Quiet walks in the woods, uphill walks to discover high mountain pastures, demanding ascents that lead to the highest rocky altitudes: this is the area of Canazei, a small town of just over 1900 inhabitants located in the splendid Dolomites.
Canazei belongs to the province of Trento and, specifically, rises in the northernmost part of the Val di Fassa, like a jewel nestled between three large Dolomite groups: Sassolungo, Marmolada, and the Sella Group. It is a famous tourist resort, alive throughout the year. In the colder months, it is the favorite destination for downhill and ski mountaineering enthusiasts, while in the summer, which in good years lasts until mid-September, it attracts lovers of hiking and alpine trekking. But let’s take a closer look at the characteristics of this enchanting place, which combines relaxation, nature, and sport, and what its main tourist attractions are.
The mountain group of the Dolomites is famous all over the world not only for the beauty and grandeur of its sharp peaks but also for its particular fauna and flora that characterizes them. Canazei is located in this very green area, near the northern and final narrowing of the long Val di Fassa, in the most north-eastern part of the province of Trento. It is, with its 1465 meters above sea level s.l.m., of one of the 30 highest Italian municipalities, and it is precisely this fortunate position that makes it one of the most visited tourist centers in the Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From the center of the village, you can admire the very high peaks of the giant mountains that surround it with altitudes exceeding 3000 m. The highest point of all the Dolomites is located right here: Punta Penia, the extreme peak of the Marmolada, with its 3348 m, from which on days of best visibility, you can enjoy a truly breathtaking view of the major mountain groups in the Alps Central.
To get to Canazei by car you can take the A22 Brenner motorway and exit at Egna. From there you take the road called Dolomites, which passes through Fontanefredde and Nuova Redagno, to then emerge in the wonderful Val di Fiemme. From there it is very simple because the Val di Fassa presents itself as the natural continuation of the Val di Fiemme. By train Canazei can be reached from the Ora-Auer station in Val d’Adige, or from that of Bolzano or Trento. It can also be reached by bus, thanks to the line served by Trentino Trasporti and the SAD company. For those who come from further afield, the nearest airports are Bolzano-Dolomiti, which is 6 km from the center of Bolzano, or the Valerio Catullo airport in Verona.
Once in Canazei it is very easy to find your way because the narrowness of the valley does not favor the proliferation of roads. Canazei can be easily turned on foot and in a short time, despite being one of the largest ski centers in the valley. The major points of interest, however, usually include large parking lots to encourage mobility even in times of major tourist influx. We have selected some examples of the most beautiful attractions that Canazei reserves for its visitors.
Characteristic mountain village, Canazei, with its historic center, is already an evocative place itself: there are houses with roofs and external walls so worked that they seem to have just come out of a fairy tale and glimpses of very beautiful and picturesque alleys to visit and photograph. Walking through the center, there are many opportunities to stop and observe something: a particular souvenir shop, a shop of local products, or simply the view of the mountains above. Perfect for older people and families with children, but also couples looking for a romantic getaway.
The church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a simple mountain church that stands at the beginning of the village on a small hill. Inside, you can admire some of the masterpieces of the local masters of the time, such as the Statue of the Madonna in the traditional clothing of the Val di Fassa. The interior windows are very particular, decorated with illustrations, referring to biblical episodes, which are explained in a digital monitor below. The structure is modern and well-valued as a whole all built with local materials. It may happen that, during the weekly mass, the choir of the inhabitants of Canazei performs some religious songs in the Ladin language, a perfect occasion for spiritual recollection in a welcoming and deeply felt atmosphere.
In Canazei, there is also an ice palace built in the 1980s in the town of Alba, a small but pretty hamlet of Canazei. It is open to the public who want to do skating, usually from 4 pm to 6 pm and 9 pm to 11 pm, both in summer and winter, almost every day of the year. Inside, there is a rental of skates well stocked for those who do not have the necessary equipment. In addition to the skaters, the ice rink is also used for hockey matches and as a competitive figure skating facility, which can host up to 3500 spectators.
The network of paths in this geographical area would be truly infinite, and a separate guide would be needed only for this theme. There are recommended routes for the less experienced or families with children, but also longer and adventurous itineraries for the more avid mountaineers. Here, we just mention the possibility of making beautiful walks and more demanding walks in the mountains around Canazei: on Sass Pordoi, on Piz Boé, and the Sella or Sassolungo.
