GENERAL INFORMATION – TRAVELLING IN THE DOLOMITES
The Dolomites owe their name to the Frenchman Déodat Tancrè de Gratet de Dolomieu (1750- 1801) who "discovered" the chemical composition (stratified calcium magnesium carbonate) that renders this rock so different from all the rest. These fabulous vertical reefs glow in the changing light and present a startling and dramatic contrast to the pastoral beauty beneath. Located to the south of the main chain of the Alps, the Dolomites are geographically and culturally at a crossroads between Italy to the south and Tyrol to the north.
In the First Century, the Romans invaded the Alps and remnants of their culture, particularly in the Ladin speaking villages, still remains.
As you wander among the picturesque villages and rolling green pastures, you may notice a sturdy Italian Gothic tower and an onion domed Tyrolean steeple vying for ascendancy with the looming walls of dolomite. In many places, evidence of the gruelling battle between Italy and Austria is still highly visible. It is an irresistibly fascinating, beautiful and photogenic land.
Since 2009 the Dolomites are part of the UNESCO world heritage sites
One of the beauties of walking in the Dolomites is the chance to observe the surprisingly abundant wildlife that inhabits these mountains. The easiest sightings are of marmots: adorable furry social creatures a bit like beavers that live in extensive underground colonies and hibernate from October to April. They often forage for their favourite flowers on grassy slopes, only returning to the safety of their burrows on the shrill warning cry of their omnipresent sentry, an older figure standing stiff and erect on some prominent rock.The widespread conifer woods provide shelter for roe deer, though often only a fleeting glimpse of them is seen due to their shyness. Higher up, seemingly impossible rock faces and scree slopes are the ideal terrain for herds of fleet-footed chamois, mountain goats with short hooked horns. A more impressive if rarer creature is the majestic ibex, sporting trademark sturdy grooved horns. Due to over zealous hunters they became extinct in the Tyrol as early as the 17th
century, however healthy nuclei survived in both a royal game reserve in Italy’s Valle d’Aosta and the Engadine in Switzerland. Specimens were brought back to Dolomite habitats some 30 years ago, and there are well-established groups around Croda del Becco and at the rear of the Marmolada.
A more recent example of reintroduction, hopefully successful, regards seven brown bears from Slovenia, sent in recent years to supplement dangerously low nucleus on the Adamello-Brenta Park.
Man has introduced livestock such as cows, goats and sheep, encountered on high-altitude pastures in summer, along with striking sturdy chestnut Haflinger horses. Of the 6000 worldwide, over half are in the south Tyrol, such as Val Gardena and the Alpe di Siusi.
Birdwatchers will enjoy the delightful small song birds in the conifer woods, while a number of sizeable birds of prey such as kites, buzzards and golden eagles are occasionally spotted above the tree line. One special treat is the showy high-altitude wallcreeper. Fluttering over extraordinarily sheer rock faces in its hunt for insects, it flashes its black plumage with red panels and white dots, and attracts attention with its shrill piping whistle. Then there is the ptarmigan, a type of high-mountain grouse that nests on grassy slopes and makes sounds a bit like a pig snorting. In winter, with a perfect white plumage camouflage, it can patter over snow surfaces without sinking thanks to fine hairs between on its claws, akin to snowshoes.
However the queen of the feathered species is undoubtedly the rare capercailie, a proud if cumbersome dark ground bird similar to black grouse which inhabits conifer woods.
The Dolomites area boasts some 1500 species of glorious flowering plants, a quarter of the total found in Italy as a whole. They alone are a good reason to go walking in summer. Heading the list is the mythical edelweiss, found in alpine meadows, felty petals forming delicate overlapping stars. Though not especially eye-catching, its blanched aspect inspired the legend that it was brought down from the moon by a princess, a memory of the pale lunar landscape to which she was accustomed.
