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It was like a whole different country. That is because it was, or is, according to the ethnic German majority. Most the population is of Austro-Bavarian heritage and speaks German. Only a quarter of the population speaks Italian as their first language. Ruddy-faced Bavarian men sporting Tyrolean wool hats are a common site. Initially chuckling because of this, days of yore, retro shtick quickly changed to admiration. Folklore costumes play a huge role in Bavarian life.
The saying goes that: "Clothed in a dirndl or lederhosen you are always dressed to perfection. In fulfillment of the London Pact, Italy was granted the territory which it occupied. Today the ethnic Germans still resent it and doggedly hang on to their culture and language.
Gardena Village This dichotomy creates more traveling fun. All signs in the Dolomite region have both the German name, and the Italian name written on them. Ok that is all well and good for the residents, but for us visitors we get twice the confusion. The plan was to shoot the Sella Range from the Gardena Valley, then drive a loop through Cortina then back to Bolzano. I wouldn't get morning light anywhere good dang it. A landslide saved the day even though it ruined the morning shoot.
There were multiple options. Unlike the Rocky Mountain where I live that have very few roads through them; the Dolomites are riddled with roads everywhere. Every donkey trail from two hundred years ago is now a paved path to hillside villages connecting with the bigger villages along the valley floors. Settling upon a new plan, I headed east to try to reach the Gardena Valley from another route.
The Gardena Valley was northeast so at roundabouts along the way; northeast is the direction I chose. I found a pond that provided a reflection of Mt. Latemar playing hide and go seek in the clouds above, this could be a good shooting opportunity; the Dolomites are short of good reflection ponds and lakes. The clouds were hanging on the peaks, but it was windy at the mountaintops so it was a waiting game. The pond was awfully mossy for so early in the year which made composition a challenge.
Heading east-northeast through a beautiful valley bottom I felt the need to unload some coffee. All over Italy I had observed men who wanted to pee just pulled over and did so. Well, I not being able to shed my American squeamishness about public urination, I took a short walk into the woods where I promptly took a nasty fall and a tumble down a hill after slipping on some wet foliage.
Maybe those Italian men were onto something and had a better idea. As I descended the pass, I was soon stopped by workman clearing the road of downed trees. Spring-cleaning in the Dolomites, I was starting to suspect the reason so many hotels were closed was for the clearing of trees and landslides because of spring runoff and winter damage. I concluded it was time to return to the room for a midday nap. Moon over Mt. Latemar and the clouds had dissipated to reveal the whole mountain.
I was pleased to get some detail in a moon at eleven AM, without a cobalt blue sky for contrast and some post-processing the moon would have been lost to the light of day. Both forks went to the same valley highway, just on opposites sides of Mt. I wound through some wonderful country along Strada Statal and the picturesque village of Cavalese.
The Val di Fiemme was beautiful; I was again amused and awed by the series of picture perfect villages strewn along the valley floor. I was soon in Valle di Fassa a valley on the east side of the Sella Mountain Range, and I marveled at the sublime view of the peaks these alpine villages were gifted with.
Moena Italy, Dolomite Mountains, South Tyrol In the town of Moena I stopped in the roundabout above yet another picture perfect town and took a few photos of the alpine architecture and the towering mountains above. Long before being photographed, the Dolomites were described by scientists and climbers who told with extraordinary emotion the amazement and transcendence, they felt about the verticality, grandeur, essential purity, monumentality, and mystical asceticism, the saw and experiences when among these magnificent massifs.
These were all descriptions to describe the Dolomites before photos could spare them a thousand superlatives. I also was choking on a mouthful of similar superlatives while I photographed the mountains above. I really wanted to see Cortina, but considering the series of obstacles I had already faced, I choose the Sella Pass and the Gardena Valley, as Cortina would likely have me negotiating unfamiliar villages and roundabouts in the dark on my return to Bozen.
Sella Pass it was. It was an enjoyable drive up Val di Fassa; every few miles was another cute little village. I marveled at how you could have such population density and still feel as though everything was so pristine. The driving experience of the Dolomites was easier than southern Italy. The traffic was lighter, but you still had to watch your backside for sports car speedsters, and locals who had been driving here so long they no longer drove with the wonder of a visitor.
Visitors who to the chagrin of the locals, had their jaw on their chest in awe, and their eyes wandering equally from the pastoral valleys, picturesque villages to the crown of pale peaks above. At the village of Canazi I started climbing Sella Pass, every switchback presented a new view of the valley below and the mountains towering above them.
It wasn't long before I had climbed from spring back into winter. I shot a picnic table emerging from the snow of winter, a hint of the alpine summer soon to come. A photographer from a German motorcycle magazine had a couple of dozen cafe motorcycles placed in perfect composition over the valley and under the peaks.
