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A day trip by car around. Saturday 10 th March, 2012 – Pescantina, Northern Italy With the forecast of a clear night and a sunny Saturday morning I crawled.

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Presentation on theme: "A day trip by car around. Saturday 10 th March, 2012 – Pescantina, Northern Italy With the forecast of a clear night and a sunny Saturday morning I crawled."— Presentation transcript:

1 A day trip by car around

2 Saturday 10 th March, 2012 – Pescantina, Northern Italy With the forecast of a clear night and a sunny Saturday morning I crawled out of a warm bed at 02:45 to set off shortly afterwards on a 650 km round trip by car to visit the South Tyrol area of the Italian Dolomite mountains around the internationally famous ski resort of Cortina dAmpezzo. My early start was prompted by me wanting to take photos of sunrise hitting the peaks near to Cortina. Sunrise was at 06.23. I arrived at the Falzárego Pass, which drops down to the Agordino Valley leading to Cortina at 06:25 – so much for British punctuality! I left home with the temperature at 5C but an hour later as I started the climb into the Dolomites this quickly dropped eventually reaching a low of -10°C as I drove over the high passes in the area, however, once the sun rose in an almost totally clear sky the temperature increased and by mid morning was back up to around 5C. By mid afternoon it peaked at 17C with the sky still 90% clear. All in all a perfect day. I expected to see plenty of snow in the area but in actual fact, most of the valleys and alpine pastures were relatively lacking of the white stuff. Fortunately though this was not the case with the higher mountain passes and the mountains themselves and I was able to get some decent shots of the Dolomites in their wintry splendour.

3 During the winter and early spring months the whole area around Cortina dAmpezzo is very popular for skiing and almost every town and village has ski runs in its vicinity. Throughout the rest of the year, once the snow has gone, the whole area is crisscrossed with hiking, trekking and cycling trails and is a haven for tourists wanting to get out into the alpine pastures and mountains to take some exercise, views the and breathe in the fresh mountain air. By arriving in the area so early in the morning I avoided all tourist traffic and even during the late afternoon as I headed for home the traffic was reasonably light despite the fact that the major ski resorts looked busy. The highlights of the day were definitely the sight of the magnificent Dolomites, particularly around the areas of the Falzárego Pass, Cortina dAmpezzo, the northerly area of Misurina, and the high altitude and snow laden Pordoi Pass at the northern head of the Fassa Valley on my way home. Hopefully, before I leave Italy Ill revisit the Fassa valley area to take some photos of the alpine villages and pastures in the spring when Im told they look marvellous with greenery and flowers in bloom, however, for the moment, I ´ve at least have captured in my mind and on camera some of the spectacular mountains in the region.

4 I set out with no real route plan in mind apart from wanting to arrive at Cortina dAmpezzo, after that I pointed the car in whichever direction took my fancy.

5 I took far too many photos to show in this presentation but hopefully the ones here give a taste of the magnificent scenery in the Dolomites. My first series of photos were taken about 15 mins before sunrise as I drove up the snaking Great Dolomites Road to Falzárego Pass (2105m) before gradually dropping down into the Agordino Valley and on to Cortina dAmpezzo some 16 kms distant. After cresting the pass I caught a couple of shots of the first rays of sunlight hitting the highest mountains – first mission accomplished! Dropping down into the Boite Valley in which the town of Cortina dAmpezzo nestles, the light was grey and dim as the town lay in the shadows of the nearby Faloria Mountain and at 07:00 and with the temperature at -4C not surprisingly there was hardly a soul to be seen, but having arrived at my goal that was mission accomplished #2! After taking a few general photos of the town and surrounding valley I headed north east up to the Tre Crochi Pass (1809m) and onwards heading in the general direction of Misurina

6 Leading up to Falzárego Pass 10 mins before sunrise

7 Falzárego Pass, 06:25, -8°C

8 Sunrise breaking after I crested the Falzárego Pass to drop down into the Agordino Valley

9 The rising sun fully hitting the Lagazuoi peak (2762m) towering 700m above the pass road

10 A kilometer further on and the early morning sun has brightened up the sky

11 The outskirts of Cortina dAmpezzo with the Tofana Dolomite range to the west

12 Cortina dAmpezzo town centre at 07:15 in the shade of the nearby Fáloria mountain range

13 Cortina dAmpezzo looking north towards the Puster Valley with the Tofane mountains to the west and the Pomagagnon mountains to the east

14 A closer shot of the Pomagagnon mountains

15 Looking west to the Tofane range and one of many ski runs in the area, this one dropping directly into Cortina dAmpezzo

