In Italy, Hiking and Haute Cuisine in the Dolomites; Robert Draper; NY Times

In summer, when room rates are lower and tables accessible, hiking trails through
forests and flower-filled meadows beckon, and enticing meals are never far away.

The most sensible approach to the Alpine geological wonderland known as the Dolomites is also the most evocative one. Here’s how it’s done: After the three-hour drive from Venice Marco Polo Airport toward Austria, pull off the autostrada into the inviting city of Bolzano.

In the pedestrian zone on Piazza della Mostra you will encounter the town’s best restaurant, Zur Kaiserkron. The lunchtime flavors — smoke-cured ham known as speck, orange-infused ravioli, honey-glazed duck with beet sauce, an array of local mountain cheeses — inform you that you’ve arrived in a distinctive place with a robust Mitteleuropean sensibility that also has the capacity to surprise.

As you proceed northward, note how the city gives way to silky green meadowland. And then suddenly you see it: the asymmetrical limestone spires of the Dolomites erupting from the placid landscape like a gigantic prehistoric paw in gruff welcome.

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