The ingredients are simple: prosecco – the very best comes from the Veneto, just to the south of here; sparkling mineral water – the Dolomite mountains produce their own, and very good it is too; the all-important elderflower syrup – elder grows quite happily here and comes into flower in early summer; a sprinkling of fresh mint leaves – ditto; and ice – and there is, of course, no shortage of that either! It comes as no surprise then to learn that this zesty, refreshing aperitivo is the adopted drink of the Dolomites. It goes by the name of Hugo… and Hugo is someone you will see a lot of in Val Gardena, and a very welcome figure he cuts too.
All across the peaks here, above Val Gardena and the three main villages of Selva, Ortisei and Santa Cristina, you will find winter skiers pausing for one before lunch, summer hikers stopping off at huts for a Hugo refresher, and diners enjoying it before an evening meal throughout the year. A drink for all seasons, it has come to be symbolic not only of the region’s gastronomic wealth, but also of its true uniqueness, youthful liveliness, and versatility as an all-year-round playground.
WARM SEPTEMBER DAY – It was a warm September day when I first arrived in Val Gardena; the sun was strong and summer still clung to the mountains. Half a year after our late-summer hike, in the middle of March, I returned to Val Gardena to discover a new sheen to the terrain: crisp snow pierced by grey splinters of dolomite rock. Ever since the World Ski Championships of 1970, Val Gardena has been recognised as one of the leading winter resorts of the South Tyrolean Dolomites. As a ski area, Val Gardena offers variety, excellent continuity with long and exhilarating runs, and a range of challenges from blues and reds to blacks and World Cup downhill courses.