Friday, September 3, 2010

The Dolomites

The Dolomites are part of the Italian Alps that border on Austria, and they are without a doubt some of the most spectacular scenery imaginable. We were fortunate to be able to borrow a condo from a good friend of ours (grazie Francesca!) and so we enjoyed a week of hikes, walks, breathtaking views and a pretty scary ride up a glacier.
The town of Campitello is in the Val di Fassa region of the Dolomites, about mid-way between Bolzano and Cortina d'Ampezzo. It's a small town that can be walked from one end to the other in about 20 minutes, but it is blessed to have a funivia that takes you up to the Col Rodello, for my money one of the most beautiful spots in the world.
Each mountain area is serviced by a funivia or some sort of lift that takes you way up into the mountains with no effort at all. From the arrival point, there are trails of various difficulty levels that will take hikers from one pass to another. Along the way are "rifugi", a type of lodge where you can get some good home made food, use bathroom facilities and even spend the night in hostel type of lodgings. Invariably, there is a deck from which to enjoy the view. Some have hot tubs that are put into action during ski season.
We aren't experienced hikers, so we kept to the main trails for the most part. There can be some very steep climbs, but with our trekking poles we managed to handle them without too much difficulty. For the really adventurous, there are trails that aren't much more than cow paths, with steep ups and downs and walks that can take 4-5 hours to complete.
Our last day in Campitello, we went up to the Marmolada, the highest peak in the Dolomites. The lift wasn't a nice funivia or even a chair lift; it was a basket, hanging from a pole, into which we had to run and jump on while it was still moving. The attendant slammed the gate shut and off we went. It took almost 20 minutes to get up to the rifugio. The actual peak was well beyond where we got off. Only experienced and well-equipped hikers were allowed to complete the trek. We contented ourselves with making snowballs in August and reveling in the beauty that surrounded us.
I will never forget the majesty and beauty of this wonderful spot. I doubt we will go back; there are too many other places to visit. I regret this, because I think that I could make an annual pilgrimage to the mountains and never get tired of all they have to offer.

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