We have just had the drive of our life. But, before we get there we have to fill you in with other tales from our time in The Dolomites.
The Journey from Riva to Cortina
St Michael 09/04/2016
Our first day in the Dolomites was spent cruising around the Brenta Dolomites which lie to the South and West of the main range. Our route took us from Riva through Tione, the super-exclusive ski resort of Madonna di Campiglio, where fur costs are mandatory, over the Campo Carlo Magno Pass, through the apple growing centre of Cles and onto Bolzano and St Michael. As a warm-up for the roads to come it could be classified as a corker.
This area is home to the beginnings of Via Ferrata and the only gang of brown bears left in the Alps. For the record we saw none of the 20-odd cutesy-creatures left.
The road soon leaves the flatlands around Lake Garda to start its climb towards the sharp majestic peaks that are the norm in this area. In contrast to the mess that is Lake Garda this is a pleasure to drive with good roads and only light traffic.
Top runs still open
Top of the Pass
Descending from the Pass brings you to the Val di Non, the Golden Delicious Apple growing capital of Italy. The planted trees are never-ending covering every spare inch of hearty Alpine soil. Unfortunately, I am of an age when those devious French tried to oust the Granny Smith from our supermarket shelves with these inferior apple. Armed with adverts portraying these Gallic wonders has having a certain ooh-la-la and selling at about 1s 4d for a hundredweight they did serious damage to our indigenous industry. However, their cunning plan was wrecked once you actually bit into one. They were like biting into wet cardboard that stuck to the roof of your mouth resulting in a visit to the local Fire-Station to get your cavities washed out with a high-pressure hose. But seeing these all these trees got us thinking that either the product has improved markedly or the French ones was just rubbish and we were now curious to try the vastly improved 21st Century Latin Lovers. We pulled over and bought some. Excitedly we bit into them in unison and in total unison we found our mouths were full of Apple that was going nowhere. They were as bad as we could remember and they went straight out of the window without another bite.
Val di Non
Years ago while working in Arizona I once drove from the US to Mexico and to this day I have never seen such a change in landscape in such a short distance. Until this day. This part of Northern Italy is known as Sud-Tirol and 65% of the people speak German. In fact they all used to speak German until Mussolini moved a load of Southern Italians in. Why is this area in Italy? I believe The British gave it to the Italians as a thank-you for helping out in the First World War. A lot of my relatives also helped out in WW1 and to the best of my knowledge we were not given vast areas of Austria as a thank you. One rule for the rich……….
The change when cross from ‘Italy’ into Sud-Tirol is astounding. The roads have tarmac, the place is immaculate, they live in houses with some architectural merit, it looks rich and it is stinking rich. We did plan to stay in Bolzano but the parking spot given in our guide was not the best and so we headed out a few clicks to St Michael and bedded down in a wonderful wooded glade.
Cortina D’Ampezzo 10/04/2016
Woooo, look at us in swanky town for the night. It was so swanky we had a ham roll and a shared Peroni in the van. We have had a wonderful day driving through some wonderful scenery, visiting a marvellous museum on top of a mountain and being sent on a wild-goose chase trying to find the longest Zip Line in Europe.
Leaving St Michael we headed north on the Autostrada for a bit as far as Brixen before heading East towards Bruneck and the Reinhold Messner mountain Museum at Corones. Reinhold Messner is the greatest mountaineer who has ever lived, sorry Edmund Hillary fans, ‘Reiny’ not only climbed Everest twice, he did both times without Oxygen and once solo. He was also the first person to scale all mountains (14) over 8,000m high and when I say person this does in fact include women.
The museum is half-built into the mountain with viewing platforms that suspend free-form out over the edge and was architected by the late, great Zaha Hadid. It is a truly breath-taking building of immense beauty sat over 2,000m up and is well worth a visit. As well as painting and mountaineering paraphernalia it shows a character building film of some chaps climbing some high mountains. It makes you want to get to Snowdonia and catch the train up.
Kronplatz Base Station
Bit overdressed to go to a museum
Museum and backdrop
Sitting on the roof
The front door
From the unsupported over-hang
Look at Us
Here we are
On our way down
To complete our day we headed a few miles down to the road to have go on Europe’s longest zip line. To start it is a bit of a cheat because it is made up of 10 different wires and secondly you cannot find the thing. We found a sign you cannot park here any longer but that was as close as we got. It was in a beautiful village though.
Lovely village, no Zip wire
Downbeat and down-trodden we cut our losses and headed for our overnight stop at Cortina. Yes Ford did name a family saloon after our next stopping point. The drive again is a delight.
Reflection in mono
The Great Dolomite Road 11/04/2016
Not much to say about this apart from it is the greatest drive we have undertaken so far. It is so much better than all the more famous mountain roads you have heard about or may have seen on that ‘has-been’ motor show. This is like driving around the Canadian Rockies, it takes in 4 different mountain passes and best of all it was not in our guide book, so we knew it would be good, but it was better than that it wasn’t it was great. The route takes you mostly along the SR48 from Cortina to Belzano. We were a little worried for the first 15km as there were many signs saying there is a height limit of 3.2m. With our satellite dish we are slightly over but decided to take the risk. The restriction is for a 50m long tunnel on a hairpin and as long as nothing is coming in the opposite direction you can clear it with ease. Relieved we sat back and gawped as this most majestic place. If you have not driven this route then get in your car now and do it. It is the best, I wish I could do it in something high-performance and sporty like a Toyota but I don’t have the money. If you do plan to do it then travel West to East and leave about lunchtime for best views and light. We left in the morning and went from East to West. Ho hum.
Just outside Cortina
Pass no 1
Italy not Canada
Notice Restaurant on top
Mile after Mile of this
Just after the tunnel
Going up pass no 2 at 2,200m
Looking down from summit
Little break at the top
Coming down pass No 3
Hope you enjoyed looking at the best scenery we have seen so far, but we haven’t been to Norway yet.
Love to All