16 Panoramic shot of the alpine pastures of the upper Boite Valley north of Cortina dAmpezzo.

17 Just over Tre Croci Pass heading north east towards Misurina

18 A little further along the road from Tre Croci Pass looking northwards.

19 After crossing the Tre Croci Pass the road heads north east for several kms to a junction which leads north towards Misurina or south towards Auronzo de Cadore. I decide to head north towards Misurina. Misurina is a tiny village by a small natural lake which was the site for the 1956 Winter Olympics speed skating events, the last time Olympic skating was held on natural water. At 1754m the area is renown for its pure air and healthy climate, In summer it is a very popular base for hiking into the surrounding Dolomites. The area boasts a very large diagnostic centre treating respiratory diseases and has the only clinic in Italy dedicated specifically to treating child asthma cases. Striking off from the northern exit of the town is a small road leading up towards the magnificent Sexten Dolomites and a distinctive group of peaks known as the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. I drove up to a chalet restaurant by the very small lake Antorno, where motorskies can be rented to drive up the snow covered road leading to a refuge high in the area of these peaks. The views of the Sexten Dolomites from lake Antorno were spectacular and it was well worth making the small detour.

20 Lake Misurina frozen under a layer of snow with the peaks of the Sexten Dolomites to the right.

21 The Grand Hotel, Misurina, against a spectacular backdrop of mountains.

22 A closer view of the Sexten Dolomites from the Lake Antorno area.

23 An enterprising restaurant owner at Lake Antorno put up this amusing looking bar for winter guests – Im not sure if the wooden building is the privy!

24 The heavy snow layer in this area covered the small frozen Lake Antorno just behind the pines in the foreground

25 Leaving Misurina I headed north down into the Landro Hobenstein valley towards the town of Dobbiaco along a route known as the Grand Circle of the Dolomites. Dobbiaco is a large sprawling town situated just a few kilometers from the Austrian border in a wide valley. As you drive through this area its hard to believe you are still in Italy. The locals tend to speak German instead of Italian and all of the town names are signposted in both German and Italian. This is typical of all of the Alto Adige South Tyrol area. From Dobbiaco I headed south east to the small town of Sesto and on to a junction from where I would head south over the Monte Croci di Comelico Pass (1636m) – also know as the Kreuzberg Pass - towards the town of Auronzo di Cadore. This pass marks the division between the Dolomites and the Carnic Alps to the east. From Auronzo di Cadore the circle took me back to the Misurina road junction where I would head westwards on the return route towards Tre Croci Pass and back down into Cortina d Ampezzo.

26 On the road towards Dobbiaco the reddish streaked peak of this particular mountain caught my attention in the clear late morning sky.

27 A Nordic skiing track ran alongside the road for several kilometers as I descended the valley.

28 Overlooking the town of Auronzo di Cadore - I think!

29 One of a number of small towns close to Auronzo di Cadore heading northwards towards the Misurina junction to complete by round trip of the Sexten Dolomites.

30 A little farther along the same valley road.

31 After passing the same junction I took to Misurina 3 hours earlier, this time to return back to Cortina dAmpezzo, I stopped to stretch my legs and take this shot.

32 Passing through Cortina dAmpezzo I headed back up along the Great Dolomites Road stopping to take this shot of the town as I climbed out of the valley.

33 It was early afternoon and the ski run from the very top of the Lagazuoi peak (top left) was obviously getting a lot of visitors. This car park marked the end of the run.

34 Another shot of Lagazuoi peak with the cable car station showing on its summit. The small black dot just below the lower left of the peak is the cable car!

35 Looking across to the opposite side of the road this splendid table top mountain was catching the full afternoon sun on its snowy peak.

36 A short distance to the pass and I was having thoughts about maybe taking a trip up in that gondala – some good thoughts, some bad!

37 There are a couple of things in life that unnerve me. One is attacks of vertigo when confronted by heights and the other is the thought of soaring to towards the heavens in a swaying cable car gondola! The decision to take a ride in the gondola was for me an act of faith. I reasoned that if around two dozen skiers could pack in the gondola every 10 – 15 mins to take the near 700m climb up to the start of the ski run at the top of Lagazuoi mountain without ending up in a blood splattered mound in the deep snow at the foot of the peak then I supposed the contraption must be reasonably safe. After a few moments of inner mind wrestling my desire to see the Dolomites from the top of the peak overcame my nervousness and I paid for the 13 Euros return ticket, the only individual to do so seeing as everyone else intended to get back down the mountain by strapping a pair of sticks to their feet and launching themselves like lemmings down the 45 degree angle of the ski piste. I now know why these runs are called pistes.. After seeing the steepness of the slope youd have to get me piste to go down one! Without over dramatising the occasion I made the ride packed in the gondola like a nervous sardine in the middle of a school of sharks with the latest bunch of avid ski enthusiasts and thankfully, after a very fast steep climb, I was soon disgorged onto the exit platform of the cable car station.

