Prato Piazza (Plätzwiese in German) plateau is a high alpine pasture in Valle di Braies/Pragser Tal Valley, which is a side valley of Val Pusteria/Pustertal in South Tyrol.
The plateau lies between Picco di Vallandro/Dürrenstein (2839 m) and Monte Croda Rossa d’Ampezzo/Hohe Gaisl (3146 m) in Fanes-Sennes-Braies Nature Park in the Italian Dolomites.
Prato Piazza (2000 m) is a top attraction in the Braies/Prags Dolomites, because of its accessibility, proximity to Lago di Braies, easy hiking trails, and extraordinary views of Croda Rossa d’Ampezzo, Monte Cristallo and Piz Popena.
One of the best experiences you can have atop Prato Piazza is watching the sunrise, or sunset from the summit of Monte Specie/Strudelkopf.
Complete Guide to Visiting Prato Piazza
Prato Piazza Essential Tips
- When to Visit: Summer and fall for hiking (ideally before July 10th, or after September 10th), or winter for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and tobogganing.
- Prato Piazza Toll Road: 10 EUR for cars, 8 EUR for motorcycles. There’s a driving ban for private busses and motorhomes.
- Seasonal Road Restrictions (July 10 – September 10): In Braies Valley, there are road restrictions in place between July 10 and September 10. However, you can still drive up to the plateau before 9:30 am or after 4 pm. During the day, the plateau is only accessible by transit, bicycle, or foot.
- Top Attraction: Monte Specie/Strudelkopf summit view
- Where to Eat: Rifugio Prato Piazza, Malga Prato Piazza (Almhütte Plätzwiese), Rifugio Vallandro (Dürrensteinhütte)
- Where to Stay on Prato Piazza: Hotel Hohe Gaisl
- Where to Stay in Valle di Braies: Garni Bergblick (budget), Berggasthaus Agritur Moserhof (midrange), or Farmhouse Hanslerhof (midrange)
- Where to Stay in Val Pusteria: Hotel Christof (luxury), or Silentium Dolomites Chalet Since 1600 (luxury)
- Recommended Trail Map: Tabacco 031: Pragser Dolomiten/Dolomiti di Braies
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Prato Piazza Map
When to Visit Prato Piazza, Braies Valley
In summer, Prato Piazza is an active alpine pasture, where cattle graze freely. The atmosphere is lively and all the huts are open.
In June and early July, the meadows are carpeted in wildflowers (gentian, kidney vetch, forget-me-not, buttercup).
We recommend visiting Prato Piazza before July 10th, or after September 10th.
Related: Hiking in the Dolomites in September
Late October is a great time to visit Prato Piazza with a car, because there are no road restrictions. The road is open all day and there’s no toll fee to drive up. Starting in mid-October, there’s no shuttle service offered, which makes getting here impossible without one.
We loved visiting Prato Piazza in late October, because the Rifugi are still open, it’s relatively peaceful, and the colors transform to ripe yellows and oranges.
Most mountain huts in the Dolomites close down in late September. So, it’s a real treat to eat lunch in a hut in October or even early November.
Related: Hiking in the Dolomites in October
In winter, Prato Piazza is a ski touring, snow-shoeing and tobogganing destination. There’s also a 6-km-long cross-country skiing circuit.
Prato Piazza Hiking Trails
Monte Specie / Strudelkopf
- Trailhead: Prato Piazza Car Park
- Distance: 8.8 km circuit
- Time Needed: 3 hours total
- Elevation Gain/Loss: 389 meters ascending/descending
- Difficulty: Easy
Monte Specie is one of the easiest summits to reach from Prato Piazza. This popular, panoramic mountain boasts impressive views of the Sexten Dolomites and the Cristallo Group.
From the Prato Piazza car park, follow the road to Rifugio Prato Piazza. Between the Rifugio and Hotel Hohe Gaisl, turn left onto trail 40, passing the white chapel. At the trail 40/40a juncture, turn right onto trail 40a and walk the level path across the meadow to Malga Prato Piazza. Continue following trail 40a, towards the impressive Piz Popena and Monte Cristallo peaks.
At the trail 40a/34 intersection, head left on trail 34 to the Strudelsattel and then up to the Monte Specie summit, crowned by a wooden cross.
At the top, Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Drei Zinnen, Three Peaks) steals the show. The view of Cadini di Misurina is fantastic as well.
To return to Prato Piazza, head back to the Strudelsattel and then turn left, following the “Steig” (hiking trail) to Rifugio Vallandro/Dürrensteinhütte.
From the Vallandro refuge, follow trail 37 (macadam road) back to Rifugio Prato Piazza.
Learn More: Monte Specie Trail Guide
Picco di Vallandro / Dürrenstein
- Trailhead: Prato Piazza Car Park
- Distance: 9.2 km out-and-back
- Time Needed: 4 hours total
- Elevation Gain/Loss: 872 meters ascending/descending
- Difficulty: Moderate
Picco di Vallandro is another summit you can hike to from Prato Piazza. It takes 2 hours to ascend to the peak from the car park.
