Dolomites - By Mike Smart
In 2009, Italy's stunning Dolomite mountains were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are widely regarded as being one of the most beautiful mountain landscapes in the world.
I have been walking in various parts of the Dolomite for quite a few years now and, in my experience, I have found Val di Fassa to be an excellent base for walking holidays.
The area is relatively easy to get to from Venice and/or Verona, even the transfer journey between airport and resort offers picture-postcard views.
On some walks we use the excellent network of cable cars and chair lifts to ‘get high’ quickly and without effort.
The village of Vigo di Fassa, one of the 10 or so small villages which come under the collective name Val di Fassa.
The valley, although a ski resort in the winter and a paradise for walking and mountain biking in the summer, is still a ‘working valley’ where farming continues and hay meadows abound.
In the village centre and the Museum of Local History and Culture which are well worth a visit, plus, there are shops, bars and restaurants too.
One of my favourite walks
We take a 20 minute scenic minibus ride out of the valley to the Passo Costalunga (1745m). The walk gradient is gentle intially then becoming more steep as we climb on well made footpaths first through woodland then across meadows - stopping frequently to study alpine flowers and simple take-in the views.
After a short coffee break (it has to be coffee in Italy) at Rifugio Paulina (2125m), the path continues to climb and contour a short distance to the lunch stop at Rifugio Roda di Vael (2283m).
Over a leisurely lunch cosine from an extensive menu, we take-in the stunning, jagged limestone mountains all around and the westward views includes The Marmolada (3,343) the highest peak, and “The Queen of the Dolomites".
The afternoon walk is all down hill crossing lush green meadows of dairy cattle - where we can visit a ‘malga’ (artisan cheese producer) - and through woodland on ancient track offering a wonderful view over Vigo di Fassa, our village.
To finish, walk through ‘our’ village where you will encounter various shops, cafés, mini market, Gelateria’s (the famous Italian ice cream parlours) and tourist info centre and… probably stop for a drink and/or ice cream and a chat.
Here are a few more suggestions for walks from the same location:
We take a 25 minute minibus, down the Val di Fassa valley then up a side valley to Passo San Pellegrino (1907m).
This walk crosses the winter ski slopes but summer grazing meadows where we’ll see the cattle and hear there distinctive clanking bell, we’ll be on the lookout for alpine meadow flowers too.
Our coffee stop in the spectacular ridge-top Rifugio Passo delle Selle (2528m), where there is still some rather moving World War 1 remains and memorial plus… fantastic views.
After this Rifugio coffee stop it's down hill via the spectacular waterfall and river crossing to the rustic Rifugio Taramelli for lunch.
The afternoon is a gentle walk down Val Monzoni to Pozza di Fassa village, where there interesting shops which we can visit later in the week - for ice cream followed by a 45 minute riverside walk back to the village.
Starts with a ten minute walk to our village and the cable car station where we’ll be whizzed-up to Ciampedié (1990m) ski station.
This route starts with a gentle woodland path with time to stop and read the information boards, crossing a few ski slopes then entering and walking up the spectacular Val di Vajiolet with its towering peaks all around.
This - unlike the other routes - is a linear out and back walk so, depending on how you feel, there is the option to walk as much, or as little as you please.
The fitter amongst the group will head up to the Passo Principe for a lunch stop at Rifugio Principe (2599m). We all return to Ciampedié and either walk back to Vigo di Fassa through woodland or, whizz down on the cable car.
From the village we will take the 30 minute minibus ride up the valley to Campitello, here we all take the cable car to Rifugio des Alpes (2400m) where we take-in the wonderful views across to the Sella massive.
From Rifugio des Alpes we descend to Riffugio Federico Augusto (2298m) then take the high level Federico Augusto Path. This path contours along the side of the Sasso Piatto mountain - which hardly climbs or falls - and offers spectacular and far reaching views with very little effort and lunching at the Rifugio Sasso Piatto (2300m).
Again - like most days - it’s down hill all the way via Rifugio Micheluzzi for another snack stop and Val Duron to Campitello and catch the minibus back to Vigo di Fassa.
We start with a gentle 45 minute riverside walk to the neighbouring village of Pozza di Fassa where we take the cable car and chair lift to Rifugio Bufaure Ski Station (2044m), just time for a quick coffee!
We then walk along the Sas De Adam Ridge (2430m), this ridge is narrow but comfortably wide enough to not trouble anyone, it offers huge views all around and we can see most of where we have walked in the past few days.
A short descent to the ski resort of Ciampac and Rifugio Tobia del Jahger (2170m) for lunch.
After lunch we’ll take the cable car to the valley and catch the service bus back to Pozza di Fassa village where there’ll be time for drinks, shopping and of course… ice creams.
A further 45 minute riverside walk will see us back at the village.
Most Rifugio’s mentioned above have their own websites and Facebook pages, if you’d like to see what they are like before your holiday.