The crew was sitting around waiting around for the evening light. I chatted and asked whether I could shoot their setup and they agreed. As I shot I realized they had about one ever every motorcycle make imaginable. Hopefully one day I can find them on another mountaintop with a complete collection. I had not, but they were grand nonetheless. Cresting the top of the pass I paused for a much needed sandwich at the Passo Sella snack bar and had a nice visit with the resort owner who was building a new hotel.
It was spitting snow, and about 35 degrees and windy and the crew there was amused at my attire, a Columbia summer guide shirt and, once again in my shorts. I explained, I also live in the mountains. The mountains were playing hide and seek in the clouds, and the light was nondescript patches of snow were still lingering and elsewhere was the matted down brown grass of a ski slope freshly freed of its winter blanket of snow. I continued to the top of Gardena Pass anyway and got a few record shots of the place.
The ski resorts in the Dolomites were nearly as numerous as the picture perfect villages. From here there is ample access to the Sellaronda, the famous circuit of ski runs around the Sella Massif. Here I had to decide whether to hang out for sunset, but because of the clouds enveloping the mountains my optimism for the spot escaped me. I decided to return to my favorite place, Val di Funes for sunset. On my way, I discovered the route I could have taken east this morning, four miles north of the route closed by landslide.
Upon returning to Val di Funes I chose a different road, one lying farther west that placed me higher above the valley. This provided less valley and more mountain for my compositions. The profile of the Olde Range from this valley was amazing. I played with some comps, while waiting for a brilliant sunset, but it never came because of pesky evening clouds to the west.
I ate a handful of medication and returned to bed after turning off my alarm. I was having a hard time convincing myself I could achieve the required clutch engagement of my fiat on more windy mountain roads. What you can expect is freezing cold and strong wind. Low clouds and thick fog aren't uncommon either. But it's different in Italy - country's geography guarantees nice weather.
Sun is shining here almost non-stop, and the temperature usually drops a few degrees below zero. Thanks to that ski season is very long in Italy - it starts in November and ends in April. It's a great advantage for me that in Italy we can combine schussing down the slope with relax on deck chairs and catching sunbeams. During our one-week stay in Livigno , we had only one cloudy day. Just one. And still, we enjoyed skiing and the views were great! Ski resorts Italian Dolomites are in fact an enormous ski terrain with total length of ski trails reaching km.
Unsurprisingly, Italy has loads of fantastic ski resorts. In my humble opinion in Italy there are the best ski resorts in Europe. What I like about Italian ski runs is that they are wide. Also, every ski resort offers pistes for all levels of skiers - easy ones for beginners there are ski schools for children and adults , and steep slopes for experienced skiers.
Some of the ski trails in Italy are lighted at night - skiing is possible until PM. In general, skiing infrastructure in Italy is very good - ski resorts are modern and well-maintained. There are fast and efficient cable cars and chair lifts, and, most importantly, winter aficionados can enjoy impressive number of ski slopes. Livigno itself offers whopping km of ski runs! If you're into snowboard, I bet you'll also enjoy Italian snowparks - every ski resort has at least one of them.
Incredible scenery Some people consider Italian Dolomites the most beautiful mountains in the world. I'm one of those people. Italian Alps provide truly high-mountain, breathtaking scenery. Snowy mountain peaks glister in sun, Dolomites flora and fauna are specific for Alpine region, and the possibility to admire sunrise will give us unforgettable memories.
When skiing in Val di Fiemme, you can explore several separate ski areas: Ski Center Latemar - the largest of them, offers 47 km of mainly intermediate trails spanning between Predazzo, Pampeago and Obereggen Alpe Cermis resort can be accessed from Cavalese, which is located on a steep slope. The largest city is Predazzo approx. The gondola station is situated outside the town, so everyone has to use the ski bus or commute by their own car in a few minutes.
In Cavalese , the ski gondola carrying skiers up to Alpe Cermis is located in the center of the town, however the town is situated on a slope, which can be tricky. In Val di Fiemme there are also Panchia, Tesero, Daiano, Varena, Ziano and Carano - towns where there are a lot of decently priced hotels and apartments. In summer the Fiemme — Fassa bike path is also served by the Fiemme Fassa Bike Express, a shuttle bus service for cyclists who want to avoid the steep path up to Canazei.
Of course, using Tesero as a base, you can create your own bike path by choosing only your favorite legs. In summer, from mid-June to mid-September, ski lifts offer the opportunity to bring your mountain bike to high altitudes without breaking a sweat. Rafting and adventure parks Among nature and fun! We also call them acrobatic parks for tarzaning because both the young and old will have a blast moving through the trees with long vines… just like Tarzan, but in complete safety thanks to perfectly equipped adventure parks.
Among wooden tunnels, ropes, and small bridges, adults and children are put to the test on trails with varying difficulty suspended in the branches and immersed in vegetation. From air to water… those who love excitement can try rafting in the streams of Val di Fiemme: rafting on the Avisio in total safety. A unique experience, for anyone who can swim. For the more experienced, you can also go rafting on the Avisio from Ziano to Lake Tesero.
Dreaming of a summer vacation in Val di Fiemme?