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A summer week in the Dolomites, version 2

A summer week in the Dolomites, version 2

Sep 6th, 2019, 05:37 PM
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A summer week in the Dolomites, version 2

Ten years ago, we spent a week in the Dolomites, which was well chronicled here (note, some links in that report may no longer work):
Live trip report from the Dolomites and beyond, by mr_go & ms_go & daughter

While we have a very long list of places we still want to visit, the Dolomites have been calling us back. Earlier this year, inspired by some photos of alpine lakes (Lago Carezza for mr_go; Lago Antermoia for me), we decided it was time for a return trip.

Last time around, we based in the Val Gardena (Selva) and enjoyed some very memorable hiking and scenery. This time, we wanted to branch out and experience a different part of the region. After some research, we chose the Val di Fassa in the southwestern part of the region, south of the Val Gardena, east of Bolzano and northeast of Trento. It runs roughly north/south from the Sella Pass down to below Moena and includes various towns such as Canazei, Campitello, Mazzin, Pozza di Fassa and Vigo di Fassa. https://www.fassa.com

We just wrapped up our six-night trip, which spanned August 28 to September 3. In a nutshell, it did not disappoint and was very much on par with our previous experience. Given that most of the discussion here tends to focus on the Val Gardena or Cortina – worthy destinations, of course – we thought it might be useful to report on some less-publicized territory.

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Sep 6th, 2019, 05:49 PM
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Our base: Vigo di Fassa
Vigo di Fassa is toward the southern end of the valley. It is smaller than some of the other towns but big enough to have key services (a grocery, a bakery), a few good restaurants and – important for us – a major lift that we could access without having to drive somewhere. It has a strong Ladin culture and is home to one of the area’s noted museums. We were not terribly surprised to experience a traditional parade during our stay.

We prefer apartments for this type of trip and were very happy with Mason La Zondra (~$1000 for six nights via booking.com, also available direct). Our one-bedroom apartment (Astro) had a modern kitchen, large bath and balcony with mountain view.
Mason La Zondra

View from our balcony
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Sep 6th, 2019, 05:54 PM
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Like the other major valleys, including the Val Gardena and Alta Badia, the Val di Fassa offers a summer recreation pass that provides access to an array of lifts, as well as bus transportation. There are several options for duration – e.g., 6 days, any 3 days within a 6-day period. We chose the latter based on our available time.

Over the course of three days (more below), we took 22 rides on 11 different lifts covered by the pass and experienced some incredible scenery.

While we had some hiking and walking on our personal agenda, it is relevant to note that many of these vantage points offer spectacular views without having to stray too far from the lift stations.
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Sep 6th, 2019, 06:01 PM
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Day 1
We drove up from Venice (roughly 2:00) via the A27 to Belluno and then on the state road to Cortina. We’ve been to Cortina previously, so we did not stop. Rather, our destination was the Lagazuoi cable car, which we drove past on our last trip and wish we’d have had time to stop. It was somewhat cloudy, but we deemed the visibility “good enough” to go up. Note that this is not on the Val di Fassa Panorama card, so we paid separately for this round trip to the top. Well worth it!

Lagazuoi panorama

From there, the drive was about 1:40 to Vigo di Fassa via the “Great Dolomite Road.”

ms_go is online now  
Sep 6th, 2019, 07:23 PM
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So glad you got to go back. We were there three years ago and Loved It!!! Your previous trip report and Jamikins report inspired us. Thank you for posting another. It is such a beautiful area and I completely understand why you would want to return.
Paqngo is offline  
Sep 7th, 2019, 02:35 AM
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So happy to see this. Like Paqngo, we also well remember yours and Jamikins reports helping us plan our trip to the Val Gardena.
I think I’d like to explore all those valleys - we will be in the Val Pusteria in 2 weeks, love this part of the world. Amazing scenery, great food, public transport, lovely towns.
Looking forward to your ongoing report.
Adelaidean is online now  
Sep 7th, 2019, 03:23 AM
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Thanks Paqngo and Adelaidean! I have a feeling this won't be our last trip there.

Day 2
While we had some hiking plans, we wanted to get our bearings first.

Catinaccio/Rosengarten cable car (Vigo): We purchased the passes at our local station, so we decided to start with a quick trip up for a look around the expansive alm at the base of the “rose garden” - named derived from the legend of King Laurin and the color of the evening light on the rocks. Gorgeous…we’d be back.

Sass Pordoi cable car (Passo Pordoi): This is an E-ticket attraction that ascends to the top of the Sella group. Ten years ago, our apartment in Selva had a view of the Sella. Going up to the top had been on our “list,” but we ran out of time. True to the photos we’d seen, it is an otherworldly landscape up there. There is a rather challenging circular hike around the top of the Sella group, but since we were just getting started, we opted a shorter hike down to and then back up from Rifugio Boè. By this time, the clouds were thickening, and the view of Marmolada was more obscured than not.

