Hiking in the Dolomites!
Mountain towns and hiking trails
After exploring Venice for two days, my parents and I rented a tiny Fiat and drove about 3 hours north to the Dolomites, a mountain range in Northern Italy. It was a gorgeous drive and easy to do. This drive was when I realized that the Italian picture in my mind with Italian villas, neverending vineyards, and rolling hills is actually real life in Italy! I honestly don’t know if we passed a house without a vineyard… I was constantly in awe looking out of the car window, just taking all of the beauty of the countryside in. After we saw our first mountain, the vineyards turned to ski runs and the rolling hills turned into jagged rocky mountain formations. Italy has some seriously unparralleled beauty, no matter the terrain.
The Dolomites are a mountain range in Northern Italy and were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009. This mountain range stretches along the top of Northern Italy and offers a wide range of yearly activities. Here you can find flourishing forests, rocky terrain and snow on the ground- all in the same mountain range! During the winter this is a huge ski destination, but during the summer you can hike and paraglide to your hearts content. We visited in late September and had great weather. We stayed in a cabin in the tiny mountain town of Alba and loved it!
Here we hiked mountains, ate German food, and truly enjoyed the Italian mountain side.
We were definitely off of the beaten path in Italy during this portion of the trip.
We stayed in the mountain town of Alba, which is near Canazei, a more well known town in the Dolomites. Below is a map of Northern Italy and the red point of interest is where we stayed and hiked for your reference.
Every building in every mountain town that we went through was incredibly gorgeous! Just about every windowsill had potted flowers that were stunning.
All of the houses and Rifugios were getting ready for the winter. Below is how many of the houses stack and keep their wood on the outside of the house.
Things to do
Hike- These mountains offer some great hiking trails with some epic views! I get deeper into the details of where we hiked here below. There are short hikes, day hikes, and even multi-day hikes that you can do in this area. If you haven’t noticed, I have been on a hiking binge lately. And the hikes we did were awesome!!
Eat- You’re in Italy- so EAT EAT EAT! There are so many delicious German and Italian restaurants here! I had my first authentic German meal here. We also had a cornucopia pizza that was incredible.
Ski- During the winter time, this is a great ski destination. However, I would not recommend this area to beginner skiers.
Paraglide- We saw hundreds of paragliders around these mountains. Paragliding is an adventure sport where a lightweight, free-flying, foot-launched glider aircraft with no rigid primary structure is launched off of mountain tops.
Yoga & Handstands- Because, why not? What trip of mine would be complete without a yoga pose and a handstand picture?
If you want to hike off the beaten path trails and go places where not very many tourists go- this is your spot! These are some of the coolest mountain and trails I have seen thus far!
There are multiple ways to get to the top of the mountains. You can hike all the way up… Or you can ride a cable car up to the top. Certain ski lifts are used during the summer to get hikers and paragliders up to the peaks. We used the ski lift to get to the peaks before hiking around, because it saved quite a bit of time and definitely a lot of effort.
One of the hikes we did took us up to Mt. Marmolada, the highest peak in the Dolomites. Once we got up top, we realized there was actually snow still on the ground!! Enough to make snowballs and I even saw a small snowman. But once we started hiking, I was able to take a layer off and just wear my shorts with a flannel on top. This was my first time hiking in shorts with snow on the ground!
The faint zig-zag trail below is the way up to Mt. Marmolada if you choose to hike up. There are actually 4-5 people on the trail in this picture- they are just too small for you too see, but this offers a good comparison!
Hiking from Rifugio to Rifugio
We hiked two different days. Once you are up on top, there are scattered Rifugios where you can eat and stay the night. Rifugios are cabins in the mountains with food and accommodation. They are scattered throughout the mountain range and you can do multi-day hikes where you go from Rifugio to Rifugio. At the Rifugio- Hutte Forcella Pordoi, we enjoyed a delicious German meal and a liter of wine at over 9,000 feet above sea level. A first for all of us! (We only remembered to take a picture after most of the wine was drunk lol)
A great day hike
Perfect easy hiking day: start about 11am and take the ski lift up to Mt. Marmolada, hike until the first Rifugio, Hutte Forcella Pordoi. Stop here and enjoy a cocktail and some German lunch before continuing on to the next Rifugio, Rifugio Boè. Once you get to the second Rifugio, congratulate yourself on making that trek with another glass of wine! After enjoying wine, food and the views, head back to the ski lift and head home before going back out for more wine and food. Anyone notice a pattern yet?
Travel tip: Bring and wear lots of layers! Layers are a hikers best friend. The elevation change will affect the outside temperature, and the amount of work you do while hiking will affect your body temperature. Having thin layers that you can easily add and remove is the best way to deal with both.
The terrain here varies greatly!
There are even a few places where you’ll need to grab onto the hand rail so that you do not fall off of the trail 🙂
Bring your dog!
Europe is super dog friendly! Even buses, trains and ski lifts allow dogs on board. Sometimes a muzzle is required on public transit, so take note and be ready for that. While at a Rifugio, I met a cattle dog named Daisy and we became friends. She had a bell on her collar, which helped her mom and dad keep better track of her on the mountain. She was incredibly adorable and had a ball! It made me miss my dog, Brandy, and realize that I cannot wait to bring her to Italy one day.
In the small mountain town of Carezza, lies a mountain lake that has been named Rainbow Lake. We went here before driving back to Venice and it was definitely worth the stop! This town also offers some serious ski slopes along with some delicious German and Italian food. When you get to the lake, it is pretty touristy– as in, you will see at least 3 tour buses stop here and unload their hoards of passengers to go walk around the lake, but it is a great stop!
The visibility in the mountains this day was not ideal, but we still got some great views!
The Myth of Rainbow Lake:
“According to the traditions of the Ladin people in Italy’s South Tyrol region, once upon a time, a beautiful water nymph called the pristine waters of Lake Carezza, at the foot of the Dolomites, home. One day, while braiding her hair on its shores, the sorcerer Masaré was overcome by the sound of the nymph as she softly sang to herself. Head over heels in love, he sought the help of a witch to make the nymph his own. An elaborate plan involving a disguise as a jewelry salesman, and casting a rainbow across the lake ensued.
“Unfortunately for the sorcerer, he forgot to wear his jewelry salesman outfit and was discovered by the nymph even as she marvelled at his creation. Evading his trap, she hasn’t been seen since. Completely distraught at his own foolishness, Masaré smashed the rainbow into a million pieces, which fell into the lake’s waters below.
“Their fractured magnificence continues to radiate through its crystalline waters to this day, and account for Carezza’s other name: Lec de ergobando, or “Rainbow Lake.” Source
Whether you believe the myth or not, everyone agrees that this is a gorgeous lake.
Other favorite pictures
I found a hammock 🙂
Back to Venice!
Next post is a bunch of pictures from our day trip to Burano ♥
Onward and upward,