Eat, Play, Love: A Travel Guide to the Exhilarating Slopes of Santa Caterina Valfurva

Discover Santa Caterina Valfurva, home to some of Italy’s most resplendent mountains and the location for anyone who loves sports and the great outdoors. Alpine and Nordic skiing reign supreme, while snowboarding, trekking, and sled rides with huskies compete only with fat biking, ice-skating, and snowshoeing. Welcome to one of the most breathtaking places you can imagine.

Santa Caterina Valfurva

Captivating natural beauty, a fairytale landscape of mountain peaks, untouched forests, and glacial moraines – this is the allure of Santa Caterina Valfurva, where the power of mighty Alpine summits and uncontaminated nature come together to create one of Italy’s most renowned destinations for winter sports lovers and anyone who wants a vacation that mixes adrenaline, sport, and relaxation.

Created by the snows of the Ghiacciaio dei Forni, the largest Italian glacial valley that originated from three basins, each created by three distinct periods, Santa Caterina Valfurva is surrounded by the vast beauty of the Stelvio National Park in the heart of the Alps. Follow the Frodolfo stream as it tumbles along the valley floor through forests of pine and spruce, over rocks and moraines, to the slow expansion of snowy fields until it arrives at this charming small hamlet.

Here, nature is the hero of the day, the bustle of a frantic lifestyle melts away and all that remains are wondrous views, fresh air, an antique wooden bridge, and a captivating town made up of buildings of simple architecture with exposed stone and frescos that recount their years of life.

Located in the Valtellina in the northern reaches of Lombardia, looking towards Switzerland, about 200km from the region’s buzzing metropolis of Milan, Santa Caterina Valfurva is a tiny jewel of a town situated at an altitude of 1,738 meters above sea level. The setting of fabled sporting events such as World Cup skiing, co-hosted with Bormio in both 1985 and 2005, and the Giro d’Italia, this beloved location is a favorite amongst holidaymakers from both near and far. It’s no wonder that the Valtellina will host some of the most important skiing events for the Milano-Cortina 2026 Winter Olympics.

This is the home of some of the most well-known mountain summits like the Gran Zebrù which stands mighty at 3,800 meters surrounded by the peaks of Pizzo Tresèro, Punta San Matteo, Palon de la Mare, and the Cevedale.

History & Curiosities

Known by the ancient toponym Magliavaca, in reference to the once marshy lands that covered the area, until the late 1600s, the town was first established as an important center of the trade route of the Republic of Venice from the 14th-17th centuries.

The area became known as Santa Caterina Valfurva in the 1600s when a priest by the name of Baldassarre Belotti discovered natural springs that were considered to have numerable health benefits. Santa Caterina became home to various spas that attracted the European elite and many British and German mountaineers.  The waters became so famous that they were even bottled for drinking.

By the time World War II ended both of the springs had dried up, however, visitors soon began flocking to the mountains to enjoy sporting in both winters and summers.

Do & Experience

In Santa Caterina Valfurva, a love of some of the world’s most stupendous mountainsides has made it home to one of the best outdoor sports locations in Europe. There is practically no end to the year-round activities available for everyone, but there is little doubt that the beautiful, pristine snows of winter have turned it into a mecca for cold-weather sports enthusiasts – fresh air, white snows, and views that will remain with you for a lifetime, this place is unforgettable.

Skiing is the god of sports here. Experience the adrenaline of authentic Alpine skiing at its best in a slice of natural paradise encircled by high mountain peaks and 35km of ski slopes, making this a key destination for ski lovers.

If you’re an expert, challenge the Gran Zebrù, or follow the paths of local world champion Italian skier Deborah Compagnoni winner of one World Cup and four Olympic medals, including three gold and one silver. But don’t be put off if you aren’t an expert on the slopes, Santa Caterina Valfurva offers amazing skiing experiences for every level and professional instructors for anyone who wishes to learn or simply improve their technique. 

Every day offers new paths to explore and sights to see. Take the ski lift for the Vallalpe-Sobretta and fly over fresh snow along wide curves until you arrive in a canyon passing through rocks reflecting coluors of pink, yellow, and grey. This is adrenaline pure and simple.

