Santa Caterina di Valfurva is an incredible destination in the Italian Alps. Year-round it is full of outdoor activities, showcasing the beautiful Alps. Winter is filled with snowcapped mountains and summer is filled with flowery valleys.
We visited in the winter and were blown away with the gorgeous mountains.
Although we only spent a day here, you could easily spend a week, especially if you are a skier.
It is overall such a beautiful place that is worth visiting, even if you aren’t planning on skiing.
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*****Everything in this article is my personal opinion and experiences. Check your own resources and choose to do anything I discuss at your own risk. Some of the things in this post may be dangerous and not recommended for every body.
About Santa Caterina di Valfurva
It is located in Stelvio National Park, not far from the town of Bormio. It is in the region of Sondrio which is in northeast Italy. The town of Santa Caterina has hosted multiple skiing world championships in the past. The town has produced some famous mountaineers, including the first guy to ever summit K2.
Getting to Santa Caterina di Valfurva
The only way to really get to Santa Caterina di Valfurva easily is by car. Since it is a small location in the mountains, there isn’t a huge amount of public transportation. The closest big cities in Italy are Trento or Milan, both of which are several hours away.
In Santa Caterina di Valfurva, there is ample parking and a bus that will take skiers from the car park to the lifts.
If you need to rent a car from Milan or Trento, I recommend using Booking.com as it often provides the most affordable options and options that have free cancellation and pay-at-pickup.
Itinerary for Santa Caterina di Valfurva
Grab Breakfast at one of the cute “bars”
Santa Caterina di Valfurva has a lot of nice places to grab breakfast or even a snack later in the day. There are several bars that are open for breakfast. We grabbed breakfast at Centro La Fonte Bar, which I recommend. It is super cozy inside and has views of the slopes out the window.
*****Going to the bar: One thing to note is that “bar” does not mean the same thing that it does in the United States. A “bar” in Italy can also mean an establishment that has coffees, pastries, cakes, you name it. We often go to bars for breakfast or for a merenda (snack) in the mid-afternoon. I love grabbing a cappuccino con cacao (cappuccino with cocoa powder on top), a marocchino (espresso, cream, and chocolate syrup), or a pistachio filled brioche (similar to a croissant).
Explore the snowy valley on cross country skis
We tried cross country skiing for the first time here and absolutely loved it! I have always wanted to cross country ski, so this was such a treat. It’s always been on my bucket list to “ski in the alps,” so getting to finally ski in the alps was so exciting.
You can rent cross country skis and all of the gear you will need at the Scuola Sci di fondo Vatellina (beside the Centro La Fonte bar). For Luca and I to rent all of our gear for 2 hours, it cost around 40 Euros. They also offer lessons if you would prefer to have someone teach you how to ski. We had never cross country skied before but opted to not have lessons and we ended up okay (despite several falls along the way).
After renting your gear, you will need to pay to use the cross-country ski trails (there are trails of varying lengths and difficulty). During our visit, it was 8 euros to use the trails for the entire day. There is a building next to the start of the trails where you can put on your gear and leave anything extra in lockers.
When strapping on our skis, we realized that Italian National Ski Team was training on the same trails we were on for the day. We also saw a member of Team USA training there too. (They made it look so easy haha.)
If you don’t want to cross country ski, another option is walking in the same area. The walking trail starts along the small river on the opposite side from where the cross-country skiing begins. Follow the signage, which will bring you onto a snowy path that will eventually weave through snowy pine forests with views of the mountains. My in-laws opted to walk instead of ski and had a great time.
Take the cable cars to the top of the mountain (and Sunny Valley)
One of my very favorite things we did in Santa Caterina di Valfurva was taking the cable car to Sunny Valley. There are many lifts in Santa Caterina di Valfurva, but only two main cable cars that together take you to Sunny Valley. You can find the cable car near the beginning of the town. There is a large parking garage beside the cable car entrance.
To take the cable car, purchase your tickets for round trip (not just one-way) to Sunny Valley. Be sure to keep your ticket as you will use the same one to ascend and descend. There are two cable cars that you will take to Sunny Valley. Around half-way up the mountain you will switch cable cars.