Honestly, I’m surprised that this is such a popular hike. The trail is a bit monotonous.
From Rifugio Prato Piazza, follow trail 40 (same trail as Monte Specie) past the white chapel. Trail 40 guides you all the way up to the summit.
Initially, this path steers you across grassy pastures. As you gain elevation, you’ll hike across some easy, karst terrain. The grade is always moderate. As you ascend, views of Monte Croda Rossa d’Ampezzo/Hohe Gaisl will be your constant companion.
When you reach the ridge, continue left. The trail zigzags up to the peak in 20 minutes.
While this trail is straightforward and doesn’t present much of a challenge (except the elevation gain), the final steps to the summit are very exposed. The exposed section is secured with a chain, but it feels very airy.
Atop Picco di Vallandro, peaks rise up in every direction, including Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Croda del Becco/Seekofel, Monte Sella di Sennes, Sass de Putia/Peitlerkofel, Tofana di Mezzo, Pala di San Martino.
Prato Piazza Places to Eat
There are three places to eat on the Prato Piazza plateau. Opening times vary, depending on weather conditions.
Rifugio Prato Piazza / Berggasthof Plätzwiese
Rifugio Prato Piazza is situated on the crossroads between trails 37, 40, 3 and 18.
Elevation: 2000 m
How to Get Here: This hut is located on trail 37, a mere 5-minute walk from the car park.
Summer Opening Times: Mid-May until early November
Winter Opening Times: December – April
Rifugio Prato Piazza is only closed for 3 weeks in May and 3 weeks in November.
Malga Prato Piazza / Almhütte Plätzwiese
Alpine pasture hut surrounded by meadows, situated on trail 40a. They serve local South Tyrolean cuisine.
Elevation: 2048 m
How to Get Here: At Rifugio Prato Piazza, ascend along trail 40 for 10 minutes. At the trail 40/40a intersection, turn right on trail 40a and walk 5 minutes to the hut.
Opening Times: Drei Zinnen Website
Mountain refuge on the Alta Via 3 long-distance trail, overlooking the Cristallo Group. Rifugio Vallandro is positioned next to Forte Prato Piazza, a ruin of a WWI Austro-Hungarian fortress.
Elevation: 2040 m
How to Get Here: From the Prato Piazza parking lot, follow the flat macadam road (trail 37) all the way to the hut (30-40 minutes.
Summer Opening Times: mid-May to early November
Winter Opening Times: mid-December to mid-April
How to Get to Prato Piazza
Drive to Valle di Braies/Pragser Tal in South Tyrol. Follow the main road through Braies valley. When the road divides at Segheria, head left to Ponticello/Brückele and Prato Piazza. The road bearing right leads to Lago di Braies.
At Ponticello/Brückele, there’s a paid car park and a toll gate.
There’s a 10 EUR toll for cars and 8 EUR toll for motorcycles to drive the 6-km toll road from Ponticello/Brückele to Prato Piazza. There is a year-round ban on the passage of private buses and campers/motorhomes.
Access to Prato Piazza via this toll road changes throughout the year. Check out the current status on this website.
Please check the Prags – Plätzwiese website for up-to-date information.
When we visited in early June, we could drive up to the Plateau before 10 am (or after 3 pm). We paid the toll fee in cash.
High Summer: July 10 – September 10
There are road restrictions in place between July 10 and September 10 in Pragser Tal.
However, you can still drive up to the plateau before 9:30 am or after 4 pm.
During the day, the plateau is only accessible by transit, bicycle, or foot.
In high summer, you can reserve a parking space at Ponticello/Brückele and then take bus 443 up to the plateau.
Please check the Prags – Plätzwiese website for up-to-date information.
When we visited in late October, we could drive up to the plateau in the middle of the day. There were no restrictions in place and no toll fee.
You can reach the Prato Piazza high plateau at any time (subject to a fee) via the toll road until December 25th. The Ponticello/Brückele car park can also be reached at any time.
Starting December 25th, access by car is possible until 10 am and after 3 pm (subject to a fee). In addition, a shuttle bus also runs from Ponticello/Brückele car park to the plateau.
Bus route 443 connects Monguelfo/Welsberg and Dobbiaco/Toblach to Plätzwiese plateau. This bus usually operates from mid-June until mid-October.
Where to Stay near Prato Piazza
Valle di Braies / Pragser Tal Valley
Valle di Braies valley is the best base for exploring everything that the northern Prags/Braies Dolomites has to offer. The top attractions are Prato Piazza and Lago di Braies. But with more time, you can venture off-the-beaten-path to the Ütia Fojadora mountain pasture, Grünwaldtal valley and Hochalpensee lake, Hochalpenkopf peak, Croda del Becco/Seekofel summit, Herrstein peak, Grosser Rosskopf peak, and the Gaislkare high trail (Prato Piazza to Malga Rossalm).
