Tomorrow morning, after seven days in the Italian Alps (Dolomites), Jim and I take our leave. 😢 These imposing sedimentary rock massifs reaching heavenward into bright blue skies or surrounded by slithering snake-like cloud formations have proven to be more than a memorable experience, much more than we anticipated.
When planning our trip, Jim was adamant that, If we visit the Dolomites, we are going to “really visit” the Dolomites. And so with hands on walking sticks we have hiked from around the vertical walls of Tre Cime di Lavaredo which dramatically rise from the valley below, to the World War I fortifications at Cinque Torri, to the turquoise green waters of Lago di Braies, and to the green valleys and meadows of Alpe di Siusi. Jaw dropping is the only way to describe the views. The organization of the Italian trail system is nothing short of spectacular, with well marked trails and free maps, and the Rifugio network of mountain huts offering delicious foods and overnight accommodation to long distance hikers. With the exception of driving from Cortina to Cinque Torri, Jim and I have left our car unused at our hotels. The local Italian buses which service Dolomite access points are plentiful, timely, spotlessly clean and driven by friendly, patient drivers.
Have the hikes been easy? No! But at pushing 72 years of age, we wanted to do them while we can. Life holds no guarantees. With twenty minutes left, or so the sign indicated, on the Tre Cime trail and facing a dauntingly steep final incline, I whined to Jim, Can I quit now? Patting me on the back he laughed and noted, I don’t think they airlift you out because you are tired. Dig deep, one foot after the other, breathe, just move. Done! Some would laugh, but for me, the completion of the last half of that gruelling trail was a major accomplishment in sheer determination.
Forget the fat old Italian mama myth. Italians, as well as Germans and Austrians, put the majority of Canadians and Americans to shame. They are truly fit; regular walking, hiking, biking, even for the older population, are common activities. The elderly, whether with canes and walkers or not, join in the evening passeggiata. On the Tre Cime Hike, there were as many people of our generation as there were younger hikers. Like Jim and I, they often struggled, but they were THERE and active and pushing themselves. Oh, and we have seen not a single fast food outlet in the region. Hallelujah!
Huddled under soft, thick eiderdowns, with cool fresh mountain air wafting in our open windows, and stars twinkling in the black, black sky, a blissful sleep overcomes us easily. We found the Swiss and Austrian Alps beautiful, but they pale in comparison to what we have experienced here in Italy. We have made so many memories to cherish.