On top of the Sella group

Col Rodella cable car (Campitello):After taking a moment to eat our sandwiches on the deck at summit, we walked down through cow pastures and in the direction of the Sella Pass and the famous “flying phone booths.” We could see that the cabins have been replaced since our last visit but are still small, standing tele-cabins. Fortunately, there is a chair lift back up to Rodella, where we needed to return in order to get back down to the valley and our car. We had some rain during our walk.

Sassolungo and Sassopiatto. Val Gardena is on the other side - could be reached by trail from here.

Baffaure cabin lift/Col Valvacin chair lift (Pozza): As we drove further south, the clouds looked to be clearing a bit, so we decided to ride this gondola up from Pozza. When we got to the top, we also found that, in addition to a rifugio and playground, there is a chair lift that goes much, much higher. Up we went. A short walk from that station revealed a spectacular, almost 360-degree panorama. And unlike Sass Pordoi, there were very few people there.

One part of a 360-panoramic view
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Sep 7th, 2019, 03:45 AM
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Day 3
This was our “big” and not-so-easy hike to the Vajolet towers and Lago Antermoia:

The forecast projected this to be the best weather day, so up we went (Catinaccio lift again) at about 8 am. The path began with a rather level walk through a pine forest before changing to a gravel road up to Rifugio Vajolet/Preuss and then a mostly rocky and narrower path up to Rifugio Principe (lunch stop to eat our packed sandwiches). The most difficult part is from there up to Antermoia Pass and then down the other side into the valley around Lago Antermoia. Weather ranged from bright sun to short bursts of rain.

There are several ways to get back down into the valley from Rifugio Antermoia. We chose the “easier” but longer route to Rifugio Micheluzzi; however, we missed a turn somewhere and ended up on a somewhat harrowing trek down a steep, wet trail – all alone, I should add. Once at the bottom, we still had to hike several miles to the rifugio and, after a beer, were more than willing to spend the 8 euro per for a taxi ride back to Campitello. A rough ending, but a great hike, nonetheless. Total round trip was about 9 hours. The Fitbit registered 38K steps and 16.5 miles (not sure how accurate the latter is). Scenery was out of this world.

That little speck on the second peak from left is Rifugio Vajolet

On the path up to Rifugio Principe. The ants go marching one by one...

Lago Antermoia in the rain
ms_go is online now  
Sep 7th, 2019, 04:01 AM
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Stunning photos.

Adelaidean is online now  
Sep 7th, 2019, 04:09 AM
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Day 4
After yesterday’s big hike, today was to be a “rest” day for the legs. It started out sunny, so we began with a drive to Lago Carezza, a small lake on the road toward Bolzano known for its colors, reflections and inspiration for an Agatha Christie story about a labyrinth.

Lago Carezza

This was the last day of our 3-day Panorama Pass, so we then went lift hopping for scenery, with some mixed results due to the weather.

Col Margherita cable car (Passo San Pellegrino): The upper station is currently under renovation to add a new cafe, so the areas near the top are a little rough and basic. A short but rocky climb takes you to several viewing spots and a research station testing for mercury in the air. While it was dry and even sunny at points on top, clouds obscured views of most of the surrounding mountains – a panorama that would have been stunning on a good day.

Ronchi Valbona cabin lift/Valbona-La Cuna cabin lift (Moena): This pair of gondola lifts ascends to an alm with views of southern part of the Val di Fassa and mountains above it. Again, the view would have been great except for the clouds, and there are some nice walks from the top station.

What we would be seeing if it was clearer

Paolina chair lift (Carezza): Back over to the Carezza area, our plan was to have lunch at Baita Masarè. But once we got to the top of the lift, we found the narrow and muddy condition of the trail to the baita gave us pause. Our poles were back in the car. Instead, we settled in for lunch on the deck at Rifugio Paolina – that is, until a large bolt of lightning and some thunder just across the valley sent us and everyone else scurrying inside.

König Laurin chair lift: This was our last of the day – a very long chairlift that ascends to the top of the tree line, basically near the backside of the Vajolet towers. There are great views from here, so we lingered with some drinks.

Top of the König Laurin chair lift

Last edited by ms_go; Sep 7th, 2019 at 04:53 AM.
ms_go is online now  
Sep 7th, 2019, 04:16 AM
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I will pause here to mention the extensive storm damage. Late last year, the South Tyrol area (and maybe more) was hit by a series of storms that caused widespread damage and some deaths. Once article I found estimated that somewhere around 15 million trees fell as a result.

We saw evidence of this throughout our trip, but especially in the southwestern area of the region below and to the west of where we were staying, including around Lago Carezza. The article (above) quotes one source as saying it will take a century to “restore normalcy.” Very sad.

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Sep 7th, 2019, 04:35 AM
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Day 5
With our pass now expired, we decided to go a little farther afield to the Val di Funes, north of the Val Gardena, and walk the Adolf Munkel trail (about 3 hours) at the base of the Puez/Geisler range.

