August 10, 2019 – August 13, 2019
In order to see everything we wanted to see before we moved back to the United States, we had to squish some trips together. On the back end of our trip in the Balkans, we flew to Venice (where we found some cheap flights) as a landing place to drive to the Dolomites, the Italian Alps. Because we had so much trouble with rental cars on our last few trips, we went rogue and booked the company Rentals by Sicily, which was only $75 for 4 days. It was super quick to get our car and they even upgraded us. The drive to Cortina took almost 2 hours, but the pretty scenery distracted me from the drive. Through the windy mountain roads we went, entering small mountain towns that looked more Austrian than Italian.
We arrived at the Hotel Columbia around 9:45pm hungry AF. The town was super small and almost everything was closed. About 200 meters down the road we found Da Beppe Sello, an Italian restaurant that was closing, but they let us get a table. We were very under dressed at the white tablecloth establishment, but it was fine. We were also the only non-Italians. I got some cheese ravioli, and Tyler the tagliatelle. This could have been the best Italian food I’ve had in my life. It was so good that we had to get dessert of figs and Grappa. Full bellies and full hearts we went to sleep.
In the morning, after a quick, but hearty and delicious breakfast at the hotel, we hit the road to do our first hike – the Tre Cime – or 3 points. It was about an hours drive on crazy winding roads. As we approached the parking area at the top of the mountain, the fog rolled in. It was so dense we could hardly see the car in front of us, or the people walking around. This was not a great sign for the 11km hike we had ahead of us, but we parked anyway.
We made our way down to the start of the trail in search of water and a WC. The toilet we found was actually just a hole in the ground. A legit outhouse.
The trail began at Rifugio Auronzo and was a wide gravel path. We couldn’t see any of the mountains that we knew were lurking beyond the fog. It was crowded as well. There were people everywhere, almost all of which had on hiking boots. Tyler and I did not. I felt unprepared for what lie ahead. The first stretch of the hike to Rifugio Lavaredo was easy with no hills, but still yucky fog.
Once we got to Forcella Lavaredo, the fog started to lift a bit and we could finally see what we came for – MOUNTAINS! They were in every direction. It was incredible, and as the scenery improved, the hike started getting more intense. Up some rocky paths we went, and down the slippery slopes. I slipped a bunch of times and discovered that Chacos were not the best hiking shoes. After almost 2 hours, we came to Rifugio Locatelli, where there was a restaurant with views of Tre Cime. We were ravaged and stopped for lunch at the same time as everyone else on the trail.
It was chaos, we couldn’t figure out how to order, and everyone was cutting in line. Italians. Nevertheless, it was a nice pit stop to carb load for what was yet to come. And the views were off the chain.
As we started back on the trail, we passed a small church and began our descent down the mountain. This was one of the hardest parts of the trail, trying to stay steady and not slide down the rocks. I really tried to soak in the scenery as we walked, noticing the purple and yellow and pink flowers. Not only could we see the Tre Cime now, but also other mountains that looked completely different. Some were steep and rocky with gray stone peaks, and some were round and grassy.
One of my favorite parts of the hike ended up being when we got down into the valley and saw a herd of cows. They were so fuzzy and friendly.
After the cows, it was straight back up the mountain. Mountains for days in all directions. Finally making it back to our car felt like such an accomplishment. A majestic hike through the Italian alps!
The next stop on our nature trip was the lake at Pragser Wildsee about an hour away through the most beautiful mountain roads. Tyler navigated the hairpin turns with ease. We arrived at the lake in late afternoon and took a minute to sit and admire the beauty. It was a brilliant blue with clear water, and trees and mountains surrounded the whole thing. We people / dog watched as rowboats went by. I enjoyed putting my feet in the cool water, but it was definitely too cold to swim. It was a very relaxing way to spend a few hours, and the pictures don’t do it justice.
We headed back to Cortina for dinner and again had some amazing Italian food, this time pizza. The atmosphere of the restaurant was so cozy, and everyone was very kind. We also learned that Miley Cyrus was staying in the same small town as we were. Too bad we didn’t run into her!
The next morning we headed two hours through the craziest roads I have ever been on to Zanser Alm for a hike. If another car came from the other way, you had to pull over so someone could pass the other, but the shoulders were pretty much nonexistent. As we arrived to our final destination, there were dark clouds rolling in, and it looked light it might rain any minute. We hiked anyway.
In contrast to the hike the previous day, we didn’t see a soul on our hike. The terrain was also very different as we made our way through forests and clearings with little rivers and red clay instead of rocks. From Zanser Alm, we headed towards Tschantschenon. You could tell the names were more German in this part of the Alps.
The first part of the hike was mostly uphill, and I was regretting our decision, but my body got used to the incline eventually.
We headed towards Geiser Alm on the Adolf Munkelweg trail. I really liked the diverse areas of terrain that we hiked through. We saw lots of trees and flowers, and so much greenery. It sprinkled on us a few times as we walked, but nothing too terrible. We were wishing we had brought rain jackets though. When we had the option to go to Gschnagenhardt-Alm through the alpine pasture, we took this option. It started raining harder as we approached the small restaurant hut. Perfect timing. And great German food.
Once the rain let up, we walked about 5 minutes to Geiser Alm, also a mountain hut, but a bit bigger. The grassy pastures contrasted with the rocky mountains. I enjoyed Geiser Alm because it had some goats, some sheep, some little mountain creatures, and a playground. Something for everyone.
We saw a sign saying it was 1 hour back to our car, but as we walked downhill for a bit, we came to a fork in the road with no signs. We consulted Google, which ended up being wrong and taking us back to where we had already come from. Turning back around, we headed once again towards our car. At least it was pretty.
We opted to spend the night in a bigger town called Bolanzo that was closer to the Venice airport, making our next day of travel easier. It was pouring rain when we arrived at our hotel, so we couldn’t do much sightseeing. We did, however, manage to find a covered rooftop bar to enjoy some fancy cocktails and wait out the rain. It would have been cool to spend some time in the town, but we had to leave pretty early the next morning to make our flight.
Hiking in the crisp mountain air has always been a favorite activity of mine, and the Dolomites did not disappoint.