The Beauty of Northern Italy
Rome. Pompeii. Verona. Venice. Florence. Milan. When most people think of traveling to Italy, those are the places that come to mind. While these cities are beautiful and amazing experiences, many focus on them alone. In doing this, they miss some of the most beautiful and unique mountains that I have ever seen: The Dolomites. Most people don’t ‘even realize that there are amazing opportunities for hiking in Northern Italy, but the Italian Alps are a true sight to behold and definitely a “can’t miss” kind of experience.
The Dolomites are actually another name for the Italian Alps. They are located at northern tip of Italy and connect with the rest of the European Alps. It is about a two and a half hour drive from Milan to the Dolomites or around the same if you take the train. We went in November which is a very strong off-season for Italy which I highly suggest doing due to the price drops. This meant that ticket prices were CHEAP ($390 roundtrip and direct!) and hotels were CHEAPER. For example, we stayed in the beauty below for about 200$ a night! It was a Royal Suite in a hotel on the main Island in Venice. This was still a splurge, but it was my birthday present and I wanted to feel like a queen. It was worth it.
Our Hiking Experience in the Dolomites
One hike that we did in the Dolomites took us about 3 and a half hours, and we didn’t even make it to the top. It was supposed to take us “3” round trip, but we never believe the times that websites tell us. Especially in the snow and ice, hiking can take much longer. Plus, my camera obsession means multiple stops looking for the perfect shot along the way. We also took time to fly our drone into this really awesome ice cave on the top of a mountain during the hike. Be on the lookout for that video coming soon! (Aka subscribe to the blog).
It got intensely fogging at as we got closer to the top and it was also starting to snow pretty hard. Being on a tight schedule, we decided to turn around. On the way back, we noticed some things that we missed on the way up. There were actually World War buildings and caves built into the mountain. There were leftover turrets and broken down walls. We were hiking in history and didn’t even realize it when we planned the trip. Pretty cool to be honest.
If you love hiking like I do, make sure you check out these quotes about hiking to find some inspiration!
The Dolomites provide multiple different hikes for different skill levels. While my husband and I love hiking, we are in no way mountaineers, and I have too many injuries to be a crazy hiker. That limits our ability to do some hikes that we would like to do. I mean, heck, I’d climb Everest if I had the ability to train and complete something like that, but alas, an adventure of that amount of intense physical grandeur and ability will never be in the cards for me. However, the Dolomites was! Both of the hikes that we went on were relatively short. One we spent about an hour and a half on a relatively easy trail in the snow that took us to a World War(s) memorial.
The Dolomites have a pretty interesting history too. They were the site of battles during both World Wars.
While there, my husband and I actually hiked to a World War Cemetery. It was an interesting experience because more than 2000 soldiers ashes were put into a giant urn in the middle of the room. It was very solemn inside. The other crazy thing was that we were standing there as Americans looking at the graves of mostly German and Italian soldiers. Our country caused those deaths, and, even though they were always the enemy.
It gave me a whole new perspective of war. Those were people. Thousands of dead men and women, buried in that one room. Enemy or not, evil or not, those were people just like you and me. They had families and friends. Many likely did not even want to fight, they could have felt that there was no other option in life or they were drafted and forced to fight.
More information about the battles in the Dolomites can be found here.
The world becomes a smaller when you travel. You realize that there are people over there like there are people here. They feel, they desire, they love, they hope, they hate, they hurt. There’s a lot of people in this world, but in the end we all are just human.
No matter how big the world seems, the people are the same on both sides of it. I think that’s one of the most important things that travel has taught me.
So go book a cheap trip to Italy, forego the cities for a few day, and go enjoy nature! Getting away from the cities can be a nice break, and the scenery is to die for. Also, just a final reminder why you should visit the Dolomites, see some extra beauties below.
Hiking in Northern Italy in the Off-Season
The downside of it being the extreme off-season was that the farther North we went, the more things we found were closed. Italy is known for its incredible food, but Eric and I found that we were hungry. Every time we got hungry, it wasn’t in sync with the times that things were open. Northern Italy seems to take this huge, annoying siesta from 1pm-7pm. We couldn’t find anything but bars (with closed kitchens) open! While this makes sense from an economic perspective, our stomaches didn’t care.
If you do decide to travel North in the off-season, bring snacks to get you by. Another thing that was closed was the cable car that we were planning to take to the top of the mountain for the start of a hike. We really didn’t plan on that being closed (terrible website really). Actually the whole town in the middle of the Dolomites was like a ghost town in November. However, we found hikes and did our own thing and were fine. Overall, hiking in Northern Italy was one of the highlights of our trip!
The Language in Northern Italy
One more thing that was unique about hiking in Northern Italy was that Italian was no the main language spoken! Even though we were still in Italy, the farther north we went, the more Germany was spoken. Many of the towns had street signs that were written first in German with the Italian translation under it. Although many people in this area are trilingual (Speaking English, Italian, and German), knowing a little bit of each language can be helpful for getting around. You can still get by with English, but it’s good to know the common German phrases for “Thank you” (Danke), “You’re welcome” (Bitte), “Water” (Wasser, pronounced “Vasser”), “Please” (Also bitte), etc.
Even with all of those things, the Dolomites and Northern Italy were an incredible experience for us!