Journalist Pete Coombs headed out our self-guided walking trip around the Dolomites, find out what he thought of this magical mountain landscape.
Breaking out of the dappled forest shade, with the gentle toll of cow bells flowing past me on a late summer breeze, I enter a high alpine pasture of vibrant green. In itself, this would be a wonderful sight, but what makes this a truly magical moment is the amphitheatre of jagged limestone mountains which loom high above me. I feel as if I’m enclosed within a set of impenetrable peaks which curve around me like the jaw bone of a huge Jurassic beast. Apprehensive of the trek ahead - in the same way a mouse might feel sitting on the tongue of a fox! - I scan my surroundings. I’m relieved to soon spot a path, switch backing its way to a seemingly perilously perched mountain refuge, high to my left. I am ready to enter further into the Catinaccio Mountains of the Italian Dolomites.
Comforted in knowing I have a well-trodden escape route, I sit in the September sunshine and break out some focaccia bread, baked with rosemary, that I’d queued for that morning in the local Canazei bakery, alongside children sent out before school by their mothers. Covering the focaccia in gorgonzola and sweet tomatoes, I refuel amongst the grazing cattle, wishing I’d popped a little Chianti into my backpack - yet knowing if I had, I’d probably of been more disposed to an afternoon nap than a hike! Making do with water, I climb back to my feet and head deeper into high peaks.
I can’t think of a better place for building up an appetite than the Val di Fassa, nor a country better suited to catering for that appetite than Italy. The freedom of self-guiding had allowed us to stop when we wanted; to start our day at the crack of dawn or so slip into it over a second breakfast of coffee and cake. It even allows you to deviate completely from the itinerary, but when an itinerary is put together as well as this Explore one there really is no need to do so.
See our Self-Guided Dolomites - Val Gardena and the Sella Group trip