My Settimana Bianca: A Non-Skier’s week in the Italian Dolomites


“Come skiing!”

“But I haven’t skied for almost twenty years…” I trailed off sadly, even as my mind raced to thoughts of a big log fire, a door-stop sized book and a mug of hot chocolate – or even Gluhwein – to hand, while large snowflakes drifted outside a window hung with red and white check curtains.

“Come anyway!” Yes! Yes please!

Now who in their right mind would turn down such an invitation? Certainly not me. I was incredibly excited at the prospect of joining a large group of Italians, Americans and Canadians – with me being the lone Irishwoman – who have been meeting up for their settimana bianca (white week) in the Italian Dolomites for the past twenty-five years.


Arriving in Villabassa-Niederdorf my first question was: “Hey! Where’s the snow?” The cobbled streets were suspiciously free of the white stuff upon which people ski, or, in my case, hoped to walk on in furry boots.





I need not have worried. First of all, ski slopes are now routinely covered in snow manufactured by a special machine that blows it out in great white gusts.

Snow machine

Snow machine

Secondly, the snow arrived in force within a couple of days, turning the lower slopes and little alpine towns into a picture-postcard idyll.


My dreams of sitting by a log fire were quickly shattered by the realisation that there were many non-skiers among the friendly group assembled at the Hotel Adler in Villabassa.

Hotel Adler, Villabassa

Hotel Adler, Villabassa

As a result, I happily visited many of the local towns and headed uphill on cable-cars and gondolas to various rifugi (wooden chalet-type restaurants) with terraces overlooking the most stunning scenery I have ever seen.



Rifugo over Cortina

Rifugo over Cortina

The Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are particularly beautiful; jagged peaks soar skyward and the valley floors are studded with picturesque towns and turquoise lakes.



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Food was hearty and plentiful. I ate speck and salami with horseradish sauce, pickles and brown bread made with fennel. Pastas, being Italy, were mouth-watering and the desserts were truly sinful in the way that only a good dessert can be.


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Bresaola and baked potato

Bresaola and baked potato

My Settimana Bianca l ©

The local wines were excellent too. I particularly liked the Lagrein, which is full-bodied and went perfectly with the meats and rich soups.

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My week ended and I reluctantly left our cosy hotel, where Christian, the owner, made sure we were utterly pampered.

I must mention that I got absolutely no reading done during my week in the Dolomites, though I did notice the huge log fire as I dashed past on my way to dinner or as I exited for another day in the snow.

Orna O’Reilly

Veneto, Italy

Road to Cortina

29 thoughts on “My Settimana Bianca: A Non-Skier’s week in the Italian Dolomites

    • So glad you like the blog. I loved joining the family. Everyone was wonderfully welcoming and I had a brilliant time, which I sincerely hope to repeat. Thank you for everything.

  1. Orna, I am a non skier as well. I love to sit by the huge fireplace and sip a hot toddy or Irish coffee! Your settimana sounds perfect. We love the same food….i’m drooling over your photos! Nice post!

  2. Loved your post! I lived in Tuscany for a year and a half, and I go back to Italy every year but somehow I still haven’t made it to the Dolomites. The pictures and description are lovely!

    • The Dolomites are truly magnificent. Everything about that area is great. I can highly recommend a visit, summer or winter. I hope to visit there regularly, now that I know how beautiful it is. Glad you liked my post. Thank you.

  3. Great post, Orna! You always inspire me to do something unusual. My Italian friends always invite me to go skiing but I’m not a sportslady though I was born and still live in Russia where snow isn’t a rare thing. Your experience lets me “cambiare l’idea”. Maybe next winter I’ll make my “settimana bianca”.

    • It was my very first Italian settimana bianca. As it has been many years since I donned skis myself, I had no idea how a non-ski week would go. But, with so many beautiful places to visit, it was just brilliant and I had the best of times. I’d highly recommend the Italian Dolimites for a non-ski week in the snow.

  4. I’ve always wanted to spend time in the Dolomites in the snow but am not a skier – tried it years ago but spent a week hating it and wishing I could just make a snowman or get a sledge and have fun! So good to know that its OK not to ski and to enjoy the scenery and the apres-ski just the same! I shall definitely be aiming for the Dolomites for my first settimana bianca! Great post, fantastic photos, thanks Orna!

    • I had the best time. Truly. When I knew that this trip was on the cards, I was a bit ambivalent about going as I couldn’t imagine what it would be like as a non-skier, having been a skier for many years. (Not allowed to ski now).But, while there, I explored everywhere possible within easy reach by train, car and cable-car. Long leisurely lunches high in the mountains were fabulous and all that hearty food and wine was terrific. The apres-ski was great fun too, with a very lively bunch!!

  5. Hi Orna, love your posts and photos are amazing. I to live in Italy for half the year, (Abruzzo) but yet to visit that region. I will put it on my list. Cheers Ave

    • Thank you Averil. I’m so happy you are enjoying my posts. The Dolomite area of northern Italy is truly magnificent and well worth a visit, summer or winter. In fact we plan to return – hopefully – in late summer this year.

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