After spending an extremely busy two months working and settling into life in Germany, Scott and I were able to snag four days off at the end of January to celebrate my birthday. Originally we toyed with the idea of visiting Halstatt, Austria and Berchtesgaden National Park in Germany. After some thought though, we decided the Dolomites in Northern Italy would be a fun winter option with an extensive trail system for showshoeing and numerous ski resorts to pick from.
Now that our trip is over, we are already dreaming up the next one!
Wednesday morning we woke up to heavy snowfall in Garmisch-the most we’ve seen since our arrival! It took some time to load up and head out (we spent wayyy too much time trying to find the right cord to connect our phones to the fancy rental car we received). The snow covered trees glimmered as we sped along the highway. As we drove over the Fernpass, a caught occasional glimpses of the mountains behind layers of thick clouds.
The drive to the Dolomites is surprisingly short-just a couple hours. About the same as our commute from Rexburg to Grand Teton National Park…except we managed to drive through two countries over in the same amount of time!
Our goal for the day was to visit St. Magdalena (Santa Maddalena), Italy and photograph the two famous churches located there. I had read another blogger say the village isn’t worth more than a ten minute stop, I’m glad to report we found that to be untrue though.
We were able to spend the entire afternoon and early evening walking around the footpaths that sprawl around the village. That afternoon, Scott shot some video and we also worked on a few time-lapses. There was very little snow, due to the unseasonably warm winter most of the Alps has been experiencing. Although disappointing in some ways, it also made it quite a bit easier to hang out as the time-lapses were rolling.
Once the sun set, we made our way to the car and drove to Gudon, Italy, about a fifteen minute drive away. It’s one of the many small villages perched on the hillsides overlooking the valley. Our Airbnb was situated there. We grabbed some chicken from the market and cooked up dinner, pretty exhausted from the day. Afterwards, we quickly fell asleep. We knew we’d need our rest for skiing we had planned for the following day.
On day two, we celebrated my 23rd birthday by going skiing at Alta Badia. THIS PLACE WAS UNBELIEVABLE. Scott and I are learning to ski this winter, so we weren’t looking for anything with crazy runs. Alta Badia was perfect for us-a huge resort with 69 lifts and over 130 km of runs, many of them being beginner and intermediate. The entire day we were kept busy exploring the various lifts that sprawl out between five different villages. It was never-ending. The views throughout were breathtaking as well. The runs were a bit icy, but we had gorgeous weather which more than made up for it.
I’m repeatedly blown away by how cheap it is to ski in Europe. Our all-day lift passes cost just short of $57 per person. To ski at a huge, gorgeous, well-maintained resort cost less than pretty much anywhere in the States-small or big.
After a super exhausting day of exploring the mountain, we drove to Bozen (Bolzano), Italy and grabbed gluten free/lactose free pizza and pasta. It was so good! I’d highly recommend Walther’s Restaurant to anyone with Celiac disease or other food allergies/intolerances. They have a dedicated kitchen space and their staff are super knowledgeable about what you can/can’t eat (and they speak German, Italian, and English).
This was a bit of a rest day for us. We were both exhausted from the previous day, so we slept in until 8 am and then I had a few hours of homework to work on (yes, I haven’t completely dropped out of school).
In the afternoon, we went to hike the Adolf-Munkel trail near Santa Magdalena. We got a touch turned around, but it made for a fun afternoon nonetheless. The forested trail was so peaceful and occasionally jaw-dropping views of the mountains would open up in front of us.
It was an easy, relaxing day.
Initially, we were unsure what would be our best option for the day. We knew we’d have to drive back up to Garmisch, so we didn’t want to spend hours driving deeper into the Dolomites before heading home. So, we wound up choosing to hike another trail near Santa Magdalena. This trail took us to the Geisler Alm.
All morning the weather was sunny and beautiful, but as soon as we got to the top, clouds rolled in and shrouded the mountains. What was incredible to witness was the shadows of the mountains reflecting in the clouds though. We decided to shoot some timelapses of this phenomenon. What made it even more rewarding was after a couple of hours of waiting, the clouds lifted revealing a dramatic view of peaks before us. It was unbeatable. The sun continued to shine down and we hiked our way back down the trail. On the way down, we actually hiked down the rodelbahn (a groomed sledding run). It was 6 km in length and so fun to watch people speed down the mountain side. You can find rodelbahns all over the Alps and people of all ages sled them. Next time, we definitely have to bring our sled! For any couples that aren’t big skiers, this is a great winter activity and could make for a really fun couples session to shoot! The hut at the top also has hot food and drinks.
As soon as Scott and I got to the car, we were already talking about what we’d like to do our next trip to the Dolomites. I”ll definitely have to pack more dramamine though. Driving around feels like Rainbow Road on Mario Kart-endless winding roads with steep cliffs and drop-offs.
The Dolomites are absolutely, mind-blowingly, incredible. I say this about every mountain range, but they really are unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.