The Best 8-Day Summer Dolomites Road Trip Itinerary
Updated: Aug 14
If you’re looking for the perfect road trip plan for Northern Italy this summer, look no further than this eight-day itinerary covering one of the most breathtaking mountain ranges in Europe, The Dolomites!
In this blog, we're taking you along with us on our exact route through the Dolomites, as we check out some of the best eco-hotels for couples and families alike; incredible hiking trails; a few glittering lakes along the way; and flowering fields for The Sound of Music -esque twirling galore. Plus, a few extra Dolomites hotspots you have to check out on either this visit or your next because trust us, you'll want to come back!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
DAY 1. Arriving in Milan + Heading North
1.1 Picking up our EV
1.2 Best Plant-Based Restaurants in Milan
1.3 A Night on Lake Garda
DAYS 2 + 3. Heading into the Dolomites
2.1 Hitting the Road
3.1 La Vimea Vegan Hotel
DAY 4. Lago di Carezza + Seiser Alm
4.1 Fact or Folklore?
4.2 Seiser Alm Nature Park
DAYS 5 + 6. Deep in the Dolomites at Paradiso Pure Living
5.1 A Conscious Guest Experience
6.1 The Power of Art
DAY 7. Lake Garda
7.1 The Charm of Riva del Garda
7.2 Lake Garda's Most Romantic Towns
DAY 8. Back to Milan
8.1 The Beauty of Northern Italy
DAY 1: Arriving in Milan + Heading North
Northern Italy is full of endless natural and man-made beauty. Most often visited for tourist hotspots like Milan and Lake Como, the eight provinces that make up northern Italy are home to breathtaking, lesser-known gems, each with their own unique history and culture, as well as some iconic must-sees that will wow you every time. On this road trip, we’re going to be visiting two of Italy’s northernmost regions of Lombardy and Trentino-Alto Adige, stopping in lake-side towns, marvelling at mountaintop castles, and following the sun alongside ice-blue rivers.
To kick off the trip, we arrived in Milan via train from Germany, where we had just finished another amazing work trip in partnership with the German Tourism Board, to pick up the electric car we’d be cruising around the Dolomites in for the next week.
Note from Us: If you arrive in Italy via plane from wherever you are in the world, one way we encourage people who have to fly to compensate for the damage done to the planet by flying is by investing in green projects around the world with Ecologi. From helping fund renewable energy programs in Central America, to distributing cleaner cookstoves in Kenya, and restoring vital peatlands in Indonesia, the projects your small monthly contribution contribute to are each incredible, and are helping to create a more equitable, safe, and greener world. Of course, we ABOVE ALL encourage you to use public transportation, trains, and other forms of low-carbon transport wherever possible, and hope that flights are taken out of necessity rather than convenience. If you sign up using this link, Ecologi will plant 30 trees on your behalf for free!
PICKING UP OUR EV
Thanks to our friends at Fiat, we were given the all-new Fiat 500e for this trip, with a range of up to 320 km (or 199 miles), and equipped with a convertible top, a JBL sound system, and capacity for quick-charging at the right station, we knew this would be the perfect EV road trip car. After putting our bags in the back, and waving ciao to our friends at Fiat, we set off toward the mountains. P.S. We named this car Francesca (aka Fifi).
MILANESE PLANT-BASED PARADISE
Milan itself is an incredible city, and is well worth several visits to take in all of the museums, architecture, cool neighbourhoods, and excellent plant-based, Italian food. On this trip, we didn’t spend much time in Milan, but here are a few of our favourite plant-based Milanese restaurants from past visits that you should absolutely check out:
Radicetonda - plant-centred restaurant, perfect for having lunch al-fresco, with plenty of gluten-free options and delicious desserts
La Colubrina - traditional northern Italian dishes done right (and by right, we mean vegan!) Everything was homemade, delicious, and was full of sooo much flavour. Plus, this place is family-owned which makes every dish even more thoughtfully made.
Joia - the first vegetarian restaurant in Europe to be awarded a Michelin star in 1996! Consisting of tasting menus designed using fresh, local, biodynamic ingredients, the food is five-star in a casual, comfortable setting.
Rosmarino Gastronomia Naturale e Vegana - delicious, deli-style restaurant perfect for grabbing fresh plant-powered food on the go. We loved it so much we went back twice in one day!
Gelato Libre - fully vegan gelato!! This is not a drill!! For the creamiest, most delicious vegan pistachio and hazelnut gelato ever, you MUST visit!
A NIGHT ON LAKE GARDA
Beautiful cities and towns dot the landscape on the way up to the Dolomites, and we wanted to be sure to make the most of our time in this stunning region, so we skipped over the touristy Lake Como this time around, and headed for the largest lake in Italy, Lake Garda!