Skiers can also explore other locations from here with one unique Bormio Ski Pass that covers Santa Caterina Valfurva, Bormio, Livigno, and San Colombano.

Snowboarders will also find their rhythm here with numerous slopes and jumps, with 35 km of slopes covered with snow from December to April.

The pastures and wide-open spaces that are also a key feature of the area make Santa Caterina Valfurva home to various trails and passages fit for kilometres of exhilarating cross-country skiing as well. There is no shortage of areas to discover for lovers of this Nordic pastime.

When the night sets in, don’t put away your skis quite yet. Take in an outing of night-skiing, with the crisp air all around, under a dome of sparkling stars that feel so close it’s as if you could reach up with a finger and touch them.

For a change of pace explore the pure white pathways of Santa Caterina Valfurva on snowshoes, discovering the uncontaminated beauty painted by nature as you breathe in the fresh winter air. Let a guide show you hidden passageways and tell you about the fauna, history, and secrets of the area.

Santa Caterina Valfurva is also known for its fat-biking. For a special adventure rent one of these fun bicycles and fly over the snow-covered trails that run along the woods and mountains. If you’ve got the energy, ride all the way up to the Sunny Valley lodge for views and delicious bites, or to the quiet expanses of the Stella Alpine lodge where you’ll see the famous local camosci – Alpine goats. For an easier ride, experience the Giro dei Fiocchi.

Head over to Husky Village in the nearby Valdidentro for a treasured dogsled encounter. Hop on a sled and let the dogs take you through the unending woods of fir and larch trees and over the hills of snow. Don’t forget to pet your adorable husky guides when your outing is done.

Also on offer at Santa Caterina Valfurva are numerous other activities such as ski mountaineering, ice climbing, and ice skating. 

With summer temperatures rarely hitting 27°C Santa Caterina Valfurva also offers all those who love a bit of relaxing nature without the scalding sun or crowds the perfect scene for a summer retreat. This is when the area becomes a cyclist’s paradise with its many trails, uphills and downhills, curves, and turns taking centre stage. Hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding, and swimming are also all part of revitalizing summer sports here.

And when you’re ready to take a break from Santa Catarina Valfurva’s multitude of activities and give yourself a little pamper time, a short drive will bring you to the sought-after QC Terme Spa and Thermal Centre with its infinity pool offering extensive views of the Alps, large pools, saunas, waterfalls, massages, and treatments. Rejuvenate and restore as tensions melt away and thermal waters refresh mind, body, and soul.

Eat & Drink

Of course, no holiday in Italy can skimp on delicious food and wines. So, when you’re not busy with all that the mountains, slopes, and trails of Santa Caterina Valfurva, it’s time to appreciate some of the most prominent local dishes – dishes that are simple and genuine, meant to warm you up, a reflection of a culture that goes back to the ancient Celts. Here you’ll find comfort foods closely linked to the mountains, forests, and pastures, based on local grains, vegetables, cheeses, meats, risottos, and mushrooms, – flavours that have changed quite little over the centuries.

Buckwheat is the dominant grain used in local cooking – a grain that originated in southern Siberia and on the plains of Eastern Europe where it grew well even in the coldest and harshest conditions. Called grano saraceno in Italian, its name came about in reference to the non-Christian cultures who first brought it to the area, where it eventually became a staple.

Grano saraceno is the bases for many local recipes, the most famous of which are the Pizzoccheri della Valtellina IGP, a type of tagliatelle served with potatoes, sage, butter and cheese; and Polenta Taragna, polenta made with the addition of grano saraceno to which cheese is added creating a hot dish of creamy delight.

More warm goodness can be found with the local sciatt, small fried pieces of bread with a centre of warm melted cheese – their name literally means toad in local dialect in reference to their shapes. And don’t pass up an opportunity to try the crisp wedges of chisciöi, fritters topped with cheese and served with vegetables and meats.

But the must-try dish has to be manfrigole, thin crepes filled with Bresaola and Casera cheese, sometimes topped with more cheese, butter, sage, breadcrumbs or bechamel and baked until they turn golden brown. Eat these hot straight from the oven, simple heaven on a plate.

