Every so often it is good to visit a different part of the world – to do some strenuous activity, to find yourself in unfamiliar surroundings, to accomplish the unthought of. What made us decide to hike in the Dolomites, I can’t quite remember, but I know I was sure I couldn’t manage either the altitude or the arduousness of the trek over such mountains. The Dolomites are part of the Alps that separate Northeastern Italy from Austria.
Nevertheless, a few months ago we signed up for a week’s stay in Val di Fassa. We were once again in Italy, in Trentino. This land had been part of Austria at one time. It was ceded to Italy as part of the Treaty of Versailles ending World War I, and indeed this part of the world seemed as much German as Italian. Place names are to be found in both languages and our hosts at the hotel as well as people we met on our excursions over the mountains switched effortlessly from one language to the other.
We found ourselves in a wonderful hotel called Al Piccolo in a town called Vigo di Fassa. We were given a guidebook of hikes in the area and the rest was up to us. So the day after we arrived we took a chairlift up (in the winter many of the trails we hiked in the area were ski trails) and hiked down from Passa Costalunga to Vigo di Fossa.
I have never seen such beautiful mountains! They are the living ages carved in the earth. They seem to move, changing aspect as you approach. Even though the hiker is the one on the move, the mountains tantalize and elude. Can you ever reach the summit? I could not, but I didn’t need to. It was enough to be in their strange and magnificent presence.
The Hike from Costa Lunga to Vigo di Fassa
Then we decided to do the excursion called Labyrinth. The labyrinth, according to Joseph Campbell, is an archetypal symbol of re-birth, so I had hopes that some mystical change would occur. The hike was supposed to be one of the easier ones. And it was – at first. We wound our way through high stones that formed a maze which ended on downward sloping rock scrabble. I was very proud of Jim who proceeded quickly and mastered the rocky trail. I was proud of myself too – for daring to cross rocky scrabble that challenged my balance. I did not think that I could do it. But I did.
In between hikes we visited the Ladino Museum. Ladino refers both to the original inhabitants of this area and their language. It’s a language related to Latin and Germanic and is still spoken. Folk traditions are still remembered as are local myths.
Next we went to Lake Fedaia –high, isolated and tranquil. The hardest one, though was from Campitello to Sasso Piato. We were about 8,400 feet up, above the timber line. We took a chairlift along with a group of young men who were going to be hang-gliding from the mountain. We could see them floating as we walked down. It was a long and lovely walk, with a lunch stop half-way. We passed back into the timber line and through cow pastures. And made it back to our hotel in time for dinner.
Hike from Campitello to Sasso Piato
The colored dots in the air are hang-gliders.
If you look carefully, you can see the hang-gliders around the jet trail.
Jim and I both loved the Dolomites! We hope to return soon. I particularly want to further explore the Ladino culture.