Staying for a night in this hotel in Colombare, at the bottom of Lake Garda, we spent the evening exploring the town itself and its neighbouring peninsula town of Sirmione, which is only accessible via a narrow drawbridge, with cars only allowed to pass through if they’re staying at one of the few hotels or belong to residents. The streets are lined with shops, restaurants, and gelaterias; a mediaeval castle overlooks the lake, and the feeling of summertime was inescapable here.
We even managed to find Pizzeria Scaglieri, a pizza restaurant that serves a vegan pizza made using rice-milk “cheese”. This is a big win for vegans in a small Italian town. We only visited during the evening once most of the shops were closed, but we can’t wait to come back and properly explore this picturesque town one day.
DAY 2 + 3: Heading into the Dolomites
Setting off early the next morning, with our car fully charged thanks to our hotel’s EV charger, we said arrivederci to Lake Garda for now, and hit the road toward the Dolomites and the first plant-based hotel of our trip. With 192km to go until our next stop, high in the western Dolomites near the Austrian border, we hopped on the A22 motorway, and made our way toward the official Dolomites National Park.
HITTING THE ROAD
FYI: If this is your first time driving in Italy, it's good to note that Italians (and often visiting Germans) drive FAST ! There's no point in trying to keep up with them with traffic cameras everywhere and winding roads, so expect switching from the left to right lane frequently, or even pulling onto the shoulder on back roads to let them pass (don't do that on the motorway).
With each kilometre, however, the drive north grew more and more beautiful, passing through tunnels cut deep into the mountains, and being wowed by cliff-top castles still intact.
After a short pit-stop in Trento to quick-charge the car here, we continued another hour and a half into the mountains to one of the most incredible vegan hotels we’ve ever visited.
LA VIMEA VEGAN HOTEL
Located in the town of Naturno, near the Austrian border, La Vimea Biotique Hotel is Italy’s first 100% vegan hotel! With the motto “Simple is beautiful”, La Vimea actively practises consideration, honesty, and transparency in all aspects of business to provide a one-of-a-kind, eco guest experience. For example, despite being a four-star hotel, you won't find dozens of spa treatment options, as the surrounding environment is believed to be the best healer; nor will you find expensive wines or fancy cocktails, but instead, health-centred drinks and natural wines made by local producers.
After checking in, we were provided with non-alcoholic, herbal infusion welcome drinks, and given a brief overview of all the activities that are available at the hotel. A former ski chalet, La Vimea maintains many of the building’s original features, while also integrating modern, conscious touches of luxury.
Our room had a beautiful balcony from which we could soak up the sun and marvel at the surrounding mountains, and all products used in the room were vegan, cruelty-free, and organic. The beds were like clouds that we couldn’t wait to sink into at the end of a long day, and the walk-in shower felt like standing under a waterfall. Downstairs, a small boutique allows guests to purchase locally made, vegan products (including some of the toiletries used in the rooms and spa), and the herb garden next to the dining area provides most of the herbs and edible flowers used by the kitchen in dishes.
Over the next two nights at La Vimea, we were provided with delicious, colourful vegan cuisine for breakfast and dinner, prepared by the talented Chef Luca Sordi and his team. Most of the ingredients used in the kitchens come from local suppliers, and Chef Luca and his team opt to design nightly menus using the freshest, seasonal ingredients wherever possible. We still cannot get over how incredible the breakfast buffet each morning was too! We’re talking scrambled tofu, mini pancakes, cinnamon rolls, fresh bread with chive cream cheeze, preserves, cakes, farinata (our favourite chickpea bread from the Italian region of Liguria), and so much more—all vegan of course! Are we making you hungry yet?
The hotel’s wellness facilities include a gym, yoga studio, a hot stone lounge, a Finnish, outdoor forest, and bio-sauna, and are available for all-day use for guests. We made daily use of the pools, laying outside in the summer sun, loved cycling the paths along the nearby river Adige with e-bikes rented from the hotel, and practiced forest-bathing in the mountains with our local guide Monika.
The term “forest-bathing” is directly translated from the Japanese shinrinyoku, where the practice of immersing oneself in nature by activating all five of the senses is a recognised form of stress management. Over the 1 ½ hour session, we walked barefoot through the forest, touched the trees and greenery surrounding us, embraced the freezing cold water of the local stream, listened to the peaceful sounds of life in the forest, and took in the smell of clean air, rich soil, and blooming flowers.
Our whole experience at La Vimea really allowed us to unplug and connect with the beauty of the western Dolomites, and we know for certain that we’ll be back to visit again one day soon! La Vimea is open from mid-April to early November, and is the perfect getaway for couples and families with children over the age of 12. For more about the activities and facilities offered, as well as more about their sustainability credentials, check out their website here.
