Italy's dramatic rocky rooftop, the Dolomites, offers some of the best mountain thrills in Europe. The cost for the comfort of reliably good weather is a drained-reservoir feeling. Lovers of other parts of the Alps may miss the lushness that comes with the unpredictable weather farther north. But the bold, light-gray cliffs and spires flecked with snow, above green meadows and beneath a blue sky, offer a powerful, unique, and memorable mountain experience. Here, the region's Austrian history survives in a warm, blue-aproned, ruddy-faced, felt-hat-with-feathers way. There's yogurt and yodeling for breakfast, and most locals are bilingual German-Italian speakers. Bolzano ("Bozen" in German) is the gateway to the Dolomites, and Castelrotto (a.k.a. "Kastelruth") is a good home base for your exploration of Alpe di Siusi, Europe's largest alpine meadow.