Believe the hype: The Dolomites in northern Italy are spectacular.
We had been hearing all about the Dolomites our whole trip from travel buddies we have met along the way. Some related its magic to the limestone islands in Phuket, while others said it was similar to Patagonia in its unparalleled natural beauty. That was all we needed to hear —we rented a car and drive 5 hours from Lake Como to the Dolomites.
The scenery change across Northern Italy is hard to believe—we went from a coastal lagoon to mountains covered in snow. We stayed about an hour outside of the Dolomites in Kaltern, just south of Bolzano, where we could see the mountain peaks in the distance. It's tiny little town covered in vineyards, that once belonged to Austria. Everyone still speaks German. The hotel was a quiet and serene little retreat in the middle of nowhere.
We woke up early the next morning to head to the mountains. The Dolomites are a 125 miles long mountain range in the northern Italian Alps comprised of 18 limestone peaks. As many regard these mountains as the most beautiful mountain range in the world, it is no surprise the Dolomites are a UNESCO World Heritage site. Our day in the Dolomites was perfectly clear - there is said to be 300 days of sun in the Dolomites, which is more than anywhere else in the Alps. Apparently the Dolomites are also known for their perfectly groomed trails and long runs.
We had planned to follow the “Great Dolomites Road” from Bolzano to Cortina d’Ampezzo. This beautiful mountain range has a dark history as a fighting ground during the First World War. We slightly diverged from the Great Dolomites Road to hit a few more ski towns we had heard were worth a stop. The mountains were absolutely breathtaking. These mountains are unlike the ones we are used to in Colorado - the peaks are dramatic, jagged, with vertical walls and cliffs. Every direction we looked there was a different chairlift with skiers. A few times we were even stopped by skiers crossing the road to get back to the chairlift! Patrick kept saying how he cannot wait to bring his brother and his dad back to tackle the Dolomites.
As we were driving, we saw some cross country skiers walking across the road. We literally pulled off on the side of the road, rented cross country skis, and were on the mountain in under twenty minutes. Having the flexibility to be spontaneous this trip has made for some memorable experiences! We had so much fun on the Nordic ski tracks!
Our day ended with a stop in Cortina d'Ampezzo for a late lunch at the top of the gondola. Cortina, as we were told, is the "Aspen" of the Dolomites. We looked like fools taking the gondola up without skis on, but it did not bother us! After enjoying lunch at the lodge and exploring town, it was time to get back in the car and head home.
Our one day in the Dolomites was certainly not enough. When we come back, it will be in the spring and we will be staying at the Alder Mountain Lodge. We have heard the mountains are even more beautiful to hike in the summer months.