity with local delicacies, a daily breakfast buffet and a three-hour EXPO visit with a private guide.

Regional attractions outside of Milan, near and far, are easily accessed thanks to express and high speed rail services from the city’s Central Station. Recently, Berlin-based GoEuro listed a set of day trips from Milan for less than €10. One such recommendation is Bergamo. This medieval hilltop town, about an hour by train from Milan, has a fine old piazza as well as the Palazzo del Comune and the Palazzo della Ragione.

Further afield is Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake. Carved by Ice Age glaciers which left the lake surrounded by vertical limestone walls, you can get to Lake Garda from Milan in about 90 minutes by train. From Garda you can access the surrounding Dolomites, a part of the Alps quite different from the rest. The Dolomites, with their towering limestone peaks, are of a completely different geologic provenance than the more familiar granite Alps of Switzerland. The limestone karst formations inside the Dolomites present a more perpendicular verticality and a more dramatic aspect.

One company combines the lake and the mountains. Dolomite Mountains is the name of a travel company as well as the actual mountains. The company is offering the five-day/four-night Lake Garda Multisport Adventure. Dolomite Mountains, the company, runs a guest lodge in the lake-side resort town of Riva del Garda. From there visitors can tackle a via ferrata ascent high above the lake; experience the adrenaline rush of canyoneering through narrow passageways and caves, sliding through rocks carved by water over eons; and mountain bike to a glacial lake. Swimming and water sports are also included.

PHOTO: Lake Garda Multisport Adventure offers active programs on the lake.

Via ferrata means “iron road,” a designated climbing route equipped with a steel cable to which even inexperienced climbers can secure themselves, eliminating some mountaineering risks on exceptionally challenging alpine terrain. This kind of climbing was introduced to the region in WWI. The Dolomites were one of the toughest fronts in the Great War where fighting between Austrians and Italians raged on cliff faces and across peaks and valleys.

Priced at €1,090 ($1,204) per person double, the package includes bed and breakfast accommodation for four nights, dinners in the hotel, the services for three days of an English-speaking mountain guide, equipment and gear pertaining to activities and more. There are about 8,000 miles of well-marked trails in the Dolomites that lead through apple orchards, along irrigation channels, mountain paths and chestnut groves and across high meadows. When autumn comes to the Dolomites, hikers take to trails that range from easy, family-friendly hikes to extremely challenging. The Dolomites work as well for families as adventurous hikers and climbers.

Movimënt is a car-free park at almost 7,000 feet above sea level where forest, meadows and ponds are divided into five themed areas, accessible only by lifts or woodland paths from Corvara, La Villa, and San Cassiano. The areas themselves are connected by trails for e-bikes or special mountain strollers. The park has programs accompanied by mountain guides, sports instructors, and operators.

One hotel in the Dolomites, the Adler Dolomiti in Ortisei, the capital of Val Gardena, leads two complimentary guided walks per day including four-and-a-half hour walk across Europe’s highest pastures. The Adler Dolomiti is situated in a private park and offers its guests plenty of mountain activities as well as the largest wellness facility in the Dolomites.

The hotel’s Autumn Sunshine Walking Special is valid from Sept. 20 to Dec. 3 and includes two daily guided hikes (one easy going and a more energetic lengthy hike). Priced from €418 ($462) for a three-day weekend break, the program includes a walkers’ gift, backpacks, telescopic poles, maps, a hearty snack on return, one wine tasting and more. 

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