38 From a wooden decking platform at the exit of the cable car station I got my first real view of the Dolomites in all of their glory. The view in every direction was almost beyond words, except that is for the view straight down to the cable car station 700m below. Unfortunately the words I had for that view are best not written in this presentation! A little higher up from the cable car station, almost at the highest point of the peak, was a fairly large bar restaurant with a large decking area in front of it filled with tables and chairs where groups of skiers were preparing themselves for the downhill run. I couldnt help but notice that many were drinking large glasses of beer and I reasoned that maybe some of them were aiming to get piste too! I spent about 30 mins soaking in the scenery and snapping shots and if it wasnt for the fact that I needed to be heading home I could have stayed up there a lot longer just taking in the view. When I took the ride back down in the gondola I was the only passenger, along with the gondola attendant who casually asked you didnt come to ski then? A very observant guy!

39 Arghhhhh! The view 700 m down to hell! Almost in the centre of the screen is the car park area and the lower gondola station

40 Heaven! This scene made the trip worth while. A view looking east towards Cortina dAmpezzo

41 The backside of Lagazuoi peak looking northwards andthe start of the ski run winding down to the car park I showed in a previous slide.

42 Looking westward I noticed the strange looking bunch of pinnacle peaks on the far horizon whose name I havent yet discovered.

43 The path leading up to the very summit of the mountain. Too close to the edge for me to take!

44 30 minutes later and I was back down to the road and ready to set off over the pass and head towards home feeling very, very satisfied with my diversion.

45 Before setting off again I took this shot looking south into another valley which rises towards Falzárego Pass.

46 Although Id initially driven from home to the Falzárego Pass in the early hours of the day and in the dark and not seen anything of the scenery I decided to return home by a differing route and headed towards the town of Arraba and on to the Val di Fassa which is approached through the town of Canazei after passing over the Pordoi Pass. This change of route turned out to be a very attractive decision. The town of Arraba is a very popular ski resort and rising up from its base in the valley the road snakes up to the Pordoi Pass which at 2239m I later found out is the highest paved road pass in the Dolomites. As I got closer to the pass the amount of snow covering the surrounding landscape became deeper and deeper and approaching the summit the snow had drifted to around 2 meters deep either side of the road. Fortunately this major road was in excellent condition and being well transited by traffic to and from the ski resorts had been kept clear of snow. The ski runs from the head of the pass run for kilometers down into the valley and although they are not as steep as many in the area they pass through some beautiful scenery.

47 Driving towards the town of Arabba the scenery was beautiful.

48 A town in the Arabba area with one of its ski runs in the distant. In the bottom of the valley the snow had almost disappeared and the alpine pastures had only traces left.

49 Climbing to the high Pordoi Pass the scene was very different with increasingly more snow as I got closer to summit.

50 At the pass snow lay everywhere and made for a very picturesque scene of the mountains in the area. The high flattish peak in the centre of the skyline has a cable car station on its summit.

51 A closer look at the mountain with the cable car station at its peak. To the left, just under the patch of snow beneath the station, the small white patach is the gondola!

52 The start of the ski run at the Pordoi Pass looking eastwards down into the valley presented another beautiful wintry landscape.

53 After a walk around the Pordoi Pass tourist shops and a strong espresso coffee in one of the restaurants I set off towards the Val di Fassa and the drive back home. I took a few more photos on the way but although there was plenty to see I decided Id best concentrate on driving home. Id been on the road since 03:15 and although I still felt fresh I wanted to get back to base before the darkness of the evening and tiredness set in. The day had been absolutely fantastic with gorgeous weather, clear roads with minimal traffic and above all the magnificent scenery of the Dolomites in their full wintery splendour. My impromptu route planning on the way had yielded dividends more than I could have anticipated and I certainly had my fill of the scenery of this beautiful area of northern Italy. Ill probably not get back to this specific area in the future although I do hope to take a couple of smaller excursions into the Dolomites closer to home before I leave Italy as Id love to see the alpine pastures with colours of spring beginning to show. The only downside to the trip was not having my family here with me to share the journey but at least i have the photos to share with them. I hope you enjoyed my trip Jim

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