Unmissable, fat and intensely deep blue trumpet gentians burst through the grass, and there are also daintier star shaped varieties. Pasture zones also feature orange lilies and the wine-red martagon variety which vie each other for brilliance. Stony grass terrain is often colonised by alpenrose bushes, rather like the azalea, with masses of pretty red-pink flowers in late July
Of the earliest blooms to appear is the alpine snowbell, its fragile fringed lilac bells visible in snow patches, never far away from hairy Pasque flowers in white or yellow. Shaded cleanings are the place to look for the unusual lady’s slipper orchid, recognisable for a sizeable yellow lip receptable crowned by maroon petals, while masses of purple orchids are common in meadows. Gay Rhaetian poppies punctuate dazzling white scree slopes with their patches of bright yellow, never far from clumps of pink thrift or round-leaved pennycress which is honey scented. A less commonly encountered flower is the king-of-the-Alps, a striking cushion of pretty bright blue blooms, reminiscent of a dwarf version of forget-me-not. A rare treat is the devil’s claw from the Rampion family, whose pinkish lilac flower with curly pointed stigma specialises in vertical rock faces. Another rock coloniser is saxifrage, the name literally “rock breaker”.
During your hikes in the Dolomites you will note that at the Rifugi is written to bring back the litter to the valley and depose it at your hotel and not around the huts or, worse, during your hikes.
Also we plead you to respect the environment and not to throw litter away in the nature. Be careful with your contact with the local flora and fauna, many flowers are protected by law due to their rareness also the animals are protected.
The Dolomites are usually warmer and receive less precipitation than in the Alps. As in all mountainous areas, the weather can change suddenly and it can vary greatly between regions within the Dolomites. Typically bad weather arrives from the South, while winds from the North usually bring good weather.
Typically the south and south-western areas of the mountains have more foggy days as they are close to the warm Venetian plain and the Adriatic Sea. The northern sections of the mountains generally receive less precipitation as storms arriving from the south generally loose most of their moisture before arriving in the northern sections of the Dolomites. In the summer, from mid-June to early August, days are pleasantly warm with cool nights and the occasional storm. September tends to be clear and fairly warm with good consistent weather trough to the middle of October.
The weather in the Dolomites usually has an element of unpredictability. You can expect a mix of warm sunny days sometimes punctuated by rainy cooler weather. You should always be prepared for sudden changes in weather while you are out on the trail. In September daytime temperatures can reach into the upper 60s and low 70s, but early mornings will be cooler (upper 50s, low 60s). At this time of the year, rainy days at lower elevations mean snow on higher elevations. Rainstorms can drop the temperature 15° to 20° Fahrenheit. You should bring raingear jacket and pants (pants optional) with you every day, regardless of the weather conditions when you leave your hotel in the morning.
Italian is the national language, but specially in the valleys of Alta Badia and Val Gardena you will hear more German than Italian and even more Ladino than German. Ladino is the language of these valleys which is only spoken by the people who were born there. In all mayor centres, shops mountain huts and restaurants English will be spoken.
Money and valuables should always be stored safely when travelling.
Keep your passport with you all the times and do not leave in your main luggage. You will need it to change money and check into hotels.
Where safety deposit boxes are available, we recommend that you use them.
Keep jewellery and valuables to a minimum.
In Cortina, there are several workshops where you can purchase ornate glass work, wooden objects, brass sculptures, original furniture and cabinets, wooden boxes, jewel casa. There are elegant shops and boutiques stocked with the latest Italian fashion: shoes, clothing, jewels, antiques and art galleries.
In Alta Badia the choice is not so big as the villages are smaller than Cortina. There are some little stores where you can buy the necessary things and also some stores with fashion, but not as much as at Cortina.
Val Gardena is famous for its wood carvings, there are many shops where you can purchase authentic handmade woodcarvings. Shops in Val Gardena are plenty although they are small.
Ensure that any goods you do purchase will pass your country’s quarantine laws.
