We made it to the Italian border without further hassles or incidents, with the Dolomites as our next destination. The Dolomites are a mountain range located in north-eastern Italy. It is a part of Southern Limestone Alps and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The very winding road led us into small villages with the Dolomites looming above them. With the weather now warm & sunny and grand views every which way we looked, we quickly put the Austrian toll thing behind us.
We arrived in the small village of San Cassiano in the afternoon at our apartment and settled in, enjoying the views of the Dolomites along with a nice sunset that evening.
Our apartment near San Cassiano, pretty scenic!
San Cassiano and its surrounding area was inserted into our itinerary at the last minute, replacing Switzerland – one of the best decisions so far in this trip! James’ sister and brother-in-law, Ann and David, mentioned they would be there around the time we were to be in Innsbruck, a short two-hour excursion away, so we decided to invite ourselves along. We learned later their friends, Els and Diana, would also be joining them as part of their own European trip. In addition, we let Ann and David know that we had friends from Oregon (Val, Rupert, and Laurie) planning on dropping in for a couple nights a few days later. This was turning into a big gathering! Ann and David were staying at a very nice local B&B, Ciasa Roby, whose manager, Giorgio, treated everyone like family. He really enhanced our whole Dolomite experience. He took the time to take the group on one of his favorite hikes, along with Scorecho, his energetic Maltese. He invited us over to the B&B for an exquisite aperitif, and even topped off the oil in our car. We wished we could have stayed there, but our apartment was more economical. Over the next 3 days, we hiked with Ann, David, Els, and Diana in spectacular scenery, sometimes with stops along the way in refugios, or restaurants, in the hillsides for lunch or drink. Some of the hikes involved a gondola ride to get started, and provided us with excellent views along the way. Felt odd riding those without our skis on!
From left to right: James, his sister Ann and her husband David, Els and Diana.
Lunch break at a refugio
Local wildlife below: group of goats near a refugio, chamois, and a marmot.
Are we lost? We did take the wrong trail and ended up doing a more difficult hike than planned.
Hiking with Giorgio’s dog
Our guide, Giorgio, leading the way
We brought a picnic with us most of the time, and sharing chocolate & cookies kind of became a ‘tradition’. One of those sharing moments involved passing Nutella packets back-n-forth, finger dipping (and double-dipping), between each other:
We’re not sure who the culprit was, but James ended up catching a pretty good cold (couldn’t have been of James’ own devices 🙂 )
We still had our rental car’s dashboard lit up with warning lights and each day, while in the Dolomites, brought another frustrating flurry of emails and phone calls with Europcar. In fact, a new light, EPC, came on one night and the car just about stalled out completely. Europcar refused to bring a new car to us and told us we’d have to drive 4 or 5 hours to a city where we could exchange it, despite the fact we might not ever get there! Even after telling these guys which lights were on, here’s an excerpt from an email from Europcar: “The only other possibilty is, that you tell us what the problem is and we’ll try to find a work shop on you’re way to get it fixed”. I mean come on! What are they smoking?? Sylvie’s been saying “don’t get frustrated, this is European’s service at its finest. The customer is seldom right”. We were getting worried maybe Europcar got the Austrian toll fine and weren’t in the mood for helping us, but we’ve seen no hint of it so far (the visa statements haven’t revealed anything yet).
Our friends from Oregon showed up the 3rd day and said friends of theirs, Marco and Kelly and their 1-year old son, Giovanni, were making the drive from Venice to join everyone for I night. We had met Kelly through Val and Rupert a few years back and knew she had fallen in love with a nice Italian man and moved to Venice, Italy.
Our friends: Laurie, Val, Rupert, Kelly, Marco and son Giovanni
While discussing our travel plans and possible excursions, Marco asked if we’d ever seen Venice. Neither one of us has ever been there, so he proposed to arrange our accommodations for a couple nights: and our next destination was born. Sometimes it’s nice not to have a plan.
We loved the Dolomites and hanging out with family and friends. It was a real treat and it’s a hard place to leave. But we hope to return some day, maybe in the winter time, and ski.