Locally grown vegetables like potatoes, beans, cabbage, and chicory also play a major role in traditional cuisine, such as a hearty dish of taroz – a purée of potatoes, beans, butter, onions, and garlic, flavoured with local cheeses and sometimes pancetta.

Of course, with all of the mountain pastures, meats also play a big part in typical foods. Some of the most famous of which are cured meats, an antique tradition used to keep meat stores full throughout cold harsh winters. 

Bresaola della Valtellina IGP is the most well-known, the meat is salted and covered with juniper berries, cinnamon and nutmeg and then aged for two or three months. Slinzega is very similar but is instead aromatized with bay leaves, garlic, cloves, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Violin is another cured meat that is famous here. Made with goat’s meat, it gets its name from the way in which the aged meat is presented and served, held like a violin and sliced as if with the bow.

For a warm meat dish that is as much about flavours as it is about scenography choose a dish of tzigoiner, thin slices of beef and pancetta, wrapped around a stick that is about 50 cm in length and cooked over a hot fire. The meat is served directly on the stick in a boat-shaped dish with vegetables and various sauces.

For a glorious treat, try the two local kinds of cheese Bitto and Casera, both DOP with origins dating back to the 16th century. These cheeses are richly flavoured because they are made from the milk of local cows that graze on the sweet grasses and flowers of the mountain pastures, giving the cheese a unique and harmonious flavour.

Though they are featured in many a local recipe, get a true appreciation of them by enjoying them on their own, served at room temperature to allow all of their fragrances, flavours, and spicy notes to emerge. Pair them with a Valtellina Superiore DOCG. This crimson-coloured wine with aromas of roses and cherries is made with local Nebbiolo grapes – or, for real local character, pair them with a Sforzato di Valtellina grown on the steep south-facing hillsides of the Valtellina.

Of course, sweet treats are also on the menu here – simply delightful desserts made from wholesome ingredients. Savour a piece of the rich bisciola, a round, sweet bread made with nuts, raisins, and dried figs, or bite into a slice of torta di fioretto flavoured with wild fennel seeds, or enjoy a bit of cupeta, an easy recipe made with two wafers enclosing a sweet filling of nuts, dried biscuits, and honey.

And if you’ve enjoyed too many local foods, end your meal with a sip of the mountain digestive known as Braulio, a liquor made with locally grown medicinal herbs, roots, and berries.

Where to Dine

Stube Vedig

Stube Vedig, located inside the Vedig Hotel in the centre of Santa Caterina Valfurva, offers a welcoming setting that brings in the charm of local character. Enjoy wonderfully prepared local charcuterie boards, and experience a true Valtellinese menu. It’s also a marvellous choice if you want to try the Nebbiolo from the nearby vineyards. Here, vine cultivation is heroic, planted on steep terraces of rocky soil that require lots of loving labour, and the Vedig is part of the program Adopt a Vineyard, which helps to sustain local wineries.

Via Vedich 14 – Santa Caterina Valfurva (SO) – +39 0342935305

Al Filò

Al Filò in the town of Bormio, near Santa Caterina Valfurva, with its beautiful stone vaulted ceiling, is known for its refined Valtellinese dishes like the manfrigole in a light pepper cream with smoked pancetta and shallots, or the Valtellina apple cooked in local Nebbiolo served with zabaglione and gelato. Located in what was once stalls, the now redesigned interior still houses tools from the original structure in a nod to the town’s history. 

Via Dante 6 – Bormio (So) – +39 0342901732

Umami Bistrot

Umami Bistrot created by award-winning chef Antonio Borruso, sources the finest quality materials for a gastronomic tour of the best of Italian cuisine. Run by Antonio and his sister Bianca, the restaurant prides itself on creations like the Buglio pizza with fior di latte cheese, yellow tomato sauce, Stracciatella from Puglia, shrimp, and leek ash oil; or the Valtellina panuozzo with Bresaola cured beef, Bitto cheese, and arugula.

Via Stelvio 23 – Bormio (SO) – +39 0342911734

Where to Stay

Hotel Bait Fiorita di Deborah Compagnoni

This picturesque hotel located is located just five minutes from the ski lifts and run by the family of world-famous Italian ski champion Deborah Compagnoni is the emblem of charm and hospitality. Baita Fiorita offers beautiful rooms that pay careful attention to every detail. The Gentianella Suite is a traditional wood-lined stube with a reading area, balcony, and jacuzzi.

