A jewel in the Dolomites, the Italian town of Cavalese offers a traditional alpine escape with plenty of stylish touches.
Reliably dusted in snow for the winter months, the town is set against a postcard-worthy backdrop of mountains, pine forests and – being on the sunny side of Alpe Cermis – bright skies. During summer, the weather tends to be warm but fresh, so city dwellers flock to the resort to escape the sweltering heat of places like Milan, Verona and Bologna.
A hidden gem, visitors tend to be in-the-know Italians and Germans and – due to its location close to southern Germany – there’s a distinct Bavarian influence on the town. From the Sachertorte and strudel that’s widely available in the pasticcerias and restaurants to the dual language road signs, the unique blend of cultures makes for a charming and unforgettable escape.
The town is compact and easy to get around on foot, but Strada Dolomites is the street to head to if you fancy a leisurely stroll. There’s a mix of traditional shops, boutiques stocking designer labels and jewellers to browse – plus plenty of bars to enjoy.
Drinking and dining
Cavalese is home to just 4,000 people but has plenty of bars and restaurants. Top of any visitor’s list should be Betta (Botegadalpan.it). Established in 1653, this iconic bakery is the place to go for the best bread, cakes and focaccia-style pizza. If you want a quick bite or takeaway, take a ticket and place your order at the counter. Or if you prefer a sit-down meal, there’s a full restaurant service and plenty of outdoor seating – with heaters for winter dining. Stop for an aperitivo, coffee and cake or, in summer, to pick up trays of baked goods for a picnic in the park – it’s a firm favourite with locals and returning visitors.
Elsewhere in the town, there are plenty of places to stop and refuel. For coffee or that essential warming hot chocolate, try Cheers on the corner of Piazza Dante. With a stylish interior and an outdoor seating area that’s strewn with sheepskin rugs, it’s a cosy and comfortable place for a pit-stop. Similarly, Gelateria Tre Valli on Strada Dolomites – the main shopping street – offers warming hot chocolates or grappa, as well as an extensive range of delicious ice creams, too.
For a glass of wine or Aperol Spritz, try Aspen on Piazza Cesare Battisti or the lively Bar Canton. It’s customary for bars to serve snacks with drinks so expect a side of crisps, cured meats, olives or nuts to be delivered to your table, too.
When it comes to dining out, there are several quality restaurants to try. For traditional fare, La Pieve is popular. Known as a pizzeria, it also serves up some local staples, including canederli, the area’s signature dumplings. There’s plenty of space inside and a back garden with playground equipment to keep the kids happy, too. Ristorante La Salera on Via Pizzegoda is another great option for delicious local cuisine. We love the Casoncelli Saporiti con Gorgonzola e Porcini, while the Goulasch con Polenta is another favourite.
Reach new heights
Cavalese sits 1,000m above sea level, but it lies in a valley and for the best views of the town and the surrounding area, you need to make your way up the mountain. The easiest way to do this is to take the cable car (Alpecermis.it). Starting just near the park on Via Cermis, you can ride up to Doss dei Laresi, via Fondovalle, where you’ll find a children’s playground (complete with a paddling pool for cooling off in the summer), hiking trails and the ever-popular Baita Tonda restaurant. You could easily spend a day here, but it’s worth taking the second cable car that continues to Cermis – 2,000m above sea level – and then riding the chairlift up to the peak of Paion del Cermis. At the top, you can soak up the sights with stunning panoramic views and relax and recharge at Rifugio Paion. In the chillier months, it’s the perfect place to enjoy that après ski lifestyle (even if you’re not skiing) and in summer you can sit back in one of the comfortable deckchairs and bask in glorious sunlight. When it’s time to head back down, enjoy the ride and have your camera ready to take the most amazing photos.
Cavalese is a great year-round destination for outdoor adventures and the region is set to host the 2026 Winter Olympics. Skiing – both cross country and downhill – is popular from late November to early April (weather conditions dependant) and a ski bus service and cable car network connect the town to the local slopes. Even if you don’t ski, you can still access the white stuff to go sledging, or get your skates on at the ice hockey rink.
When the snow abates, the mountains provide picturesque trails for hiking and biking. Horse riding is available at Fondovalle, and Parco della Pieve is a spectacular public park that offers something for everyone. Younger kids will love the enormous playground, which has views across the valley of the mountains behind, while there’s a tennis club and football pitch if you fancy a sporty activity. It’s also home to the majestic Parrocchia di Santa Maria Assunta church, which looks incredible against the mountainous backdrop. When it all gets a bit much, take a break at the park’s café – adults can relax with an aperitivo while little ones enjoy an ice lolly.
Nearby, the town’s swimming pool is a must-do, whatever the weather. Featuring a five-lane fitness pool, waterslide and baby pool, there’s also five hydromassage jacuzzis – including a large outdoor hot tub – and plenty of loungers to relax on. If you want to spend a whole day there, the café bar is well-stocked and there’s a wellness centre and spa, too (Sagis.tn.it).
Need to know
• The best way to get to Cavalese is to fly into Verona and hire a car. The drive up is straightforward (and pretty – even from the motorway) and should take less than two hours. However, avoid doing the drive on Saturdays during August as roads are notoriously busy and the trip could take twice as long.
• If you’re visiting in winter, be prepared for snow. The streets around the town are steep and you’ll need decent footwear – think Moon Boots or proper snow shoes.
• Italy now accepts the NHS COVID Pass. Have yours downloaded and available on your phone as it’s currently required as a condition of entry for many indoor venues, including restaurants. Masks are still mandatory in indoor public spaces, too.
• To get from Cavalese to Paion del Cermis costs €21 per adult and €11 per child, or family tickets start from €42. You can buy tickets from the ticket office at the time of travel, for more information go to Alpecermis.it.
• Flights from London Gatwick to Verona cost from £26.99 each way. Go to Easyjet.com to book.
• Stay at the centrally located 4-star Hotel Garnì Laurino, where a Junior Suite costs from €133 (£114) per night for two adults. Go to Booking.com for more information and to book.
Please check Gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus for travelling advice following the outbreak of the coronavirus