So, here you are again. About to read another report about another trip to the Dolomites. You might think... isn't this a little repetitive? Why another trip to
the same place? Well... here's Andrew's top seven reasons to return to the Dolomites (I couldn't think of ten reasons, so you're stuck with seven):
7. Gotta add more entries to my via ferrata page...
6. Aida under the stars with Roman Limestone baking your butt...
5. Daryl's been pestering me for another ferrata trip for a while now...
4. Gotta practice my Italian or it'll get rusty...
3. Twisty Roads par Excellance!
2. Nowhere is it easier to get a dose of big air....
1. Fresh Gnocchi and Panna Cotta at 10,000 feet!... need I say anything more?
Saturday, July 14
Arrival & Loss
We arrived not in Italy, but in Zurich, Switzerland. We found the
combination of flight and car rental to be a bit more favourable than if
we'd landed elsewhere nearby. However, for future reference, I think
that the slightly extra expense of flying directly into northern Italy
might be worth it, in terms of hassle, time travelled (you need to
travel quite a few hours to get from north of the alps to south of the
alps), and fuel costs.
Anyway... upon landing in Zurich we were delayed from getting an
efficient and speedy start to our trip by a piece of lost luggage -
which contained all of Pu's outdoor gear. After a time chatting with
the folks at Swissair's lost+found department (where we even managed to
get Pu a cash disbursement for our troubles), we were off in our two
volkswagen rental cars, bound for the first stop in our trip - Riva del
Getting off to a bad start
We headed south through a wonderful sunny summer day in Switzerland -
past trim little towns, well-tended grassy slopes, headed for the
Gotthard pass, one of the major crossing points into Italy. Normally,
one would take the 17km Gotthard car tunnel, but we were feeling the
need for scenery, so we opted to go up and over the Gotthard pass on the
overland road route. In fact, nearing the top, we discovered an even
more rustic route - an old cobblestoned road, which appeared to serve as
the way over the pass before the more modern asphalt-paved Gotthard pass
road was built. The old cobblestone road was quiet and
little-travelled, and it made the route over the pass that much more
scenic. Pu got his first taste of the Alps, and was duly impressed.
From the Gotthard pass, we headed down into an Italian-speaking part of
Switzerland (the Ticino area), and from there, on into Italy, passing
north of Milan and heading east along the flat plain of the Po for a
short distance. Then, we turned north onto a scenic bit of highway that
follows the cliffy western shoreline of Lake Garda. "Follows the
cliffy shoreline" is probably not the right phrase - "burrows through
them" is probably more accurate. The highway (called 'ss45') runs
through many interesting galleries and tunnels, some old and some new.
In between, you get glimpses of the turquoise waters of Lake Garda, and
you drive through many mediterranean-style small towns, each lushly
vegetated and carefully set into the limited space between cliff and
After about an hour of this sort of pleasant driving, we
suddenly arrive at the north end of the lake, where Riva del Garda sits
on the more open, flat land that lies along the north shore.
Riva del Garda is a lovely town in a lovely setting at the north end of
Italy's largest lake - Lake Garda. Lake Garda is almost like an
land-locked fjord: long, narrow, and bounded on each side by steep,
dramatic high cliffs. The town has a beautiful historic walled center,
mostly closed to vehicular traffic (which means that you can walk
unhindered through the old streets). The city comes right up to the
lake's edge, and there is a wonderful stone boardwalk area that allows
pedestrians to stroll along the lake.
The region in which Riva del Garda is located is within the 'Piccoli
Dolomiti' (the little Dolomites). It is a mountainous area, but the
elevation of the peaks is relatively lower than the main Dolomites, and
the valley bottoms are near sea-level. In fact, Riva del Garda's
elevation is only about 300ft ASL. As a result, it is good and hot
here in the summer, and this year was no exception. Temps were quite
high, averaging in the upper 30s each day.
In order to make the first few days of our trip a little more settled,
we decided to plonk ourselves down in one spot. Searching around on the
Internet a few days earlier, I had found a nice little 'apart-hotel' in
Riva, and for a reasonable price, too: 30 Euros per person per night. An
'apart-hotel' is basically an apartment that you rent on a short-term
basis. Ours, called 'Englo-Vacanze', was up on a hill, just above (but still very close to)
the old town center. It was a very large, elegant heavy-set stone
building, with balconies and oval windows.
Our apartment was very modern and very elegant, with a full kitchen, bathroom, and two
bedrooms. Outside, the grounds were filled with lush plants, including
fig and olive trees, and there was a nice indoor swimming pool, too.
Plus, free wireless internet! (although we had to be verr-ry close to
the wireless router in the main lobby for us to get a useable signal)
Pu's lost bag had created a wee bit of a logistical problem. We couldn't
really start any via ferratas until we received his bag. At the
earliest, we'd get it back the next day, and even that wasn't assured.
We'd had a long day of travelling, though, and dusk was falling - and we
were starving, so we didn't worry too much about the bag and instead
checked-in and then walked down into the old part of town for a bit of
much-anticipated Italian food!
Nightime streetscene in Riva
We strolled down into the warm darkness, down to the old walled-in
portion of Riva del Garda. The combination of sights, sounds and
smells was intoxicating: warm night air, narrow cobblestoned streets,
wafting scents of baking pizzas, and lively strains of a musical
performance in the lakeside central piazza.
Nighttime waterfront, Riva del Garda
After a bit of walking
around, we simply couldn't wait any longer, and we stopped at a little
pizzeria (called 'Pizzeria Bella Napoli'). A bit of red wine and a huge-but-razor-thin margherita pizza did the trick for me!
I again marvel at how a
pizza with about 7 basic ingredients can manage to taste so different
(i.e. a much better kind of different) than a pizza in North America.
[ Dolomites 2007 home
page | July 14 / Intro
| Sun, July 15
| Mon, July 16
| Tue, July 17
| Wed, July 18
| Thu, July 19
| Fri, July 20
| Sat, July 21
| Sun, July 22
| Mon, July 23
| Tue, July 24
| Wed, July 25
| Thu, July 26
| Fri, July 27
| Sat, July 28
| Sun, July 29
| Where did we drive?