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