DAY 4: A Pit-Stop at the “Rainbow Lake” + Seiser Alm
Setting off from La Vimea, we headed back east toward one of the notoriously beautiful areas of the Dolomites, to check out what is known as “the rainbow lake,” Lago di Carezza, as well as make our way toward the next plant-based stop of our trip.
Situated at over 1500 metres, or nearly 5000 feet, above sea level, Lago di Carezza’s glittering emerald waters are some of the most stunning that we’ve ever seen, with the dramatic backdrop of the limestone formations of the Dolomites behind. The lake is the smallest of the best known lakes in the region, but we highly recommend it nonetheless–if you can handle driving along the steep, and incredibly narrow roads to get there.
FACT OR FOLKLORE?
It’s nicknamed the “rainbow lake” thanks to the traditions of the Ladin people of Italy’s South Tyrol region. According to legend, a beautiful nymph once called Lago di Carezza home. One day, while braiding her hair on its shores, a sorcerer named Masaré was overwhelmed by the sound of her singing, and he sought help from a witch who could help make the nymph his.
After concocting an elaborate plan in which Masaré was to disguise himself as a jewellery salesman and cast a rainbow across the lake, he forgot to wear his jewellery salesman outfit and was discovered by the nymph. She evaded his trap by diving deep into the lake and hasn’t been seen since. Completely distraught, Masaré smashed the rainbow he cast into a million pieces, which fell into the lake’s waters below, giving it the nickname “the rainbow lake”.
Whether you believe the legend or not, it is truly a breathtaking lake with the backdrop of the Dolomites, and we couldn’t recommend the drive up there more.
Pro tip: for the best shot of the mountains (sans lake), drive past the first parking lot and visitors centre, and follow signs for the second parking lot slightly higher up the mountain. This lot is not only free, but due to being higher up than the first, the lesser-visited area allows you to get incredible shots in front of the mountains. See left.
SEISER ALM NATURE PARK
As we headed back down the mountain toward our next stop, we were amazed by how well our little EV was effortlessly handling the winding drive. Using kinetic energy generated by the turning of the tires, our Fiat 500e charged itself as we drove down the mountain. This makes a big difference for times when you’re exploring areas away from charging stations.
One hour, 54 kilometres, and a few breathtaking views later, we entered the stunning Seiser Alm nature park, part of the UNESCO-protected Dolomites World Heritage Site, and the largest high-altitude Alpine meadow in Europe! The area has been under UNESCO protection since 2009, and is a hotspot for hiking, mountain biking, and skiing or snowboarding in winter. It is home to some of the most stunning peaks in the Dolomites, including The Schlern, a symbol of South Tyrol.
We wound along the upward paths toward the second-highest point of the Seiser Alm, where we found Paradiso Pure Living, the sister hotel to La Vimea and the first vegetarian-vegan hotel in the area. Not only would this be our home for the next three nights, but we couldn’t wait to see what the natural beauty of the area had in store for us.
DAY 5 + 6: DEEP IN THE DOLOMITES AT PARADISO PURE LIVING
With 360 degree views of the Dolomites, and nothing but the sounds of cowbells in the distance, this place is unlike any other. Due to the area’s protected status too, no new hotels are allowed to be built in the area, making it easy to feel truly separated from day-to-day life. The renovations Paradiso underwent in 2019, were highly regulated too, ensuring that the ecology and landscape were prioritised above all.
A CONSCIOUS GUEST EXPERIENCE
The creation of this hotel was thanks to a group of environmentally conscious individuals who wanted to disrupt the traditional Alpine resort model, and practise what they themselves believed in further through their business. During our time at Paradiso, we had the chance to sit down with co-founder and managing director, Alexander Spögler, to discuss the concept of Paradiso and what makes it so unique.
Alongside prioritising people and planet, there is a big focus here at Paradiso on boosting mental health and well-being in every aspect of the hotel’s operations.
Here, earth toned stone, non-toxic paints, and natural materials make the rooms feel like home, with rain showers, panoramic views, and, controversially, no wall outlets next to the beds, allowing you to truly disconnect from your phone while you sleep. Like at La Vimea, attention to detail is something that the team at Paradiso pride themselves on, with room keys made from wood rather than plastic, an EV charger in the parking area, and e-mountain bikes available to rent for exploring the steep surrounding mountains.
Paradiso’s facilities include an indoor saltwater pool, outdoor saltwater whirlpool, infrared and Finnish saunas, an incredible ZeroBody floating experience that both of us enjoyed for 30 minutes, a state-of-the-art gym, and yoga studio! The ZeroBody floating experience was something neither of us had ever participated in before, but it was incredible ! Staying fully clothed, you lay down onto a platform that, once turned on, descends into a vat of water underneath; however, you stay completely dry, protected by the sealed layer of silicone that you lay on. Once you turn the machine on, you can also select from several languages in which to enjoy music, a guided meditation, or guided breath work exercises for however long you would like. After a few minutes, you settle in, and truly feel like you’re floating. It was not only a peaceful, but also a healing experience for both of us.
