Our Trip to the Dolomites
John and Giulia, two of our specialist school ski team, have just returned from visiting the Dolomites. Here's what they thought:
Day 1 started Cinderella-style! At midnight sharp our coach left Nottingham for Stansted Airport. Those comfy seats made up for the unsociable hour and gifted me with a nap – perfect to get ready for a morning flight.
With the refurbishments at Stansted now complete, the airport looks much improved. My flight to Milan Bergamo departed on time and only lasted about 2 hours. I have to confess that the descent into Bergamo is one of my favourite - you fly over the Alps and land just at their feet! The landscape changes with every season but takes your breath away any time of the year.
My colleague John played the part of the knight in shining armour by picking me up from the airport. Together we headed towards Marilleva. The drive took us about 3 hours, including a lunch break in a quirky bar/local produce shop.
We arrived in Marilleva in the early afternoon and then…John left me there and drove to Pinzolo where he was to meet with some suppliers. Not quite the chivalry you might expect but nevermind - my to-do list was too long to dwell on it! Indeed, my first mission was to check out my accommodation for the night.
I was staying at the Vigo Di Marilleva in Marilleva 1400. The accommodation is perfectly set for skiing, with a gondola and a chairlift just at its doorstep.
As Marilleva is now linked to not only Folgarida but also the ski area of Madonna di Campiglio and Pinzolo, this destination is now more attractive than ever. And, although the ski area is considerably big, everything you need is actually at walking distance from the hotel – the ski school, ski shop, mini-market, tourist information office, pharmacy, ATM, pizzeria and bars.
Marilleva 1400 in itself is not massive, and so is a very safe resort as students cannot possibly wander too far afield, making this trip easy to manage.
I checked in at the Vigo and, after receiving my “guest ID bracelet”, I was taken for a tour of the residence by Nicla, the accommodation’s director.
The accommodation is made up of apartments of different sizes, but it all works like a hotel – there is a reception, a very generously sized restaurant, a bar, a swimming pool, several entertainment rooms and even a theatre! Students certainly won’t get bored here!
My apartment was simply decorated, but nice and clean. I loved the fact that wood is so prominent in the interior décor – it really made you feel like you were in the mountains.
My window overlooked the end of the run “Panciana” and, whilst it was a gloriously bright summer’s day, it only took a moment to imagine how it will be in a few weeks’ time, when Mother Nature will cover this amazing landscape with her white blanket!
Every time I’m in the mountains fond memories from past ski trips come flooding back and I’m sure that’s a feeling experienced by every skier who visits the mountains outside of the ski season.
In the late afternoon I met with the ski school director who showed me where the beginners’ area is and where our students are taken once they’ve mastered the basics. All of his instructors are getting impatient and looking forward to hitting the slopes. I did notice that the ski shop is really just a stone’s throw away from the ski school - so getting your skis couldn’t be more convenient!
The ski school director then took me to meet a friend of his, the owner of the local pizzeria. As I stepped in, the smell of Italian pizza wafted through the air (it was nearly dinner time!). I immediately understood why this is one of the cherries on the cake for any school ski trip to Italy.
Food is a huge part of the Italian culture and it would be criminal to leave without having had a slice of real Italian pizza! This particular pizzeria even has a disco room downstairs, which the owner took me to see. The room was surprisingly spacious and I think students will like it as much as I did.
The day had been a long one and, after having had dinner with our lovely Nicla back at the Vigo, I retreated for a much-needed sleep!
My second day in Italy started with a cappuccino and a slice of home-made chocolate tart at the hotel bar. Nicla’s sister is the bar manager here, so I couldn’t have been in better hands.
I had a couple of hours to wander around Marilleva 1400 to take some pictures and check out where the local facilities are. Once I found the pharmacy and the mini market – very important to buy the unmissable local delicacies - I went back to the accommodation, packed my bag and worked on my emails until John’s arrival. Sir John arrived just in time for a quick coffee with Nicla before saying ‘arrivederci’!
John and I then headed to a secret location not too far away, to meet with some of the local suppliers – which meant another coffee (the third one of the day)! We’re always keeping our eyes open to find new resorts where we can take our groups. So watch this space, you may find inspiration for your 2018 ski trip!
Thanks to one of John’s famous detours, we ended up in Andalo – a lovely little village near Molveno Lake. Here we met with one of our suppliers in charge of our overseas transfers and swapped our coffee for a spritz – a “must” after 5 pm. We toasted to the ski season ahead and John reminisced about the good old days, while I enjoyed the chance to meet one of our trusty coach operators in person, after numerous phone conversations!
The engine of John’s car was cooling too much, so we headed to Pinzolo to have dinner with one of the hoteliers we work with, and the ski school director.
Going back to Pinzolo and Madonna di Campiglio – which is a stone’s throw away - is like going back to my childhood, to my roots, to happy memories. I may be biased, but this area is glorious in the summer months and fairy tale-like in the winter. I couldn’t be happier knowing that thanks to one of our trips there will be other people like me who will look enjoy happy childhood memories here.
Our third day started very early indeed. We left Pinzolo before the crack of dawn as my train was due to leave Dimaro at 06:20. A good 50 minutes’ drive (along some pretty windy mountain roads)from my hotel in Pinzolo, we did make it to Dimaro in time!
John left me at the station to drive to the north west of Italy where he lives, while I headed in the opposite direction for my flight from Venice Treviso. I made it to the airport just after lunch time (Italian lunch time being around 13:00) and flew back to the green rolling hills of Nottinghamshire in the afternoon.
It was a long transfer but my past as a ski rep came in useful – yes, this is what your reps do when they smile goodbye to you. They embark on another little adventure, consisting in getting from your mountain resort to the airport by public transport. They’re modern superheroes!
My lovely colleagues had to forgive me for not bringing any Italian treats back to the office this time, but those three days were packed full of places to visit and people to meet!
Marilleva as a resort is small, but not too small. Self-contained and practical, with the possibility of skiing locally or to venture further away, in more than 100 km of pistes that surrounds Marilleva. Pinzolo is a village full of character. There’s certainly plenty of choice when it comes to accommodation - from small family-run B&Bs to medium-sized stylish hotels.
Après-ski activities are dotted around the area and they can be reached from anywhere with just a short bus transfer. For me, there are very few places that can compete with the Dolomites. They offer so much variety that there really is something for everyone!