Refer to worldtimeserver.com for further details
Voltage – 220/240 volts
Pin type – 2 round pin
Please consult this page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mains_power_systems in order to get a better idea of the three pin types used in Italy.
You can buy the Adapters in nearly every “Tabacchino” shop.
Email – There is internet access in mostly all towns in the Dolomites
Mobile Phone: Please contact your provider for details on international roaming, access and rates.
SUGGESTED REFERENCE LIST
Via Ferrata in the Italian Dolomites Vol 1 – A Cicerone guide by John Smith & Graham Fletcher
Walking in the Dolomites – A Cicerone Guide by Gillian Price
Shorter walks in the Dolomites - A Cicerone Guide by Gillian Price
Lonely Planet Walking in Italy
It is your responsibility to ensure that there are sufficient blank pages for any visas eventually required and for entry/departure stamps. Please also check that your passport will be valid for at least 6 months after the end of the trip.
Please inform yourself at your embassy regarding the eventual visa conditions for your country.
We require that you take out a personal travel insurance policy to cover against sickness, accident, loss of baggage, unexpected alterations to travel arrangements and travel disruption, emergency evacuation, cancellations, etc. If you take out a policy, we need to be advised of the details and you should check that it provide an adequate coverage as above.
You should always carry your travel insurance policy, emergency, photocopies of your passport and cash cards with you during your trip.
Where to sleep
We carefully choose each of the hotels and Rifugi we use with an eye towards providing the most authentic surroundings; many are truly exceptional, and we are not shy about splurging when we find the perfect inn with the right mix of charm, comfort and superb cuisine. We still enjoy many of the smaller simpler inns typical of days gone by and strive to find the perfect balance among simplicity and comfort, charm and amenity.
Rifugios / Rifugi / Mountain Inns
Set in spectacular high-altitude positions accessible only to walkers or climbers (with the odd exception at road level), these marvellous establishments are open all through summer and offer meals and sleeping facilities varying from spartan dormitories with bunk beds to simple guest-house standard rooms. An overnight hut stay is not to miss on a walking holiday.
Pillows and blankets are always provided, so sleeping bags are not needed. Sleeping sheets are compulsory in many huts, so carry your own unless you don’t mind purchasing on in cotton in the Rifugio or in town.
You’ll also need a small towel, for shower. A pair of lightweight running shoes or slippers are needed as boots cannot be worn inside the huts. Hut rules include “lights out” from 10pm to 6am and are no smoking.
There are no private facilities, so you should expect to share facilities, including showers. There’s a large dining room for dinner and breakfast where you can also purchase wine, beer, soft drinks, and snacks.
While this may not be the gastronomical heart of Italy, gourmets will not be disappointed. Some memorable wines hail from the Dolomite valleys: amongst the reds are the full-bodied Teroldego and lighter Schiava from Trentino, and Blauburgunder (Pinot nero) from the slopes around Bolzano. The whites are headed by the heavenly aromatic Gewuerztraminer which reputedly originated at Termin, close to Bolzano, while very drinkable white Rieslings and similar are grown on the steep terraces over the Isarco valley.
Refreshing on a hot summer’s day is Holundersaft, elderberry blossom syrup. Coffee on the other hand is strictly Italian style and comes as short black espresso, milky cappuccino and an infinite intermediate range.
In terms of food, the northern valleys pride themselves on a delicious cereal breads, such as the crunchy rounds of unleavened rye bread with cumin seeds, Voelser Schuettelbrot, or a softer yeasty version. Both are a perfect taste match for thinly sliced Speck, a local type of smoked ham flavoured with juniper berries, coriander and garlic. Ask the bakeries for Apfelstrudel or Mohnstrudel, a luscious pastry roll stuffed apple or poppy seeds respectively.
Knoedelsuppe (canederli in brood) consists of traditional farm-style dumplings the size of tennis balls, made of bread blended with eggs, flavoured with Speck and served in consommè. With any luck, the pasta course will be Schlutzkrapfen, light home-made ravioli filled with spinach.
