Introducing Madonna di Campiglio & Pinzolo
Let there be no doubt, this is the Dolomites' bling belt, where ankle-length furs are standard après-ski wear and the formidable downhill runs often a secondary concern to the social whirl. Austrian royalty set the tone in the 19th century, in particular Franz Joseph and wife Elisabeth (Sissi). This early celeb patronage is commemorated in late February, when fireworks blaze and costumed pageants waltz through town for the annual Habsburg Carnival. Despite the traffic jams and mall-like hotel complexes, the central village square has retained something of its essence, overlooked by a pretty stone church and the jutting battlements of the Brenta Dolomites beyond. In summer this is an ideal base for hikers and vie ferrate enthusiasts.
Pinzolo (population 2000, elevation 800m), in a lovely valley 16km south, has a lively historic centre and quite a few less tickets on itself.