Delicious food also plays an important part of any stay, with offers including either half or full board. Scrumptious breakfasts await first thing in the morning, and the hotel’s restaurant Caffè Bormio is a must-try. The hotel also offers guests a spa with sauna, steam room, jacuzzi, beauty treatments, and massages, as well as wellness packages aimed at overall wellness and stress reduction.

Via Frodolfo 3 – 23030 Santa Caterina Valfurva (SO) – +39 0342925119

Sunny Valley Kelo Mountain Lodge

Encompassing 11 exclusive suites and a Snow Wellness area, Sunny Valley unites the jaw-dropping beauty of the Ortler-Cevedale-Adamello mountains with a luxurious stay surrounded by the best of hospitality, design, sports, wellness, and relaxation. Located in the Valle dell’Alpe between Santa Caterina Valfurva and the peak of Mount Sobretta, this dreamy lodge resort is constructed of local stone and wood imported from the fir trees of Finland’s Lapland.

Experience elegantly furnished suites and a spa area that has the highest Kelo Sauna in the Alps with views to match. Sunny Valley also boasts a gourmet restaurant, delicious breakfasts, a Steakhouse, a sandwich bistro, a cocktail bar, and a lounge area with an open fireplace – all with amazing vistas of the mountains. Ski lovers will also enjoy that Sunny Valley is located directly on the slopes, allowing guests to ski straight out of the hotel.

Via De Simoni 29 – 23032 Bormio (SO) – +39 0342935422

Hotel Vedig

This stylish modern Alpine hotel blends the essence of tradition with the elegance of contemporary design that uses wood, glass, natural stone, and the finest fabrics to create a getaway that is simultaneously elegant and cozy. The ideal pied-à-terre for ski lovers, the family-run Vedig is located just 200 meters from Santa Caterina Valfurva’s Paradiso chairlift at the bottom of the ski slopes. The hotel’s rooms boast beautiful views and balconies and are carefully appointed.

From here, take off for a day of downhill skiing, cross country, biking and immersive walks in the forest. Enjoy the spa with Finnish Sauna, Turkish bath, and relaxation area. Unwind with a hot chocolate or complete afternoon tea hour in front of the warm fire at the Caffe Vedig, and taste the flavors of local gastronomy at the establishment’s delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner. Don’t miss out on the Vedig’s amazing bike experience on the trails of the Stelvio Natural Park.

Via Vedich 14 – 23030 S. Caterina Valfurva (SO) – +39 0342935305

B&B Al Baitin Charme & Nature

This picturesque location, with antique wood and stone, merges the beauty of nature with an invitingly elegant atmosphere. B&B Al Baitan is set in a mountain lodge first built in the first half of the 19th century – completely renovated in elegant fashion to showcase the aspects of the traditions which have been part of this wonderous mountain area for centuries. The location offers various rooms and apartments, all furnished with careful detail to comfort and luxurious natural materials, that are charming and magical to the core. A scrumptious homemade breakfast awakens guests every morning in the picturesque Saléta overlooking the center of Santa Caterina Valfurva, just a few steps from the ski slopes and shopping.

Via Frodolfo 14 – I-23030 Santa Caterina Valfurva (SO) – +39 3398278844

Specialty Shopping

Take some leisure time to enjoy some local shopping in Santa Caterina Valfurva as well. Minimarket Ginetto is the perfect shop in town for anyone who wants to bring home the genuine flavors of the Valtellina. Choose from selected assortments of excellent wines, sweets, bread, meats, cheeses, polentas, and pasta. Head to Ski Trab to find some of the best, crafted skiing equipment made with advanced raw materials and exclusive cutting-edge technology– all created locally. Top-quality coats and gear for all sports are available at the local Compagnoni Sport.

For more retail experiences stop in Bormio where the central Via Romais is lined with fashion boutiques.

Eat, Play, Love: A Travel Guide to the Exhilarating Slopes of Santa Caterina Valfurva

Cucine d'Italia consiglia