Drive one hour north of Venice to the upper Veneto region and you are in the spectacular Dolomites, literally immersed in the peaks of mountainous snow. The Dolomites are a striking contrast to the bustling canal city of Venice, with an array of mountains to explore.

We choose to drive up the mountain to the (lesser known) destination of Val di Zoldo, well known Cortina on the other side of the mountain is the main resort town for the Dolomites.

We are fortunate to have a friend’s family living in Zoldo Alto and are welcomed with open arms to our charming apartment, which use to be the Venetian Royals holiday home in the late 1800’s. Limited English we stumble forward in broken Italian, but in these parts you can get by with German and Austrian being so close to the border.

From the moment we land in Zoldo it feels authentic, welcoming and is a small village steeped in tradition. It’s Christmas Eve and the surrounding villages are celebrating in the best way the Italians know how, with homemade pasta, fresh bread, house made grappa, hazelnut chocolates and delicacies such as freshly baked panettone waft from every street corner.

The air is crisp with the whitest of snow and the commanding, jagged peaks of the dolomites are visible from every turn. We opt to ski the day away and head 2 minutes up the road from our apartment to the slopes of Val di Zoldo, a white christmas awaits.

A short gondola ride to the starting point of what we discover are 70 kilometres of pristine runs from mountain to mountain, with a snow park central to the action. Val di Zoldo is ideal for families and beginners with easier runs straight off the gondola-for those more seasoned take the T-bar to the top and you can ski for miles and miles.

A short walk from the gondola and you can catch your breath in one of the many cafes and pizzerias conveniently located in the village below. We opt for a hearty traditional dish ‘Tortellini en brodo’ house made tortellini in chicken broth followed by a spicy mulled wine that’s literally served everywhere in the Dolomites.

This area is well known for its Gelato (go figure), in fact the welcoming sign on the way states it’s the ‘home of ice-cream’. We dig a little deeper as we get to know the locals who inform us their families work in Ice-cream in Germany.

Determined to get to the bottom of the Zoldo ice-cream phenomenon, we spend the afternoon in conversation with our friendly neighbours and over a glass of homemade grappa many an ice-cream tale is told.

As the story goes Val Di Zoldo was home to an array of Gelato makers, with recipes handed down through the generations. During the Hitler regime the region was taken over and many locals were shipped to Germany to teach the art of ice-cream to the Germans-they stayed and opened up a plethora of ice-creameries along the way.

The Dolomites is a natural wonder, striking peaks crown the traditional villages below that are laden with some of the best skiing, food and wine the region has to offer.

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