When people think of a holiday in Italy they often think of historic Rome; romantic Venice; art enthused Florence. Not often does one think of the mountain range lying to the North East – the Dolomites. Potentially one of the most unusual and beautiful stretches of the Alpine range, the Dolomites are a wonderland no matter what time of year you visit.
The region is unique in its cultural heritage; though technically in northern Italy, the Südtirol bears many ethnic, cultural and gastronomic similarities to bordering Austria, as well as housing the Ladin people, with their own distinctive language and culture. The backdrop of the limestone cliffs, glowing red at sunset, looming over the endless meadows, forests and lakes, lends itself to a most ethereal sensation.
Here’s the Gryphon Guide to getting the most out of the Dolomites:
For those looking for the perfect trip but lacking the desire to research the endless walking routes, look no further than Collett’s, a British based family-run organisation who cater to all your holiday needs. Collett’s provide exquisite catered, and self-catered accommodation in Alta Badia, and offer a pick-up service from Venice airport. A group of young and enthusiastic guides are always on hand, offering advice and guiding three different ability walks per day, as well as summer wildflower and painting walks, World War history walks, road cycle tours and glacier treks. In winter Collett’s offer skiing, snowshoeing and winter walking.
Try your hand at Via Ferrate
The extraordinary iron routes running through the Dolomites were constructed during the First World War. Accessed by using ladders, cables and brackets, Via Ferrate is not for the faint hearted.
Dip into history with a Historical Walking Tour
A local historian provides you with the background to the alpine fighting which occurred over this long-disputed territory during the First World War, between the Austrians and the Italians. Not only will you come away with a greater understanding of the multi-cultural nature of the region, but you will be led through the mountain tunnels used by the soldiers throughout the war. For fans of Ernest Hemingway this is a must – the setting of his A Farewell to Arms is just a few miles down the road.
Throw your kit off and go for a mountain swim!
For the intrepid traveller, a hike across the lunar landscape of the saddle of the Lagazuoi, leads you to a serene mountain lake. The peak of the Lagazuoi (easily accessible by cable car) also offers breathtaking views, and is home to some of the WW1 tunnels. For those less keen to jump in the freezing water on top of a mountain, Alleghe Lake, surrounded by mountains on all sides, and situated in the picturesque village of Alleghe, offers a tamer but equally beautiful experience.
Devour some local delicacies
The predominantly German speaking region, offers a unique selection of food, combining traditional Tyrolean and Italian cuisines. Don’t miss out on the polenta with wild mushrooms, the peak of perfection that is the Austrian strudel, and a nice shot of Grappa (grape based liquor) to wash it all down.
Whether this is your first hiking holiday, or your fiftieth, make sure you’ve covered the basics. Check online for suggestions of what to bring, and make sure to have plenty of waterproof and spare clothing, as the weather is infamously unpredictable. And remember; no matter how impossible the climb seems, it’s not only doable, but 100% worth it!
Featured image from Jim Nilsen photography.