On the slopes of the suggestive Marmolada massif is the enchanting Lago di Fedaia, an artificial basin located at an altitude of 2053 m. Its depth is 57 meters and its perimeter of 5 kilometers, entirely passable on foot, also the part on the dam. The proximity of the paved road on one side makes access to this lake very easy and accessible by anyone, while on the other unfortunately it ruins its magical atmosphere of pristine quiet that should distinguish any mountain environment. The lake is clearly visible from the various peaks that surround it, when you are hiking in the area. Observing its waters is exciting in all seasons: during spring they reflect its flowers, in summer they turn green, in autumn they reflect all its colorful shades and in the winter months they turn white and freeze. The lake of Fedaia can be reached, as well as by car, even on foot from Alba di Canazei, through various paths and around its banks there are various accommodation facilities for tourists, bars and restaurants, where you can eat and rest, such as the Refuge Castiglioni Marmolada or the Cima Undici refuge, from whose windows you can admire the beautiful alpine panorama and the unforgettable view of the Marmolada which is reflected in the waters of the lake.
The lake Fedaia is also a starting point for numerous other routes that lead to the Queen of the Dolomites, the Marmolada. By the ski lift in the area, you can reach the Pian dei Fiacconi refuge in just twenty minutes, located at the foot of the Marmolada glacier. Another alternative, always staying on the Marmolada, is to take another cable car from Lake Fedaia, divided into two sections, which climbs the Marmolada slope, which rises in altitude to Punta Rocca (3250 m) and houses an amazing panoramic terrace, from which you can enjoy a memorable view. Of course, for more experienced hikers, the ascent is perfectly feasible without having to take any means. Indeed, it is advisable to complete at least part of the route on foot to fully experience the majesty of the mountain and feel all its grandeur in your tired breath. An excellent idea is to stop at the Marmolada Museum of the Great War, located at an altitude of 3000 meters, which displays images, photos, and objects related to the First World War.
An exciting walk can be the one that starts from Passo Pordoi, from which you can go up by cable car to Sass Pordoi (2950m) and then head towards Forcella Pordoi, until you reach the base of Piz Boé, one of the easiest peaks to reach among all the peaks of the Dolomites. You go up along the southern slope of the mountain on a coast characterized by ledges and steps, which does not present major difficulties until you reach the top of Piz Boé (3152 m). You can go down the via ferrata which quickly leads to the lower Boé Refuge (2871 m) to rejoin the Forcella Pordoi. You then pass the Sass Pordoi to return to the valley with the cable car. Near the Sass Pordoi cable car you can see the monument to Fausto Coppi, an exceptional athlete who made the history of Italian cycling. The total duration of the route is between 3 hours and 3 and a half hours, depending on the walk, the altitude difference is limited (not even 300 m) and overall it is not a difficult path, made even more pleasant by the multitude of landscapes and panoramas. It will certainly be worth it!
You will have understood by now that Canazei is a real capital of alpine and winter sports! Among the most successful sporting events that Canazei hosts every year we must mention an Alpine ski race held in March, the Sellaronda Ski-Marathon. This competition takes place strictly at night and touches four Dolomite passes. In July, instead, the main test of the world skyrunning championship Dolomites Skyrace is held, a high-altitude running race that starts from the center of Canazei, proceeds towards the Pordoi Pass, to then climb the Sass Pordoi and the Piz Boè and finally return in Canazei passing through the Val Lasties. This demanding endurance test has a total length of 22 km for a total difference in altitude of 1687 m that the best competitors run in just over 4 hours.
Canazei, better known as Cianacéi for local Ladin-speaking speakers, is truly a unique town, not only for its strategic position which makes it one of the major centers for practicing alpine sports, but also because it is part of a Ladin-language enclave together with 18 other municipalities located in the surrounding area. In all Val di Fassa, Ladin has been spoken for centuries, which also differs in various circumscribed dialects. In particular, in the Canazei area, the Ladin variant called cazet is in use. Among the inhabitants of the village of Canazei, only 20% are Italian native speakers, while 79% are Ladin. The tourist who arrives in Val di Fassa for the first time can easily become aware of this linguistic peculiarity, stopping to read the toponyms of the place or listening to the conversations of the locals. The Ladins care very much about their identity and pass on their traditions, which is why many folk events and other manifestations of Ladin culture are organized in Canazei. Among the main Ladin events, which Canazei hosts every year, there is the famous Ladin carnival, which is held in February and is celebrated with parades of artistic floats, accompanied by masked balls and sleigh rides.
So, Canazei is the perfect place for a weekend in nature or a longer-lasting holiday to fully enjoy unspoiled nature, healthy fun, including sports and relaxation, which, in this geographical area, only this wonderful village can offer throughout the year.