Published: October, 2018

Dolomites, Italy via Backroads

— Courtney Leary
  • More about your oliver guide:
  • Trip type: Family, Group getaway, Mountains
  • Activity level: high
  • Ideal length of trip: 5 nights, 6 days

to & from

We took this trip through Backroads, an active travel company based in Northern California, after hearing a lot of amazing things about Backroads travel from friends. Even though we were prepared to be impressed, we were quite blown away by our experience with Backroads from beginning to end.

Their sales team is very knowledgable and will help you select the trip that is right for you. Most trips are group trips although you can arrange for a private trip if your own group is large enough. The sales team will help match you with families with similar aged children if you ask.

Our Backroads trip met at the Venice airport and ended at the train station in Bolzano. We allowed for one night in Venice before embarking on our Backroads trip but if I would start out with a few nights in Venice or at a close by beach town to get over jet lag. We stayed in Venice proper and took a water taxi in and out of the city.  This is a treat however it is not cheap and takes a bit of time (an hour  or so depending on where your hotel is) so be prepared.

Once you begin your trip with Backroads, they manage all of the logistics so all you need to do is get up and GO. We found this especially to be a treat in an foreign country.

Make sure you carry-on all of your essentials as you will not want to be running around Venice trying to find bike shorts.

Where to Stay

The Backroads Dolomites trip we took was premier and casual hotels. We loved our first two hotels, Hotel Cristallo and Hotel Ciasa Salares, but the last one, Romantik Hotel Turm, was the most casual and though the town was delightful we did not love our room. True to Backroads’ commitment to excellence, they have already replaced Hotel Turm with Hotel Emmy which looks like a much nicer set up.

In all hotels, Backroads was able to arrange a “triple” for our three children. All triples were large, all of our kids had their own beds and the first two  were very pretty rooms. The kids felt as spoiled as we did.

Backroads handles most of the check-in/check-out and our luggage was usually in our room by the time we got to the hotel.

Where to Eat and Drink

Backroads arranged all of the meals, aside from one free night,– a mother’s dream! When my kids asked, “What’s for dinner” I could honestly answer, “I do not know, ask our guides.” All of the food was fresh, authentic and delicious. There were always plenty of choices to make everyone happy. Coming from the Bay Area, we are somewhat picky about our food (and wine!) and we were definitely impressed.

  • All breakfasts were beautiful buffets at the hotels where we stayed.  Dinners were usually at the hotels as well in their very nice high-end restaurants. Lunches were stops along the way, mostly at rufugios nestled in the mountains. We were amazed at the high caliber of food and atmospheres we found on mountain tops.
  • At times we ordered off of the regular menu, others off a set menu and we had a few lunches where everything was pre-ordered.
  • Our group ended up with an “adult table” and a “kids table” every night as the kids especially wanted to eat together. One of our guides would always sit with the kids to make sure that they had their manners on and keep them entertained with games and such. For lunches we mixed it up a bit more.
  • The dinners are wonderful but loooong with at least 3 courses, sometimes 5.  They can last 2-3 hours.  The kids usually ordered from a separate menu and were finished before the adults.  They would excuse themselves and go to the rooms or they would be entertained by the available guide until the adults finished.  Hotel Ciasa Salares is home to an absolutely amazing wine cellar and Michelen rated restaurant where the adults taste dine while the kids are whisked away to pizza. Do not miss this event!
  • We nicknamed Backroads “Snackroads” because they provide so many snacking opportunities.  In the morning when you start your ride or hike you can load up on anything from trail mix to fruit to “power” bars. Then throughout the ride or hike there are several more opportunities to re-stock.

What to Do

Do everything!

Each evening Backroads sends the next day’s itinerary to your room so that you know for the schedule for the next day.  There are always options so that if you want to push yourself physically you can, if you want to skip out on something and rest, you can as well.  For the most part, we went for the “push” option and never really felt exhausted. The pace was geared towards families.  (We have heard that the trips for teens/adults are more strenuous.)

  • Most days started with breakfast around 8am and then a group meet up around 9. If we were riding or biking to a new location that day, our bags were left outside our rooms and they would collect them and load them onto the bus/shuttle. (dreamy!!!) If we were biking or hiking  from the location, we would grab snacks and hit the road. Bikes were always set up and put away by the guides– truly all we needed to do was jump on and go!
  • Maps were provided everyday and there was a guide in the front and a guide in the back.  There were multiple stopping points along the routes to a) load up on snacks and b) make sure we were on course.
  • We usually ended up (either on foot or bike) at a lunch spot around 1 and would depart again 1-2 hours later for more hiking or biking.  Most activities would wrap up at the hotel around 4pm.
  • We would have “downtime” between 4-6:30 and then meet up with the group for cocktails, dinner around 6:30 or 7pm.  Again, you can opt out of anything but we never did mainly because our kids were so excited to do everything with the other kids and they did not want to opt out!
  • A couple of the days there were alternate options for the kids that kept them entertained and excited about the trip– while we continued to hike they were taken off route to rock climb one day and then another day they rode to a ropes course while we continued our ride back to the hotel.

inside scoop

  • The guides are WONDERFUL.  They are resources for cultural and logistical information, great entertainers of children, dinner conversationalist, athletes, navigators and can basically move mountains if you tell them which one to move.
  • Our youngest child was nine at the time of the trip and I would not have wanted him any younger or less experienced on a bike. He could definitely keep up but rides his bike at home almost daily. The rides do not need to be very strenuous but bike skills are necessary if you, as a parent, want to enjoy your full day of biking.
  • Shop in Cortina! The first day seems a bit overwhelming and as we arrived in Cortina we had the option to shop in Cortina or go straight to the hotel. I biked through the cute town but did not get off my bike to shop and wish I would have.  There are not a lot of shopping opportunities on the trip and this is one of them!

What to Pack

  • Pack layers!!! This is a mountain climate and temperatures are all over the place– daily. We did not expect the cool temperatures we had the first couple of days. Luckily we had puffy coats because we used them!  We could have used long hiking pants and a couple more upper layers as well. Regular running tights were not enough to stay warm.  However, by the last day it was almost 90 degrees and we were in shorts and t-shirts!
  • Backroads provides a good packing list.

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