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Episode #085: Hiking the Dolomites

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In this episode, we head to the stunning Dolomites – a wonderful place for hiking for not just the intrepid but for those of any fitness level – with its spectacular mountain peaks and alpine pastures and importantly – cable car and lift systems.

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Show notes

This week we talk to Kate and Vin, who run Throne and Vine – a fabulous resource for information on exploring the area (which can be pretty hard to find!). We learn about some great hiking trails to try, and how to access them, about stopping in Rifugios mountain huts for well-earned breaks for delicious food, wine, and beer (though be careful on which and how much wine you partake of) and the best times to go to make the most of this beautiful region.  

What you’ll learn this episode

  1. There are 26 mountain ranges just in the Dolomites alone and the area has a mix of climates and cultures with both the Mediterranean and the Alpine
  2. The Alpe di Siusi is the largest high alpine pasture known for its colorful flowers in the summertime
  3. Rifugio or mountain huts are essentially mountainside taverns (sometimes with accommodation) dotted throughout the mountains, where you can stop and have a drink or grab a meal
  4. Sassolungo is a huge mountain – a ten thousand foot giant that spans about 17 miles round 
  5. Many millions of years ago the area of the Dolomites was actually coral reefs in an ocean until they emerge from the ocean and this is partly what gives them their unique look
  6. Mont Sëuc is the Ortisei – Alpe di Siusi Ropeway cable car and are a great way to get up and down the mountains to follow the many trails
  7. The cable cars start to open end of May/early June and which is a great time to go before it gets too busy, similarly, they stop running in early October so September is a great time to go. The timetables can change due to weather conditions etc too. It can be tricky to find information on the timetables, so head to Vin and Kate’s site Throne and Vine as they have a great collection of info 
  8. The great thing about the Dolomites, is that they are the mountains which just about anyone can enjoy because of their state-of-the-art lift system and the fact that they have hundred of different trails to try
  9. Great hikes recommended by Kate and Vin, if you’re based in the Val Gardena or Alpe di Siusi regions of South Tyrol:
  10. If you look at the weather forecast before you head out on a hike, it will generally be reliable – but you are in the mountains and things can happen out of the blue and quickly up there. So it’s always best to be prepared and pack a raincoat or poncho
  11. You can’t get much more farm-to-table than the Rifugios, many of whom grow and source most of their produce up in the mountains

About our guests – Kate and Vin

Kate and Vin, award-winning storytellers, run Throne & Vine, a website dedicated to helping explore the South Tyrol. The site is their way to reveal all of the beauty, adventure, history and culture South Tyrol offers travelers. They dive deep, sharing the best South Tyrol experiences from wine getaways, hiking excursions, wellness retreats, culinary discoveries and much more. Throne & Vine has become a go-to resource for travelers around the world looking to plan a European adventure unlike any other.

They were several days into their first Italian adventure – like most tourists, they were seeking to explore some of Italy’s most popular destinations and after consuming the wonders of Venice and Verona, they rented a car venturing north into what we then knew only as the “Italian Alps”. And then it happened. Almost instantly.

The splendor they encountered in South Tyrol shot an arrow straight through their wanderlust hearts. Travel would never be the same again. Their bucket list of countries to visit became meaningless clutter and the seed for Throne & Vine was planted on that first trip, as they felt like they had stumbled on Italy’s best-kept secret. When family and friends began questioning why they kept returning to the same place in Italy, they knew keeping the lid on South Tyrol forever was just not possible and Throne & Vine was born.

You can find Kate and Vin on these channels:

Places to visit mentioned in the show

  • Val Gardena – a valley in the Dolomites, great bases for staying in the area 
  • Ortisei – the largest of Val Gardena’s three towns and arguably the prettiest
  • Alpe di Siusi/Seiser Alm – a Dolomite plateau and the largest high-altitude Alpine meadow in Europe. Located in Italy’s South Tyrol province in the Dolomites mountain range, it is a major tourist attraction, notably for skiing and hiking.
  • Sassolungo – (and Saslonch) mean “long stone” is a huge mountain 
  • Schlern – is a mountain which looks like rhino horm – with the Schlernboden inn and on the summit plateau is the Schlernhaus inn 2,457 metres (8,061 ft), both open from 1 June to 15 October. 
  • Compatsch – village where several stations of the Cable Car, funicular and other lifts are located
  • Seceda – one of the most iconic/popular peaks of the Dolomites. located on the sunny side of Val Gardena, at the foot of the Parco Naturale Cisles-Odle nature reserve
  • Marmoladathe highest mountain of the Dolomites
  • Rifugio Augutst Freidrich – a rifugio at the top of the Sassolungo hike
  • Malga Steger Rifugio – on Alpe di Siusi run by Water and Martina. Virtually everything you are served is grown by them up there
  • Tre Cime – the three peaks of the Dolomites – The three peaks, from east to west, are Cima Piccola (“little peak”), Cima Grande (“big peak”) and Cima Ovest (“western peak”)
  • Rosengarten group – another massif in the Dolomites

Food and Drink

  • Schlutzkrapfen– pasta with a filling of spinach and curd (quark) served with melted butter, chopped chives and grated parmesan.
  • Kaiserschmarrn – a kind of cake dessert with jam/jelly on top 
  • Schiava and Lagrein – red wines from the valleys of South Tyrol, Schiava being a lighter, summer wine and Lagrein more full bodied

Resources

  •  Törggelen is a centuries-old tradition celebrating the harvest’s new wine and involves a hearty hike in the afternoon followed by an even more hearty feast and wine sampling in the evening. Occurring through much of the fall, from mid-September to mid-November – it’s a great time to visit! 

Resources from Untold Italy

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Transcript

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