It’s been nearly two and a half months since returning from my first (and hopefully not last!) trip to Italy, but I thought I’d share some photos from an extraordinary hike I was fortunate enough to be able to enjoy in the magnificent-beyond-words Dolomites this past September. I traveled to northern Italy at the generous invitation of my friend Paolo, whom Samantha and I stayed with at his family home in the resort town of Cortina d’Ampezzo. There were nine of us staying there in all, but I couldn’t convince any of the others to do the Via Ferrata Ivano Dibona with me. So, hiring a guide recommended by Paolo, I went alone. The service I used was Guide Alpine di Cortina d’Ampezzo, and my guide was Andrea Piccoliori, whom I ended up having all to myself as no one else signed up with him that day. Andrea was fantastic, and I recommend him highly if ever you find yourself in need of a mountain guide in the Dolomites! All I had to bring with me were sufficient clothes, food, and sturdy shoes with good tread. The equipment was provided by the guide.
There is no technical climbing involved in this hike, and I did not find it to be nearly as daunting as some of the photos I saw beforehand suggested. That said, I’m glad I had a guide with me who knew the route as well as Andrea did. It’s perfectly doable as long as you don’t have a significant fear of heights and are in decent physical shape. The long, steep downhill stretches on scree were, in my opinion, the hardest part. There is a total elevation loss of approximately 5,000 feet - which is nothing to sneeze at -but the views and exhilaration factor make it well worth it. The whole hike from start to finish took about six hours and forty minutes, including a lunch stop and ample time for photo taking (the scenery was so breathtaking that I was unusually snap-happy in an effort to capture it to whatever degree I could).
One of the most striking things about the route is the abundance of World War I artifacts left in place along the way, everything from bullet shells to remnants of wartime housing. Trying to imagine the horrors that soldiers endured amidst such stunning natural beauty was a paradox that proved a bit much for my brain, so I surrendered to the beauty more often than not.
Here is a slideshow of photos (pared down to 60!) from this exceptional hike. Enjoy!