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An unforgettable trip to South Tyrol, Italy

Updated: Apr 13, 2023

In 2014, when I first moved to Germany from France, I quickly became friends with a group of very dynamic and international researchers. Given how small the village where we were living was, we became extremely close in a short period of time. One of the guys, Thomas became my close friend since we shared the same passion for traveling and photography. His background intrigued me even more. He spoke fluent Italian (with an accent), Hochdeutsch (or pure German) and spoke an accented Italian-German which some of my other German or Italian friends had trouble understanding. He comes from a region in Europe called South Tyrol (or Südtirol in German), an autonomous region of Northern Italy. Officially known as the Autonomous Province of Bolzano, more than 60% of the population writes German but speaks an Austro-Bavarian dialect of German and about 20% speaks Italian. A minority coming from near the Dolomite mountains of South Tyrol speaks another romance language, Ladin. Ahh! that explains Thomas' unusual language skills. He would often talk about growing up hiking in the mountains with his father, and going climbing up the Dolomites, this person of small stature exuded exemplary physical strength and confidence.

That's why in summer 2015 when Thomas invited me to his home to spend a few days in the nature, I jumped at the opportunity. We were a small group of 5 people, enough drivers to make the long car journey through Germany and Austria. Thomas grew up in a small mountain town, Arzl im Pitztal in the Austrian state of Tyrol. South Tyrol, once a part of Austro Hungarian Empire, was annexed to Italy in 1919 at the end of world War 1. In this mountainous terrain, it's easy to lose track of which country you are in. From one bend to another, one village to its neighboring village we were either in Italy or Austria. We were supposed to hike and climb in the mountain for the next few days, Thomas suggested that we'll get all clothes and shoes from her family, so we don't have to carry much.

After a long journey through Germany when we reached his home, it was already dark. After a quick dinner we went to sleep. The next morning we woke up to an amazing view of nature surrounding his home. His house is located on the slope of a mountain, with different parts of the house along the slope. We woke up early to check out a waterfalls behind his house and take a quick cold shower. Following that and a quick breakfast, we hit the road towards Cortina d'Ampezzo, a ski resort town in the Veneto Region of Northern Italy. We checked into a hotel near the town, and dropped our bags. Its well known for its luxurious ski resorts, and this town is extremely expensive. The views while driving to this town and around it are spectacular; since its already late summer the mountain peaks are partially covered in snow.

Our goal next morning is to travel to Tre Cime di Lavaredo (the Three Peaks of Lavaredo), an UNESCO World Heritage site. Standing at an altitude of 3000m above sea level, the 3 peaks are the most iconic peaks of the dolomites.

How to get there?

The nearest towns to the Tre Cime are Cortina d’Ampezzo and Auronzo di Cadore in Veneto, and Dobbiaco/Toblach in Trentino South-Tyrol. These are about 30 km away, however the closest district is Misurina, 7 km far. The Three Peaks of Lavaredo can be reached by car, on foot, or by shuttle bus.

  • by car for 7 km up to the parking area next to the Auronzo hut, at the Tre Cime base. Be aware that the road is not free though.

  • The toll road to the Three Peaks of Lavaredo in 2021 costs 30€ per car (20€ per motorbike, 45€ per RV). The toll road includes parking too, which is open daily from 16th May to 15th November 2020, from 6 am to 8 pm.

  • by shuttle bus from Albergo Misurina bus stop along SP49 national road. The bus takes about 20 minutes and ends at the parking area by the Auronzo hut. The ticket price is 4€ per person. You can find the timetables of buses coming from Cortina d’Ampezzo, Auronzo di Cadore and Dobbiaco here.

  • on foot from Misurina: leaving from 1,754 m height and reaching 2,333 m at Auronzo alpine hut. It takes roughly 3 hours hiking uphill, on top of which you need to consider the time spent around the Tre Cime and the way back.

After a fresh rain/snow-fall the previous night, we expected the roads to be icy. Thomas had decided to take his fathers mountain jeep with snow chains attached to the tyres. As we approached the Auronzo hut at the base of the peak to park our car, we saw several miles of long traffic. During this long weekend, seems like all of the world has decided to visit this part of the world. While we are stuck on the mountain road, behind a long traffic I got out and started taking pictures of the mountain range around. From a distance I can see the iconic 3 peaks of Lavaredo, and could feel my heart racing while wondering how close can I get to that peak?

Finally we managed to restart our journey, pack our backpacks and start the hike. The Tre Cime loop is a 10km long hike, with a 400m difference in height, however one shouldn't forget that its a 2300m (7500ft) above sea level. The hike itself isn't particularly difficult, however with the fresh snow we realized that the path has become perilous. We had initially decided to hike the whole loop around the peaks. As we approached the Locatelli hut at 2400m, the northern side of the peaks came into view. A fresh snowfall the night before makes you mesmerized yet terrified at the surrounding peaks and valleys. Crossing the hut as we headed towards the Lang Alm shepherd's cottage, the terrain became steeper and more slippery due to snow.

As we entered a mountain pass, we observed a low tunnel full of icicles. On the other side of the tunnel we came to a narrow mountain ridge, with steep wall on one side and a deep fall on the other. The ridge wall had metal rings hinged to it, to attach yourself while crossing. It took us a while to cross this ridge due to the narrow and slippery path. From here on was a steep climb up the wall. At this point we decided to turn back, since none of us were experienced climbers. However Thomas and one of his friends decided to carry on.

We took the path back to the hut, grabbed a hot drink and enjoyed the mesmerizing view around us. The whole valley and the peaks are visible from here, and we could see minuscule climbers on the wall of the mountain. After several hours Thomas returned and mentioned it was a good idea for us to return since the path later became even more dangerous due to the snow fall, they barely managed to complete the whole route. I was sad that we couldn't finish the hike, but was thrilled that we had this breathtaking experience to hike around the Dolomites.

As we returned to the car park and started driving back, we stopped by Lake Misurina, the largest natural lake of Cadore at 1800m (6000ft) above sea level. The mighty Dolomites in the back and the reflection of the hotel on the clear water, made for a perfect shot. The next lake we stopped at was Lake Braies (Pragser Wildsee) nestled between the mountain and the forest. The clear water and the mountains around make up the most breathtaking view. I have been to many mountains across Asia, Europe and the US since then, however the experience of visiting the Dolomites in South Tyrol is etched deep in my memory.

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Hey there! If we are meeting for the first time, we are Carly & Arya, a binational couple living in Germany and traveling the world. Arya is from India, and Carly is from the US and we have been married since 2021. We hold steady 9-5 jobs while traveling the world. We are excited to share our story and unique perspectives with you. Take a look around, and don't forget to subscribe to our updates and follow us on Instagram

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