Hiking Like an Italian on My Dolomite Trekking Holiday

Hiking like an Italian on a Dolomite trekking holiday

Last Updated on 11/03/20 by Rose Palmer

I like hiking the Italian way. On a recent trip to Italy for a Dolomite trekking holiday with my husband and daughter, we discovered that in Italy, “la dolce vita” or “the sweet life”,  applies equally to hiking as it does to all other things Italian.

We decided to spend a few days doing easy hiking  on some of the many trails that criss-cross the Dolomite mountains. This mountain range sits in northern Italy, and while geologically it is part of the European alps, it is never referred to as “the alps” but always as “the Dolomites”.  Adding to its distinction is also the fact that the Dolomites are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A classic dolomite mountain view
A classic dolomite mountain view

The region is huge and covers about 550 square miles. For serious hikers, there are long distance hut to hut trails that take a week to traverse. We were not serious hikers – or at least, not that serious.

Of the many small, scenic villages in the region, we chose a home base just outside the town of Castelrotto (in Italian) or Kastelruth (in German). We were in the south Tyrol region of the Dolomites, but this land once belonged to Austria, so even though now the border had it part of Italy, there is still a very strong Austrian influence in the region. All signs are in both languages, and German is the predominant language – as is the cuisine. But there is also gelatto. The best of both worlds.

Dolomite trekking – the Italian way

For our first day we picked a hike that sounded pretty – through woods that would eventually lead past two lakes, and then climbed up to Tuff Alm where we were told there was an Alm Hutte or Hut for refreshments. (Alm is the German word for meadow). It sounded nice and pleasantly scenic and not too hard.

The hike started through woods that looked much like our woods back home-lots of pine trees with some deciduous trees and under-brush. At one point we passed through a very pastoral looking meadow that was shared by both hikers and the cows that roam freely in the mountains here.

The cows were very friendly and inquisitive. They had large bells around their necks that give out a deep clank as they move, and since the cows were moving constantly, we were serenaded by a concert of cow bells as we walked through their backyard. They also had name tags attached to their ears with names like Arabella, Albina, Lena and Israel.  Albina was particularly friendly and was happy to pose for my daughter’s selfies. Israel seemed to take quite a liking to my husband and became his hiking buddy as he followed my husband through the field.

Making friends with the cows

After about an hour and a half of trekking, we finally reached the two lakes that we saw on the map. I had imagined mountain reflections in pristine water photo-ops, but that was not to be. These were busy recreational lakes used for sunbathing, swimming and boating, with an adjacent full service restaurant – and a parking lot. No need to hike here, we could have driven!

So, we grabbed a very Tyrolean lunch of spatzle (a type of German pasta), dumplings and very good ice cream sundays at an outdoor picnic table and basked in the sunshine. The restaurant was quite busy since its location was so accessible.

After lunch, on we trekked, uphill now for another hour and a half to get to Tuff Alm. This was a nice, wide, well groomed path that just kept going up and up and up. As we huffed and puffed and sweated and were feeling proud about our achievement on the trail, we were passed by a horse and wagon, taking folks the “Italian” way up to Tuff Alm.

We’re not Italian. We continued on foot. Onward and upwards we trudged.  We finally reached the meadow, hot and out of breath at this altitude, but the view was definitely worth the climb in this case. It truly was a beautiful sight. A huge expanse of green with the towering granite mountains looming above us. All that effort had been worth it to see this.

The view was worth the climb

And at the end of the hike on the meadow was the Alm Hutte – though not really a hut. It was another full service restaurant and bar with a small outdoor stage where a concert was in full swing. The folks that had passed us in the horse and wagon were sitting there, enjoying the views, the music and their third glass of beer. A local band was playing a combination of American rock n roll, regional folk music, and polkas and groupies were singing and dancing along. If I had been Italian, I could have been dancing and drinking all this time also.

Tuff Alm Hutte – a restaurant with a view

The restaurant menu tells the story of the Tuff Alm – it’s a family run operation and their motto is “Our work is like a vacation”. Their goal is to bring that same feeling of relaxation to their guests. All their food and cakes are prepared on site and there was no “la dolce vita” for the staff as they hustled to fill orders.

We found an empty picnic table, and for at least a short while, became “Italian”. We took in the views, had a few beers and sang along to the music. After all, we had worked very hard for this reward.

I could get used to the Italian way of hiking – a horse drawn wagon to take you quickly uphill to a restaurant where you can spend the day with a beer or two or ten, a spectacular view and live music. Once the band packed up and the tables started emptying out, we decided it was time to head back down the hill also.  We could have done it the Italian way, and taken the horse and wagon, but we’re not Italian, so we did it the old fashioned American way-we walked.

You can also read about our Italian hike in the Alpi di Siusi high alpine meadow which also included a couple of stops at restaurant “huts” for refreshments with amazing views.

For information on visiting the Dolomites visit http://www.visitdolomites.com/?lang=en

Thanks for visiting.



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