Form main course Tosella is definitely worth tasting – a fresh cheese vaguely resembling mozzarella, it is lightly fried in butter then quickly oven-baked with cream. Otherwise go for Polenta con formaggio fuso, corn meal smothered with cheese, and possibly accompanied by funghi, wild mushrooms. Meat eaters can order spicy goulash or variations of Bauernschmaus, smoked pork and sausages on a bed of warm crauti (Sauerkraut).
For those with a sweet tooth, the dessert front is dominated by Kaiserschmarn, a rich concoction of sliced pancake with dried fruit and redcurrant jelly. Another special treat and a meal itself is Strauben, fried squirts of sweetened butter with bilberry sauce. Also the famous Strudel can be found in nearly every restaurant and rifugio, normally homemade with vanilla sauce or ice cream.
What you carry
On a hut to hut trekking trip you carry a pack, should be minimum 50-60 litres with load bearing waist harness – to carry water bottle, small first aid kit, regarding material, climbing equipment etc.
On a trip with a base in a hotel you only need to carry you light backpack for you personal belongings for the day like photo camera, water bottle, rain gear, etc.
Actually one Euro is worth 1,36 USD (02/11)
In Cortina d’Ampezzo/Corvara/Belluno you will be able to change USD, AUD and GBP into Euro.
Credit cards usage in the rifugios is very limited as they cannot be expected to accept credit cards and you are advised to carry Euro only.
For current exchange rate information please refer to finance.yahoo.com/currency?
On completion of your trip you may wish to acknowledge the efforts and professionalism of your guide/s by way of some kind of tip or gift. This is a personal matter. We recommend approximately €10 per day for your main guide and €5 for assistants
Tipping is not customary however is appreciated.
In restaurants and bars it is customary to leave between 5% and 10% of the bill, but this is on you discretion you don’t have to tip everything, but only if you have been satisfied with the service etc.
HEALTH AND FITNESS
Fitness is an important aspect of our trips. The fitter you are the more easily you will adjust and enjoy yourself. Resistance to cold and illness is also increased.
There are no statutory vaccinations required, however we suggest that you contact your doctor, local government inoculation centre or a travel medical specialist for all details regarding vaccination requirements.
CLOTHING AND EQUIPMENT
Plan well in advance and prioritise your requirements for the trip. This allows you to make the most of your holiday and the time and the money you have invested in it.
This equipmento list has been tried out many times through out the years doing the same activities. Take in consideration that if it is your first experience you will tend to take more things than you need. What we have written is more than enough!
- Backpack with a capacity of 50/60 liters max.
- Sheet sleeping bag
- Lightweight or mid-weight, waterproofed, sturdy hiking boots.
- Sandals for rifugio (optional)
- 2/3 pairs of light weight hiking socks
- Long and short underwear
- 1 Long sleeved synthetic or cotton/synthetic T-shirt
- 1 Short sleeved synthetic or cotton/synthetic T-shirt
- 1 synthetic or cotton/synthetic sleeveless shirt
- 1 heavy weight fleece jacket or sweater
- 1 light/medium weight fleece jacket or sweater
- Gore-Tex rain/wind jacket and pants
- Poncho (optional)
- 1 pair of hiking shorts & pants
- Baseball cap or sun hat with wide brim
- Wind breaker light/meddium gloves
- Sun glasses with uv filter
- Sun scree lotion and lipstick of SPF 15 or higher
- Head torch with batteries
- Swiss army knife
- Hiking sticks (optional)
- Water bottle
- Personal first-aid kit
- Toiletry kit – tooth brush and so on
- Small amount of laundry detergent in case you decide to hand wash some clothes
- Plastic bags (like zip lock) of various sizes for keeping things sorted our in your duffel.
- Repair kit with needle, thread and safety pins( optional)
- Photo camera
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