Budget | Garni Bergblick is a top-rated guesthouse in Valle di Braies, located a mere 5.6 km (10 min drive) from Lago di Braies, 6.2 km (9 min drive) from Ponticello, and 11.3 km (18 min drive) from Prato Piazza. Set in a romantic meadow surrounded by stone pine trees, Garni Bergblick is the perfect place to base yourself when exploring the northern Braies/Prags Dolomites. Breakfast included.
Budget-Midrange | Berggasthaus Agritur Moserhof is a traditional and cozy farm stay, perched high above Braies/Prags Valley. Breakfast and dinner are included in the rate. From Moserhof, it’s a 5-minute drive down to the valley and a 11-minute drive to Lago di Braies.
Midrange | Farmhouse Hanslerhof is a mountain guesthouse and farm overlooking Braies/Prags Valley and surrounded by meadows. Guests love the charming stone pine rooms, homemade breakfasts (included the room rate), and quiet location. From Hanslerhof, it’s an 8 minute drive to Lago di Braies.
Midrange | Hotel Erika is a 3-star hotel situated at the entrance of Valle di Braies. Guests have access to a lovely 400m² wellness area containing a Finnish Sauna (90 °C), steam bath (42-45° C), bio sauna (60 °C), infrared lounge, jacuzzi, and relaxation rooms. Rooms are clean and comfortably furnished in a Tyrolean-alpine style. A rich and varied breakfast buffet and a 5-course dinner are included in the room rate (half board). From Hotel Erika, it’s a 10-minute drive to Lago di Braies and a 20-minute drive to Prato Piazza.
Midrange | Hotel Turmchalet (3 nights minimum) is a family-run 3-star-superior hotel in Valle di Briaes, praised for their superior service and friendliness. The hotel was recently renovated, resulting in tastefully-designed, alpine-modern bedrooms and a standout facade. Guests describe the cuisine as delicious, sensational and outstanding. Breakfast and dinner are included in the room rate (half board). And, there’s also a wellness area.
Monguelfo, Val Pusteria
Monguelfo (Welsberg in German) is a village in Val Pusteria, which is only a 3-minute drive to the entrance of Braies Valley.
Luxury | Hotel Christof is a new and stylish hotel in the village of Monguelfo/Welsberg in Val Pusteria. Stay here for the striking fresh-faced architecture, modern 600 m² wellness area, and excellent cuisine (you can book breakfast-only or half board). This modern hotel is a splash of cheerful color and laid-back fun on the South Tyrolean hospitality scene. From the hotel, it’s a 13-minute drive to Lago di Braies.
Luxury | Silentium Dolomites Chalet Since 1600 is tucked away on the edge of a forest, 2-km from the town center of Monguelfo/Welsberg. It’s a 15-minute drive from Silentium Chalet to Lago di Braies. Guests love the kind hospitality, picturesque location, and excellent breakfasts (included) and dinners (optional).
San Candido, Alta Pusteria
Valle di Braies/Pragser Tal valley is a side valley of Alta Pusteria/Hochpustertal (“Upper Puster Valley”) in South Tyrol. Alta Pusteria, also called the Three Peaks Region, encompasses the towns of Villabassa/Niederdorf, Dobbiaco/Toblach, and San Candido/Innichen, as well as the side valley of Sesto/Sexten. Dobbiaco and San Candido are excellent places to stay when you want to split your time between the Sexten Dolomites and the Prags Dolomites.
You can explore the northern Sexten Dolomites from Val Fiscalina/Fischleintal and Innerfeldtal/Val Campo di Dentro. To access the southern Sexten Dolomites, you can drive through Valle di Landro/Höhlensteintal to Lake Misurina, Lake Antorno, and onwards to Tre Cime di Lavaredo via the Rifugio Auronzo toll road.
Luxury | Naturhotel Leitlhof is a 4-star-superior, climate-neutral wellness hotel in San Candido. Situated at a slight elevation and bordered by forest, idyllic Naturhotel Leitlhof overlooks the village and the gorgeous Sexten mountains including Haunold/Rocca dei Baranci and Dreischusterspitze/Cima di Tre Scarperi. Sunsets and sunrises are glorious here. The 2000 m² wellness facilities and outdoor pool are stellar. And, the cuisine is second to none. This is one of the very best hotels in the Dolomites.
Rules for Visiting Fanes-Sennes-Braies Nature Park
While you’re visiting Prato Piazza, please adhere to the following rules:
- No motor vehicles are allowed within the park.
- Wild camping is prohibited in the park.
- Always stay on marked trails and paths. This helps prevent damage to the meadows and alpine pastures.
- Do not pick flowers.
- Respect the habitat of animals. Do not make any unnecessary noise.
- Do not light fires.
- Do not litter. Please take your garbage with you and dispose of it responsibly.
- Do not touch, or approach grazing animals.
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