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Ski resorts around Milan: Passo Rolle and the Primiero Valley

Last updated on September 26, 2023

It is that time of the year. In a few days all the ski resorts along the Peninsula will be open for business. There are plenty of options especially in the north of Italy that will meet the expectations of both skiing enthusiasts and addicted and through this post we’ re gonna virtually travel to Passo Rolle and the Primiero Valley.

Passo Rolle between Italy and Austria

The pass that connects the valleys of Fiemme and Primiero owes its name to the Latin word “areola” which means “small farmyard”. The entire area of ​​the pass is in fact characterized by a large clearing enriched by grasslands. Ideal territory to be used as a ski area when the copious snowfalls in November cover it completely. The pass is also located at almost 2000 meters above sea level (1984 meters to be precise) and this makes it an area where there is no snow shortage. These are therefore the two reasons why the entire Passo Rolle area was one of the first in Italy to be used as a ski resort.

The ski area of Passo Rolle at the beginning of the 20th century

From the hilltop of the mountains around the Passo Rolle the breathtaking view opens on the whole Primiero valley which includes the town of San Martino di Castrozza, that has been a primary tourist destination since the end of the 19th century. The first hotel in this town was inaugurated in 1873 on the proposal of the Irish mountaineer John Ball who, together with the British Francis Fox Tuckett and Edward Robson Whitwell, were among the firsts to explore this area of ​​Italy, at the time still under the Austrian rule. The Passo Rolle is also particularly relevant in the history of Italy given that it was the border line between the Austrian and Italian territory during the first world war. The Austrians had conquered the entire Primiero valley, strategic because it led to the Veneto region and then to the sea, while the Italians fought from the top of Mount Castellazzo, protecting the Venegia valley. Before the end of the war the entire town of San Martino di Castrozza was destroyed by a fire ignited by the Austrians and from the ashes of that catastrophe was born San Martino as we know it know.

Skiing at Passo Rolle

Today the pass connecting two of the most important valleys from a tourist point of view is usually frequented by both expert and beginner skiers thanks to its position which allows it to be easily reached. The ski area of ​​the pass is part of the wider one known as San Martino-Passo Rolle, nicknamed the “Alpine pearl”, and includes about 60 kilometers of slopes served by ski lifts powered by energy from sustainable sources. In addition to the wide range of choices offered to skiers, the ski area also includes snow parks for snowboarders and trails for cross-country skiers.

The breathtaking views at Passo Rolle

If the numerous opportunities offered by the ski area are certainly the main assets of this ski destination, what makes it truly special is its breathtaking panorama. The pass as well as the town of San Martino di Castrozza are completely surrounded by the mountain range known as Pale di San Martino which are part of the Dolomites, a Unesco heritage site since June 2009. The most characteristic peak is certainly the Cimon De La Pala (3184 meters high), the second highest peak of the group after the Vezzana peak (3192 meters high) which stands right behind the Passo Rolle ski area.

A view of the Cimon de la Pala (on the right) and Cima Vezzana (center) from Passo Rolle

Passo Rolle: how to get there, where to eat and lodge

Getting to Passo Rolle is extremely easy! The closest airports are Verona (190 km), Milan Malpensa (358 km) and Milan Linate (307 km), Bergamo (274 km) and Venice (171 km). If you are traveling from the US we strongly recommend to fly to Venice “Marco Polo” (VCE) from New York (JFK or Newark) and catch the Fly Ski Shuttle service available at the airport, make sure to book it early in advance.

While if you are traveling by car, the trip on the highway A22 (known as Autostrada del Brennero) will be the beginning of your adventure. The highway cuts in half the Trentino region and it is completely surrounded by the mountains. Look at right and left and you will get to see Medieval castles and churches like Castel Beseno the largest medieval fortified work in the province of Trento and one of the largest in Italy.

As per the accommodation there are only a few options at the Passo Rolle, one of them being the Hotel Vezzana, a family owned facility, right on the slopes. The hotel offers traditional menus which features delicacies home made by the owners. Another option would be to stay at Capanna Cervino, a an alpine cabin located at the arrivals of the ski slopes which also offers some rooms. While if you wish to stay in San Martino di Castrozza there are plenty of options. Just rely on your favorite aggregator to look for the hotel that most fit your needs (among our favorites the Hotel Rosetta, Hotel Plank and Cafe Col)

Those who wish to enjoy good, genuine, authentic Italian food will not be disappointed in this region of Italy. The typical delicacies of this area are tagliatelle with venison ragù and blueberries, canederli in broth or with butter, polenta served with tosela cheese and sausage. All of this obviously accompanied by Trentino red wines such as teroldego, marzemino, cabernet and merlot. These and other typical dishes are certainly part of the menu of the already mentioned Hotel Vezzana and Capanna Cervino while in the town of San Martino di Castrozza restaurants to try are Anita, Cafè Col, Malga Ces and Frattazza.

This winter season starts in a few days. The slopes all over Italy will be open starting from next week when the celebration of the Immaculate Conception (8th of December) allows us a couple of days off of work. We will enjoy the puffy snow, the sun shining on the Dolomites and the excellent food available on the territory. What about you?

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