One of the most exciting parts of our stay at Paradiso was looking forward to the five-course meals every night! Like at La Vimea, the team of chefs and staff at Paradiso work around the clock to ensure that the dining experience for guests is one to remember. From more traditional Italian dishes, to fresh salads, soups, and seasonal desserts, flavour and beauty were never lacking from these dishes. Our favourites were the cacio e pepe on the first night, and the delicious apricot and mango dessert we enjoyed on the last night. We even were given the opportunity to go into the busy kitchen during the dinner service to see how each dish is prepared and perfected by head chefs Mauro and Grazia’s team.
THE POWER OF ART
When we first arrived at Paradiso, we noticed some blue spheres decorating the side of the hotel. As we got closer, we were surprised to see that these blue spheres were actually…SNAILS!?
Designed by Cracking Art for Paradiso, these snails are among the hundred+ art pieces located throughout the hotel, as co-founder Alexander believes that the natural beauty of the area inspires artists to create something truly unique.
By inviting artists to stay at the hotel and create pieces inspired by their surroundings, what is happening in the world, or in their daily lives, this collaboration allows artists to separate from the day-to-day, while also connecting with others on a deeper level.
We are so grateful for the time we spent at both La Vimea and Paradiso, and for the opportunity to check some of the most beautiful places on Earth off our bucket list. To learn more about Paradiso Pure Living, its work with artists from around the world, as well as their sustainability standards, check out their website here.
DAY 7: Lake Garda
As we waved goodbye to the Dolomites, one final stop on our Northern Italian road trip included briefly returning to the stunning Lake Garda. Starting at the lake’s northernmost town of Riva del Garda, we left our car to charge while we explored this dream-like waterfront town, complete with a car-less promenade for soaking up the sun, cycling, playing beach volleyball, and swimming.
Just north of the town centre too, we found a fully organic market and restaurant serving 100% vegetarian and vegan dishes called Bio Essere. The buffet-style bistro was the perfect pit stop for lunch, and the market had everything we needed to stock up on snacks for the road.
Grabbing a gelato and heading for the shore, the northern end of Lake Garda is notoriously windy, making it the perfect place for watching sailboats and wind surfers race around the glimmering water. Hopping back in our Fiat, which we charged here, we made our way down along the lake’s eastern edge to check out Lake Garda's romantic towns of Malcesine and Garda, complete with medieval villages and castle remains.
Malcesine's Castello Scagliero is one of the area's best-preserved medieval castles, now containing a museum about its history, a tower with panoramic views, and a small beach where locals swim and sunbathe. Intertwined with the town directly, small alleyways and painted-on signs lead you to different castle entrances, former lookout points, and the shops of local artisans selling hand-drawn postcards and little figurines. Although we were only here for a short time, Malcesine is a place we will definitely re-visit in the future to further discover.
As our last full day of exploring in northern Italy, we spent the evening in the town of Garda. Tucked into a cove on the southeastern side of the lake, Garda is a charming waterfront town with panoramic views of the lake. We could even see Sirmione's peninsula as we strolled along the promenade! For dinner, we were wowed by Casa Lady's extensive menu, with prominent labelling for vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options!
DAY 8: Back to Milan
Hitting the road one last time the next morning, we left the stunning mountains surrounding Lake Garda behind, and set off back toward Milan, where we were to drop off our Fiat 500e. Circling back down and around the southeastern part of the lake, we reflected on the towns we visited, and how much more there is to see in this area.
THE BEAUTY OF NORTHERN ITALY
Whether you’re looking to take in the Romeo & Juliet experience in Verona, explore Venice and the neighbouring islands of Burano and Murano, taste delicious balsamic vinegars in Modena, or walk in the palazzo gardens scattered around Lake Como, there is something for everyone in the diverse regions of northern Italy. For the relaxed luxury of La Vimea or the adventurous beauty of Paradiso Pure Living deep into the Dolomites, we believe that both stays will provide you the reset you need, and the natural beauty you crave, to experience a getaway to remember.
We are fully aware that this itinerary is not nearly exhaustive, nor does it begin to cover all of the natural beauty of the Dolomites. We will absolutely be returning to this wondrous part of the world one day, and we can't wait to take you along with us to see what we discover when we do. If you have any recommendations of places to visit, hiking trails, picturesque peaks, eco-stays, or anything else in this area we should visit in the future, let us know in the comments below!