In October of last year (2016), my wife and I took our annual trip to Europe. This year we opted to visit Italy and Amsterdam. In this blog post, I'm going to share photos and images from a day trip we took from Venice to the Dolomites. The Dolomites, also known as the Italian Alps, are a series of mountains in Northern Italy. They are a relatively short drive from Venice (about 2 hours) and are well worth the trip. I'll be writing two additional posts to cover the time we spent in Florence/Venice and Amsterdam.
Just a quick note...
A chunk of the text below was pulled from a post that I wrote for another photography website, physicalgrain.com. If you haven't heard of physicalgrain.com, I highly suggest you spend some time exploring the site. The site is a place for photographers to share the stories behind their photos. The work on the site is truly inspiring. I shared my favorite image from our trip to the Dolomites on the site along with some of the blog post below. You're limited to 500 words on physicalgrain.com so this post is an extended version of what was written for physicalgrain.com. Enjoy!
While researching our 2016 European vacation I came across a tour from Venice to the Dolomites. After reading the reviews and seeing the images I knew we had to book the tour, and I’m glad we did. This was hands down the best tour we’ve ever taken (and we've been on a bunch). The driver, a nice Italian fellow named Justin, was incredibly personable, knowledgeable and (best of all) he was an avid photographer! He must have pulled the van over 50 times on the tour so the group could grab a shot. He also went off the beaten path several times to get us to places only he knew about.
When we first left Venice the weather was quite poor. It was raining and the clouds were low, not ideal for taking photos in the mountains. As we sped down the highway at breakneck speeds (I clocked us at 93mph at one point), Justin (who had a bit of a lead foot but was a good driver) assured us that the clouds would break up and we’d have a great day of shooting. I was pretty skeptical as the weather report didn't look good for our area.
As the morning went on the weather slowly improved but it was far from perfect. The sky was still overcast and a light rain persisted which hindered our views in many spots. We stopped in a few small towns/villages to see local sites and taste the local treats. While fairly close to each other (only a few miles apart), each town had its own look and feel. I could easily spend months just driving from town to town soaking in the views, local culture and the food.
Around noon Justin informed us that we would be stopping for lunch at one of his favorite restaurants in the area. I wish I could tell you the name of the place but it escapes me, I really need to take notes when I go on vacation. He called ahead to see what they had on the menu as they only serve what was freshly made, caught or killed. When we arrived, we were greeted by the owners of the restaurant/lodge (they house skiers and hikers throughout the year). We all piled into the restaurant area, sat down and began to peruse the menu. Side note about me, I have a very agreeable palette/stomach, I will pretty much eat anything. Because of this, I like to eat what the locals eat when we travel. So, I opted for the venison gnocchi and was not disappointed with my decision. It was delicious.
As we headed out of the restaurant, I was stunned when I opened the door to see...the sun! Mercifully, the clouds had broken up enough for the sun to poke through. Needless to say, I was extremely happy with the change in weather. Justin then proceeded to tell us "I told you so" and to prepare for “the good stuff”. I was really impressed with what we had seen up to this point so I was excited to see what was ahead. After only 15-20 mins of driving, he pulled the van over at a small pond and said “Bring all of your cameras”. He was right. Just steps from the van was the image you see at the top of this post. Simply stunning. This little pond was surrounded by mountain peaks on all sides, it was truly amazing. Everywhere you looked was so beautiful that it looked fake. You know the phrase a "million dollar view"? Well, this was easily a "10 billion dollar view".
From here we headed to a local state park. It took about 15 minutes to make our way up the winding mountain road within the park, not a ride for those with weak stomachs. At the top we were greeted with frigid temps but an incredible view.
After we made our way down from the top of the park, we headed over to Cortina (shown above and below) which, as news to me, is a ski playground for the rich and famous. This was one of the larger towns that we stopped in during our day. You could tell that this was more of a "hot spot" than the other towns we had spent time in that day. With that being said, it was still incredibly beautiful and the view from every angle was simply stunning.
The day ended with a beautiful sunset drive through the mountains back to the coast. We had a great conversation with the two other couples that were part of the tour. One was from South Korea (honeymooners) and the other from Israel (a mother and son). Meeting and talking with people from other countries/cultures/backgrounds/experiences is definitely one of my favorite things about traveling.
In closing, the Dolomites were simply breathtaking and this short day trip is something I will never forget. If you're ever in Italy, I beg you to take at least a day to head up into the mountains, you won't regret it.