We had a wonderful time exploring the heart of the unique Dolomiti mountains with a small group of travelers last month. This land of fairytale villages and distinctive pink, lacy mountains which overlook seemingly endless, verdant valleys and flowering meadows are of almost staggering beauty, and a paradise for hikers.
It was a relief to leave the crowded, hot Italian cities behind as we wound our way into the refreshing mountains with springtime temperatures, stopping for our first two nights in the renowned ski resort town of Cortina d’Ampezzo. Spirits were high as we walked in beautiful meadows exploding with windflowers set against the picturesque backdrop of Monte Cristallo and the Tofane range. And spirits became exuberant as we sat down to to a gourmet interpretation of the famous Dolomiti cuisine. We had terrific meals throughout our travels, whether in simple mountain huts or elegant restaurants, cosy family hearths or picnics with 360 degree views. We tasted many Alpine cheeses, wild game, mountain mushrooms, homemade pastas, cured meats, casunziei (ravioli with various fillings), canederli (dumplings of bread and speck), goulash, apple strudel, smorn (fluffy, caramelized pancakes with fruit sauce), hearty local wines, and naturally, grappa. Salute!
This unique land was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2009. Although many cultures had coexisted in this area for centuries, this spectacular landscape, these colossal walls and lush valleys became the dramatic battlefield between Italians and Austrians during World War 1. Referred to as “il fronte verticale”, or, the vertical frontline, the terrain itself became part of the battle. Soldiers on both sides built networks of trails and bolted down steel cables, called “via ferrata” to move both men and supplies and try to have the advantage of the higher ground, with the mountaintops as their limit. More than 60,000 soldiers were thought to have perished in avalanches alone. Many of these paths and ferrate still exist today, of great interest to adventure seekers and mountain enthusiasts.
Our week unrolled with beautiful adventures as we traveled west through the the world of high mountains. We explored the Chamois trail which runs below the 9,000 ft. Tofane range, and the famous five rock formation favored by rock climbers, known as the Cinque Torri. We ascended towards the clouds to the Rifugio Nuvolao, at 7,800 ft, and witnessed both a breathtaking sunset and inspiring dawn at the 9,000 ft. Lagazuoi Refuge. We trekked up wildflower filled Alpine meadows to the Sanctuary of Santa Croce, a simple elegant 15th century chapel set at 6,000 ft. against the towering rock face of Sasso della Croce. The Puez-Odle National Park has an almost lunar landscape adorned with rugged crags and breathtaking pinnacles and spires which led into the expansive valleys of the Vallunga. Together we hiked the gorgeous Seceda, another iconic mountain in the Dolomites, and were dazzled by the seemingly endless panoramas and spectacular trails above the Val di Funes.
Yet, as in all of our tours, it was not only about the marvelous trails, it was about the journey itself. We shared stories, encouraged one another, escaped hailstorms together, enjoyed delicious picnics with spectacular views, savored local cuisine, made new friends, but most of all, had fun together. We look forward to many more unforgettable tours like this!
“It’s not about the destination…it’s about the Journey…”
To view our tours click here: Dolomiti tours