The magic of Italy is in the almost accidental way that experiences find you, especially if you pay a little bit of attention and are willing to draw outside of the lines. You might wander down an alley on a whim, order a dish you’ve never heard of based on a knowing wink from a waiter, or witness a slice of daily life that seems like a perfectly choreographed scene from a film.

Heading to Madonna di Campiglio, a real-life fairy tale village perched at 1522m (4933 ft) in the Brenta Dolomites in Italy’s Trentino region, is one of those magical experiences. 

If you ski, snowboard, ice climb, or snowshoe you may have heard of this historic resort – but there are plenty of good reasons to put this destination on your radar, year round. 

A UNESCO World Heritage site, the region is one of the best places to experience the unique culture of Trentino. And if you just want to lay back and be pampered, Campiglio boasts an absurd concentration of world-class restaurants, spas and wellness centers. 

Pack your warm socks and get to Madonna di Campiglio.

Skier rides down a slope at Madonna di Campiglio mountain ski resort.
Connect to ski runs directly from the fairytale village of Madonna di Campiglio © Danny Iacob / Shutterstock

Hit the slopes

The ski season officially kicks off in mid-November and Campiglio’s 156 kms (97 miles) of pistes buzz with activity throughout the winter. 

Trails begin in the town itself and are connected by chair lifts. The design means you can ski from place to place (and from meal to meal) to your heart’s content. You can even ski down to Pinzolo where there’s a brand-new lodge and the recently opened Attic restaurant – a very welcome addition to the area’s offerings. The area is also very generously dotted with mountain lodges.

Madonna di Campiglio is also an ideal spot for cross-country skiing, with 22 kms of runs adapted to all skill levels. If you haven’t cross-country skied before but want to try, be forewarned: it’s a serious workout but well rewarded. For the most atmospheric adventure: sign-up for cross-country skiing at night, a guided run that finishes at a mountain lodge where food and cocktails await. There’s nothing like your first Italian après ski experience.

Commune with nature (and dogs!)

Recapture the feeling of waking up to a snow day (or maybe discover it for the first time) with the Dolomiti Natural Wellness walk through a silent, forested winter idyll. Immersed in the landscape, you’ll be guided through meditation, breathing, and lessons in the region’s natural environment. There’s also an option to take a “snow bath” (you should seriously consider it). 

If you’re looking to spend time with some very good boys and girls, how about teaming up with your own pack of dogs for a dog-sledding adventure? You’ll learn all about the history of dog-sledding in Madonna di Campiglio and gain a whole new appreciation for the importance of this ancient practice. That is, if you can pull yourself away from petting the dogs for long enough to listen. 

You can also enjoy some regular sledding on a dedicated slope

Snowshoeing in Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy
If skiing is not your thing, consider snowshoeing with a mountain guide © Marco Bottigelli / Getty Images

Snowshoe and snow trek with a certified alpine guide

If you’re not quite ready to test yourself on the slopes (same), but still want to get out into the snow, don’t worry: snowshoeing and snow trekking are particularly popular in Madonna di Campiglio. 

The best way to get your bearings is with a certified alpine guide, bookable either directly in the town center or online. These guides are seriously intrepid, incredibly knowledgeable, and a blast to spend the day with. 

Walking up the side of a snowy mountain in snowshoes is already fun, but mountain guides are an amazing resource so it is worth budgeting for one. As well as pointing out local wildlife and topography, your guide will recount the history of the region, offer local tips on everything from where to après ski to when to come for festivals – and who makes the best coffee in town. 

Most importantly, they’ll make sure you have a safe experience; this is still rough terrain so it helps to have a helping hand. Plus, if you want to try your hand (and your nerves) at ice climbing, a guide will help you safely plan.

Polenta cooking over a fire in a red fireplace
A northern Italian staple, polenta is cooked and presented in different ways © Andrew Montgomery / Lonely Planet

Savor the northern Italian cuisine

Campiglio is a very small and very walkable place, so the fact that it’s got three Michelin-starred restaurants should tell you something about the standard of the local cuisine; you’d be unlucky to have a bad meal even if you were trying. 

Most mountain huts are also good restaurants, offering hearty meals to hungry skiers; give one a try. If you can, seek out Ill Gallo Cedrone’s bone marrow risotto (I think about this dish a few times a week since tasting it – I suspect I always will). 

You’ll also want to thoroughly investigate the polenta offerings around town: this cornmeal dish is a staple of Northern Italian cuisine and everyone puts their own twist on it. Whatever you tuck into after a long day in the great outdoors, make sure to start your meal with a glass of local prosecco, a sparkling wine that just tastes a little better whilst looking out over an alpine landscape. 

Don’t miss this historic sight

Like anywhere in Italy, Madonna di Campiglio is also full of history. Don’t miss the Church of Santa Maria Antica, a neo-Gothic building that houses some of the area's most important artifacts. There are triptychs, sculptures, and documents that tell the story of the area but the main attraction is the 12th century crucifix that has survived the centuries in pretty miraculous condition.

Polish climbers are following on via Ferrata Bocchette Centrali, Dolomites Brenta
When the snow clears, daredevils scale the Brenta Dolomites' via ferrata © Lavaredo / Getty Images

What to do in spring and summer

Local Italian tourists flock to the region in the spring and summer when the high altitude keeps things nice but cool. If you’ve got kids who don’t ski – or are too young to try – this is probably the best time to go, as many warm-weather activities are suitable for children. 

Lifts continue to operate in the summertime meaning you can explore everything the region has to offer on foot. There’s the usual hiking and trekking, a multitude of rock climbing routes, canyoning and rafting, or you can go on a hair-raising via ferrata – the Brenta Dolomites has one of the most extensive and complete networks of routes in the Alps. Most activities are bookable at the mountain guide office.

If you happen to be in Campiglio in late August or September, ask around about the Giovenche Rendena, when the malgari (cowherds) are adorned with flowers and paraded down from their mountain pastures to shelter for the winter down below. Each year, the best heifer is crowned Queen of Pinzolo. It’s a lot of fun.

How to get to Madonna di Campiglio

By air, your best bet is to fly into Milan or Venice. From there, it’s about a 3½ hour ride by car or bus. If you want to take the train, get off at Trento – from there, it’s a 1½ drive, or roughly a two-hour bus ride to the slopes.

Dan visited Madonna di Campiglio on the invitation of Madonna di Campiglio Azienda per il Turismo S.p.A.
Lonely Planet contributors do not accept freebies in return for positive coverage.

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