The second cable car will briefly stop to allow people off a little before you get to Sunny Valley. If the weather is good, I recommend getting off here to take pictures of the view since it gives you a different view of the mountains than you will have at Sunny Valley. From this first stop, you can see both Sunny Valley and the valley that Santa Caterina di Valfurva and Bormio sit in. Also, your only option to get off here is on the way up, as on the way down it doesn’t stop to let people off at this photo point.
When you’re ready, get back on the lift and continue onto Sunny Valley. From the exit of the cable car, it is a short walk to Sunny Valley.
****funivia = Italian word cable car
Have lunch at Sunny Valley
Sunny Valley is a luxury rifugio with fancy rooms to stay in, a steakhouse, and café with quicker (but delicious) food. We ate at the café and thought the food was delicious. We tried sandwiches and various desserts which were perfect for enjoying the sunny mountain views.
If you’re interested in staying at Sunny Valley, check out their website for rates and more information.
Enjoy the mountain views
Around Sunny Valley, you can walk around and views from all different angles. Hopefully the weather is good during your visit and you’re able to see the 360-degree views of snow-covered mountains.
While in Sunny Valley, you’re very close to Switzerland as the crow flies. On the other side of some of the mountain peaks, there is Switzerland.
There was a lot of history that took place on the border of Italy and Switzerland here. There was a lot of fighting during World War 2 in this area. Something to keep in mind as you view all of mountains here.
Return down to the valley
After you have soaked in all the mountain views, return down the mountain via the same cable cars you ascended. Be sure to check the time of the last cable car down before you go up, so that you can plan to leave in time. The last lift usually runs around 4 in the winter, but make sure to check so that you don’t get stuck at the top of the mountain.
Things to do in the Evening in Santa Caterina di Valfurva
Ice Skating is available in Santa Caterina di Valfurva for adults and children alike. For information such as times and prices can be found on their website.
Dinner in Santa Caterina di Valfurva
Santa Caterina di Valfurva is small, but there are several nice restaurants for a warm dinner after a day in the snow. Some to check out are Centro la Fonte (the same bar-restaurant I recommended for breakfast), Ristorante Pizzeria La Tana, and Hotel Residence 3 Signori.
There are more restaurants in the town of Bormio if you are preferring something different than what is in Santa Caterina di Valfurva.
Visit the town of Bormio (around 15 minutes away)
Bormio is a larger town, very close to Santa Caterina di Valfurva. You likely drove through Bormio to get to Santa Caterina di Valfurva, especially in the winter. There are several things to do in Bormio, including the baths of Bormio, the Piazza Kuerc, and Torre della Bajona o delle Ore. For more information on visiting Bormio, check out my Bormio blog post.
Tips for Visiting Santa Caterina di Valfurva
Check the weather before going
The weather in the Alps can be really variable, especially in the winter. The forecast changes all the time. Before you go, check the weather to make sure you are planning appropriately. Sometimes it can be extra snowy and you may not be able to access it. Check the weather before going so that you are not disappointed.
Dress warmer than you think you’ll need to
It will be colder on the tops of the mountains than you expect. Even if it is not too cold in the town of Santa Caterina di Valfurva, if you’re taking the cable car to the top expect it to be much much colder. We prepared for it to be colder on top, but were surprised at how much colder it actually was.
I would not have survived without mittens like these. Mittens have totally changed my winter experience outdoors.
Be prepared for weather changes during your visit
The weather can easily change while you are there. During our visit, it was completely cloudy in the morning and you couldn’t see any of the mountains, but after a few hours the clouds were completely gone and stunning mountains surrounded us. Don’t be dismayed if the weather isn’t what you expect or if the funivia stops early for the day because the weather is too bad.
Santa Caterina di Valfurva is a popular skiing destination for Italians. For the best experience (and to easily find parking), I recommend arriving earlier in the morning. We started skiing around 10 am and there was hardly anyone around, but by noon things were much more crowded.
I hope this helps you in planning your trip to Santa Caterina di Valfurva and the Italian Alps. Please let me know any questions or comments you have down below! Thanks for reading!