This is a fantastic walk. There is some climbing (~400 meters) involved, but it is nowhere as difficult as our hike several days earlier. We passed a number of families on the trail. The trail is primarily on dirt (with tree roots) rather than scree. Several alms (Dusler, Geisler, etc.) offer places to stop and enjoy refreshments and views. The weather was fantastic.

We took the counter-clockwise route. The first half or so was a climb through the pine forest.

The Geisleralm, at the base of the Puez/Geisler range, is a great place for lunch and rest

One tip: Go early. This is a popular hiking area with various trails and just one road in/out. Although there is a large (pay) parking lot, it does fill quickly. Just after we arrived at around 10 am, there was a fairly long line of cars to get in.

We drove back via the Val Gardena for old times’ sake, but as we hit Selva, it began to rain – fairly hard at times – so we continued on home via the Passo Sella without stopping.
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Sep 7th, 2019, 05:10 AM
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Day 6
All week, this was predicted to be the worst weather day. Sure enough, it was raining when we awoke, so we went with the first item in our “plan B” playbook: a day trip to Trento, roughly 1:40 to the southwest. It was helpful to do some advance research to locate parking outside the ZTL. Siri directed us all the way from Vigo straight into the chosen garage, near the train station and Piazza Dante.

It was still raining when we reached Trento, so we made a beeline for the Buonconsiglio Castle and museum. There are plenty of fascinating exhibits tracing the area’s very long history. We easily could have stayed hours, but by 1pm we were getting hungry.

View over Trento from the castle

By the time we’d had a leisurely lunch, the rain had stopped, the sun was coming out and it was actually becoming quite warm. We spent the next several hours following a rough walking tour that included the Piazza Duomo, several other churches and towers and a brief stop across the Adige.

Neptune fountain
ms_go is online now  
Sep 7th, 2019, 05:25 AM
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I loved Trento, what a charming town.

Hadn’t heard of that storm damage last year, tragic devastation.
Adelaidean is online now  
Sep 7th, 2019, 06:13 AM
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Stunning photos! Thank you for all of the details. I am "bookmarking" this for future research.
bibliotecaria71 is offline  
Sep 7th, 2019, 07:07 AM
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Thanks! I haven't looked at photos on the camera yet. All of these are from the iPhone.

Beyond the Dolomites
As noted above, Venice was our gateway coming and going. We’ve been to Venice before (my fifth visit, his third), so we had no agenda other than to walk, have good food (Antiche Carampane!) and get up early on the last morning to walk around before the crowds arrived. Mission accomplished. It was beautiful and warm in Venice and nice to be back.

Dinner at Antiche Carampane

Early morning, before the crowds
ms_go is online now  
Sep 7th, 2019, 07:38 AM
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Beautiful photos! Looking forward to reading later. Thank you
cafegoddess is offline  
Sep 7th, 2019, 10:10 AM
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Great report, thank you. I loved Val Gardena and utilized some tips--and if I remember correctly, your hiking times for assorted trails?--from your old report when I visited a couple years ago. This is excellent information for a future trip. Very sad about the storms.
Leely2 is offline  
Sep 9th, 2019, 01:40 PM
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Good stuff !
The Dolomites always inspire me----more so when reported by my favorite reporters.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Sep 10th, 2019, 04:42 AM
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Thanks cafegoddess, leely and bob!

I had just a few more things to add.

Getting around
Adelaidean made note above of the good public transportation within the region. Bus services make it easy to get around the valleys without driving. We do prefer to drive, so we primarily used our car rather than buses. Driving through the passes (Sella, Pordoi, etc.) requires some confidence (says the one who didn’t drive), with switchbacks, steep uphill and downhill sections, bicycles, motorcycles, buses and trucks, etc. Difficulty level increases when it is raining. Always figure it will take longer than you think to get from point A to point B.

It is can be hard to get a good handle on the weather in the region, thus making it difficult to plan. We saw nothing but rain and thunderstorms in the forecast as we approached our trip (same thing happened 10 years ago). The local tourist office in Vigo posted weather information in the window every day, and this link also seemed to work reasonably well for us:

When going out for the day, be prepared for anything because things can change quickly. For example, during our Antermoia hike, we started in long sleeves and pants, quickly shed the top layers and zipped off pant legs, put some of that back on, and then had to get out the rain gear (for ourselves and our packs) – all within a couple of hours.

Also, it’s good to always have a “plan B.”

While there are some noted restaurants across the area, including some Michelin-starred restaurants and mountain huts with strong culinary reputations, we generally weren’t compelled to go farther than our own town for dinner. Favorites included Sot e Sora (wine bar affiliated with a macelleria) and Daniel Zen (pizza +), as well as Picol Bar for the daily beer, grappa, aperol spritz, etc.

If I ever get through our photos, which are currently on two cameras and two phones, I will come back here and post a link to the album. In the meantime, I hope this is helpful to future travelers.
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