This is part two of our journey of summer 2019. For part one, click here.
After the clean, cool mountain air in the mountains around Kranjska Gora, we set our sights on the land of pasta: Italy. We have an old friend living not too far from Venice, so that would be our next destination. Heading across the border, the landscape was not immediately "Italian", if that's actually a thing. But, what a scenery! After a bit of driving down a long, narrow valley, it soon opened up to a massive river canyon, with almost postcard-like villages dotted around the sides. When we drive, we never follow the highways, but we do sometimes have to follow major roads, as was the case now. Luckily, after a brief time-out in one of the aforementioned postcard villages (weather was getting warmer, so dogs needed some air, and we got to check out a beautiful old church) we turned away from the bigger roads.
Our trajectory would take us a bit more north than we would need to, but that turned out to be very lucky for us. We passed a place called Passo della Mauria (keeping in mind that we had plenty of time and the dogs needed a walk), and found an old road leading up to a small fortification from WW1 called Ricovero Miaron. If you're a history buff, the north of Italy is packed with historical places, we'll be coming back to that later. We followed the road for a while, and arrived at a small site that used to house artillery, and also packed one hell of a view of the valleys on both sides of the pass. With the dogs having spent some energy, the drive continued.
Later in the day, we arrived in the village of Breganze, where we would spend the next week. With the temperatures above 30 Celsius every day, the dogs mostly stayed around the house to rest, while we explored the region. We got to see Verona and Venezia, and of course enjoy pizza and the local wine (Breganze produces really good wine, if you're into that), but the one place that we want to highlight is Monte Grappa.
Monte Grappa is a mountain peak, with the highest point at 1775 m above sea level. The road to get there is twisty and steep, but the view alone is well worth it, as well as getting into some cooler mountain air after the heat of the lowlands. We also got some really good views of mountain goats, which was awesome. What really stood out though was the hallowed graveyard at the peak, where over 12.000 soldiers from WW1 are buried. The complex is massive, and very well made. The area also serves up a bit of history lessons, as well as being a starting point for many hiking trips.
After an awesome time in Breganze, it was again time to hit the road. Our next destination was Cortina d'Ampezzo, in the heart of the Dolomites, serving as a perfect staging area for the next days' adventures. On the way there though, we had a small stop planned in the very scenic Val di Funes in southern Tyrol, and the incredibly photogenic church of st. John of Nepomuk. We were aware that Dolomites is a very popular place, especially in summer, and we started to see that in Val di Funes. More buses were on the roads, and a lot of people walking around, so we didn't spend too much time here and instead headed off further north. Arriving in Cortina d'Ampezzo late afternoon, we checked in at Camp Rochetta and found a quiet spot with a good view (not too difficult actually). The thing to notice about Italy, is that here you pay for dogs in the camp sites. Camp Rochetta is a very nice place though, and not too expensive. It's also very close by foot to the centre, if you're not travelling by car.
The next day we were back to our usual travel schedule of getting up early in the morning, with good reason as we would find out later in the day. Our goal for today was Lago di Sorapis, high in the mountains, and it really paid off to start early. We got to the parking lot around 8.00 in the morning, and there were already about 10 cars parked there. The trail started nicely enough on a forest path, slowly winding itself along the sides of some smaller mountain tops, and we did find one or two small creeks so the dogs could drink, even some snow banks that had not melted yet. Soon the trail started getting narrower though, and climbing more. One part was nicely made with stairs and chains to hold on to and soon enough we arrived at the top of the trail, and immediately got our breath taken away. Lago di Sorapis is the remains of a glacier that melted away ages ago, and the layer of mud at the bottom gives it a beautiful, rich blue colour that we last saw in the Soča Valley in Slovenia. Pair that with the alpine peaks surrounding the lake, and you have a recipe for beauty. As we came early, we had relative peace and quiet to walk around the lake and choose the best spot for pictures and some food, but soon it started getting crowded. It seemed most people would arrive in time for lunch up at the lake, and on the way down we were meeting people in droves. If you plan on seeing this wonderful place, definitely plan on getting there early in the day. With this awesome place behind us, we went back to the camping to rest, and get ready for the last day in Italy.
As per usual for us now we got up early, and again it paid off. No long hikes planned this time, but we would visit one of the most popular places in the area, namely Lago de Braies.
Honestly speaking, Lago di Sorapis was much prettier, and the scenery much more stunning. What makes Lago di Braies very popular though is the easily accessible location: you can park your car more or less on the shore of the lake. There's a big hotel, and a restaurant of course, and you pay a few euro for parking, but if you do get there early in the morning, when the lake is still and clear, it's worth it. There's only the dedicated photographers there in the morning, and it's quiet enough to enjoy the peace. Around 9 though we were not so alone anymore, and soon there were at least two couples getting their wedding photographs taken, as well as one lightly dressed model getting her feet wet in the cold water. Feeling a bit crowded, we got back in the car and went in search of a quieter place. We did contemplate doing the walk around the iconic Tri Cime di Lavaredo, but didn't feel like paying the 30 euro for parking, nor meeting the likely large crowds of people there either. Instead, we headed for Passo Giau.
Passo Giau is situated 2.200 meters above sea level, and when we arrived there in mid June, the snow had barely disappeared. The air was fresh and clean, with a slight chill to it that necessitated wearing sweaters, but we loved it. The view was great, and with the clear weather we could see for miles around. There was a lot of people around, but they soon disappeared either along one of the many trails in the area, or just hovered in the main area getting a coffee. We found ourselves a small hill, and enjoyed the scenery. After a cup of coffee and local cake, we followed the insanely twisting roads down again to Camp Rochetta, and our last night in Italy for now.
The last part of the journey went through Austria, with one night spent at a cosy campsite in the middle of the woods. Returning to Slovakia, we could look back at an awesome time on the road, visiting or passing through at least one country each that we have never been to before (and for our dogs, three new!). Slovenia, with its rugged mountains and beautifully clear water was perhaps the highlight, as it felt less touristic than the Dolomites, but Italy definitely didn't disappoint us. Slovenia felt more dog friendly, people were happy to see them, and we didn't have to pay in the campsites. That's not to say that people frowned on us for bringing them in Italy though. In the end, we had a really good time on the road and saw some incredible places, and after relaxing for a while in Slovakia, the time has come to look for new adventures. Keep an eye on the blog for more trips in the future!
In love with Lago di Sorapis
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