Beat the Doldrums in the Dolomites

As previously alluded to, I had the pleasure of spending a weekend and change in the magical Italian Alps a few weeks ago, courtesy of a work trip to visit Hotel & Spa Rosa Alpina.  Doing PR for them and spending many hours writing pithy pitches and fun press releases (this post’s title was one of H’s suggestions for a press release) gave me a good idea of what to expect, but actually visiting the property was a real experience.  I went with one of my colleagues, arriving on Saturday morning and staying through Tuesday morning, which is definitely way too short of a trip, but we still managed to each gain several pounds over the course of those days.

Every international flight I’ve taken in the past four or so years has been on American, often in business or first, thanks to H’s hard earned Executive Platinum status.  But, alas, American doesn’t fly to Venice (the closest airport to San Cassiano, where Rosa Alpina is), so we flew Delta instead.  I must say, flying Delta with no status or upgrade internationally way exceeded my expectations: we had exit row seats that were surprisingly roomy if a bit noisy, next to the bathrooms where many of the passengers would congregate (I had to laugh at the announcement that due to FAA regulations, no one is allowed to congregate in groups in the aisles, they have clearly never been on a flight with Italians); we were not only fed but given menus to make our choices; and given little goodie bags with eyemasks and moisturizer and relatively decent headphones.  Almost like being in first except the seats aren’t as comfy and you get less free booze (they do give you a free drink with your meal).  Anyway, yay Delta, you aren’t awful!

We arrived in Venice relatively rested and were met by Hugo, the hotel’s third-generation proprietor and all around cool guy, who drove us the two+ hours up to the mountains.  Venice is so foggy at this time of year that we saw almost nothing when the plane was landing, nor when we started to drive north.  I haven’t seen Venice, so I guess I can’t die.  Once we started going up, the countryside was gorgeous.  Even as a major wuss and victim of car sickness, I was okay for the drive up twisty mountain roads, a tad green in the face, but okay.

One of my friends gasped when she saw my photos, “It’s like a fairy tale!” and the town and hotels are very charming.

It’s a sweet little mountain town, and almost everything in the valley is owned by a few families.  We must have met a dozen cousins of Hugo over the weekend, most of whom own or work in other hotels or restaurants.  Hugo grew up in the hotel and still lives there, making me call him the Italian Eloise (he didn’t get the reference).  We checked into our lovely rooms and set our for our first of many meals, rawther jet lagged but excited to be there at last.  Check out my sweet room:

I was rather enamored of this chair:

And the view wasn’t too bad, either:

It was an amazingly sunny and warm day, so we were taken to the Terraza at Hotel Ciasa Salares, where there is another Michelin star restaurant (this region has the highest concentration of Michelin restaurants in the Alps: Rosa Alpina’s St. Hubertus has two stars, La Siriola has one, just for the record) and a more casual restaurant on the terrace.  Here you can view the Italian weekenders in their native habitats, trompsing in on ski boots, lunching on fresh pasta and cheeses, and popping open magnums of champagne with swords (as they do there).  Not a bad life.  My favorite part of this restaurant was the communal hats.  There are piles of straw hats at every table and we were advised to use one to keep the sun out of our faces.  Not wanting to look a fool, I first resisted, but within a few minutes, I was more than happy to wear one.  Now I quite love the concept of communal hats, imagine how great it could be in a Mexican restaurant: sombreros for all!  I had some amazing lamb for lunch and kicked off a habit of starting each meal with a glass of Prosecco, followed by wine and sparkling water.  Terribly civilized, but I’m having a hard time incorporating this tradition into my everyday life of eating salads over my keyboard at work.  Hmm, must work on that.

We followed up lunch with massages at the hotel’s spa (oh, the things I must do for my job!) and a rest before our next meal.  While I was bordering on insanity with not enough sleep and jet lag, I managed to hold it together until quite late, on my third or fourth wind.

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