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It has been a long, long time since our motley group of Canadians had done a proper trip to the amazing crags of the Dolomites (a very distinctive sub-group of the Alps in Northeastern Italy), and had sampled the fun and easy climbing offered by the fixed climbing routes known as Via Ferrata, which are very common there (in fact, the very concept of them originates there). When my good driving buddy Luke and myself were in the planning stages of our 2023 GTS Chronicles Euro Delivery trip (report forthcoming), it struck me as obvious that it would be handy, easy and convenient to tack a week or so onto the front of that trip to do some mountain adventuring. Good friend Chris Hatko and his family were already in the planning for a summer 2023 European trip, and when I floated the idea of a week in the Dolomites, they soon signed on to the idea. Fellow adventurer Brian was also already in the middle of planning for a summer 2023 European trip, and when I floated the same idea to him, he was also 100% in. So, six of us in total: myself, Brian, and the Hatko family: Chris, Gillian, and their two daughters, Evie and Katie.

I've recently been in a particularly bad mood about Air Canada - lost luggage, poor staffing choices leading to crew shortages, very poor on-time performance, unacceptable handling of lost and damaged baggage issues, and dismissive, uncaring, cost-focused customer support. I was therefore very happy to see that Air France was launching a new non-stop, direct flight from Ottawa Canada to France. We organized our travel around that flight route, choosing to fly nonstop to Paris and then using the train from there to arrive at our start and end cities.
Ready for Europe!
Inaugural Service
AF A330
Brian and I flew out from Ottawa on the 8th of July. The Hatkos had already flown to Europe, choosing to spend a few advance days visiting Paris. When Brian and I landed, however, we went straight to the TGV station and hopped on the high-speed train east to Strasbourg, and from there on to Stuttgart, Germany. There we rented a car and started our drive towards the Dolomites. The Hatkos had also rented a car and we had all agreed to rendezvous at the Loft Atmosphera - a booking.com apartment we had rented for the night in the northern Italian town of Trento, Italy. (As a side note, we rented our car from Stuttgart because it fit well with the integration of the second half of my summer 2023 activities in Europe, namely The GTS Chronicles car trip).
TGV Terminal
Autobahn to the Alps
Trento Accommodations
Things were going smoothly as Brian and I arrived in Trento in the early evening. The keys were waiting for us in the lock-box of the Loft Atmosphera, the apartment was clean, tidy and modern, and we had time to head into the center of town and secure a couple of hot, tasty pizzas for a late nite get-together dinner.

The Hatko family arrived, only slightly behind schedule. And then, the smallest of errors: Brian put the only set of keys on the table of the apartment and headed outside to help the Hatko family unpack their car. The door of the apartment had a spring-loaded one-way outer latch that - unknown to us - would easily engage even when the door was allowed to gently fall back into place. The door gently fell back onto this outer latch and it sofly clicked into place - the door not being fully closed (rather more like a car door that is ajar) - but still, impossible to un-latch without the keys. Which were sitting inside the apartment on the table.
Our plans for enjoying hot pizza around the kitchen table was soon replaced with stress and fretting. Tried as we might, we could not contact the proprietor of the apartment - even though we tried all of the communication methods outlined in the booking details. Eventually we started wandering around the center of the town, thinking about maybe.... finding another set of rooms at another hotel, or... maybe just sleeping in the cars? But then, how would we eventually get our stuff?

We got a surprising bit of helpful advice from the proprietor of a downtown hotel, given over a crackly intercom: why not try the fire department? Apparently they are capable of dealing with these sorts of things, and if not busy, they may be able to help us out.

We walked the warm streets of Trento to the main Vigili del Fuoco building (in Italy, the fire-fighting service is called Vigili del Fuoco, or "Vigilants/Wardens of the Flame" -- which is a very cool name). A fire fighter came to the door when I rang, and, in my passable Italian, I explained our situation. He called back to the captain, who came out, at which point I further explained our situation. I guess my spiel worked -- helped by the forlorn-looking family behind me, perhaps. After carefully examining and cross-examining our identities, our rental booking, and the identity of the renter, they agreed to help. They even seemed pretty confident that they'd be able to get us in!

Four or five relaxed Italian firefighters grabbed a few tools and hopped into a truck and invited me to ride along with them. Everyone else had to walk the kilometre back to the apartment. In a few moments we were back at the apartment, and soon the firefighters started working on the door. They pulled out what looked like a long piece of plasticized paper - thin and flexible but with some strength to it. They set about inserting it, low-down, into the semi-open crack of the door and then working it up and against the latch mechanism, pulling and pushing and jerking. All the while, another firefighter continuously jiggled the door. For a while, it didn't seem like it was going to work, and then, click! - the door swung open!
Loft Atmosphera Interior
Sitting on the table in front of us, patiently waiting - the keys. A few of the fire fighters came in with us and had a look around, trying to confirm and verify that yes, we really were the rightful tenants for the night and not some elaborate scammers. They verified the renter info, examined our passports, cross-checked the personal items in the apartment with us, and then, satisfied, reminded us that they would be contacting the owner to report this "break in", and then bid us good-night. Very friendly, very helpful fellows. Saved our bacon, that's for sure.
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