Skiing in Italy: What’s good, what’s great, and why it’s now in my list of favourites!
Before this February my experience of skiing in Italy had been restricted to day trips taken from French resorts, but this winter an ambitious plan was formed to fulfil several wishes in one trip: Combining a trip to Rome, a 6 Nations rugby match (and a Scotland win!), a week of skiing and a stopover in Verona.
One of the nice things about visiting Italy is that it’s relatively small – and they have a super-efficient high speed rail system which meant we could get from Rome in the south, up to the Trentino region in a little under 4 hours. None of the ski resorts are accessible by rail, but we were able to get a transfer from the town of Trento to Madonna di Campiglio, which took about 2 hours.
Madonna di Campiglio
Madonna di Campiglio is probably a name that’s familiar to a lot of skiers – it plays host to world cup skiing each winter and has a long pedigree with the Italian ski-and-be-seen-crowd. That’s not really ‘us’ (me and my mum), but I had heard good things about the skiing and the scenery, and with good value prices and easy access we decided to give it a go.
There’s over 150 km of linked skiing stretching from Pinzolo, through Madonna di Campiglio and over to Folgarida and Marilleva. That’s a lot of terrain and with skiing on both sides of the valley as well it felt even bigger. At first glance the piste map is kind of confusing – there are three different access points to the mountain from the village – and for the first few days it was a lottery as to which lift we’d end up back at the foot of! But that aside, the ski area really impressed us. The pistes are really long, well maintained and there’s excellent snowmaking on 90% of slopes. In fact, it has one of the most sophisticated artificial snow systems in the Alps, which alleviates any worries about early season skiing. Uplift was modern and efficient as well – a mix of cable cars, gondolas, chairlifts and even a magic carpet to save your legs going over a flat bridge. We were primed to expect lift queues as our trip fell within Italian school holidays, but we only encountered a few queues between around 11am and 1pm. The Italians don’t seem to be early risers, and they favour a looong lunch! If the sun doesn’t come out then you can expect to have the slopes to yourself as well – on an overcast morning we were amused to hear only Scottish accents on the mountain! We found that all of the pistes were groomed nightly which means that after overnight snow you get that perfect combination of powder on top of corduroy – proper hero snow! Skiing off piste is not allowed as its on National Park land and that’s pretty strictly adhered to, but we found plenty of variety in the on piste skiing with some nice steep pitches, as well as long picturesque cruisy blues and reds.
Food & Drink
I think that when most people think of Italy, they think of food. Sure, the French are foodies too, but the Italians live and breathe food: simple, delicious, affordable food! Had we not encountered the Worst. Stadium. Food. Ever at the Stadio Olimpico then I wouldn’t believe it possible to eat badly in Italy! Certainly our experience in the mountains was excellent and whether we were eating on the slopes or in the town we found great value and real quality. A delicious carbonara or lasagne was in the region of €10. Bargain! Trentino is also a top wine producing region too – and a bottle of Prosecco was cheaper than you’d pay for a glass of beer in the equivalent French or Swiss resort.
The town of Madonna di Campiglio is quite large – but the centre is quite compact, with a main street and cobbled pedestrian centre flanked by stylish boutiques and cafes. This is the focus for the ‘passeggiata’ when the natives don their diamonds and furs and take an evening stroll and an aperitivo. We got right into this! It’s all terribly civilised – and your glass of Prosecco comes with a supporting cast of delicious nibbles and appetisers. Don’t spoil your appetite though – dinner is likely to be enormous!
An Italian City Break
As has become traditional: it snowed buckets on the night before we left! Over a metre of snow in the village made the trip down to Verona somewhat interesting! In Verona that snow was falling as rain so we spent a soggy afternoon wandering round the historic centre of this beautiful city – ducking into a lovely trattoria for cover from the worst of the showers. The weather prevented us from seeing everything we wanted to, but it was a nice way to end the holiday and a night or two there comes highly recommended. Our sister company, Osprey Holidays, are the experts in tailor-made city breaks and we would be more than happy to add a city break to your itinerary.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this trip as Italy hadn’t really figured on my radar that much. What a revelation it was! We found genuinely friendly service wherever we went; wonderful food and drink; stunning scenery; first class skiing and excellent value for money. Being able to easily tie in a city break (or two in our case) added an extra dimension to the trip that made it really special. It was the first Italian adventure, but it won’t be the last.