North of Venice and east of Bolzano, the Val Gardena area is a 15 mile long valley in the heart of the spectacular Dolomites. A good base in the Gardena valley is the town of Ortisei. An deep-rooted hiking culture over the centuries has interlaced the Dolomites with some of the worlds most intricate, well-marked and well-maintained trails. Most of the trails are very scenic, but short. The network is astounding and includes iron climbing holds, but the icing on the cake is the over 100 rifugios, which are high alpine inns that serve heaping plates of pasta and tumblers of hearty red wine (plus a nights rest for weary travelers). The rifugios are never more than a four hour hike between. A nice rifugio to check out is Rifugio Molignon.
Check out the cross country ski trails through the Secada Alm just north of Ortisei or the unforgettable tracks up on the Alpe di Suisi which is Europes highest alpine meadow around 7,000.
To reach this area from Milan, head east on A4/E64. In Brescia, turn north on Route 5545. In Trento, follow Route A22 north and then turn east on Route S548 into Val Gardena.