Hands-down one of the most magnificent places I’ve ever hiked!
I’ve always dreamed of hiking hut to hut in the Alps, literally dreamt of being on the trail and seeing those iconic sign posts. Well, my dream finally came true.
Preamble: While Italy and the Dolomites were never on “my list” per se, they were how my dream came true. In my life’s journey, I’m learning to surrender control and go with the flow, and I’m discovering that’s where life’s best rewards are. So, of course, when I find myself in a fate-directed destination (Italy), you can bet that I will carpe diem and sneak in a dreamy adventure or 2 when I can.
Backstory: I was in Venice to surprise my sister by “crashing” their cruise. Cruise, you say, that doesn’t sound like your kind of thing. True, but family time is family time, and you take it when you can get it. I’d surprised her a couple of years ago on a cruise, and when covid hit, it hit me how much I treasured that week. So I did it again. And surprisingly, she was surprised again. More on the fabulous cruise destinations later.
I bribed myself and my boyfriend into the cruise by giving ourselves the gift of a couple of days of hiking in the Dolomites. The beauty of the Dolomites is absolutely dazzling and dizzying. I’m supposed to be a writer, but I can’t even begin to do it justice with words. So I’ll let the pictures do the talking for me.
Here’s the scoop
Located in the Puez-Odle Nature Park, the spectacular Seceda ridgeline carves the rugged silhouette of the Fermeda Towers against the sky high above the charming villages of Ortisei, St. Christina, and Selva in the Dolomites.
Considered South Tyrol, this area is located in the northern part of Italy and bordered by Austria to the North (Tyrol) and East (Salzburg). It’s less than a 3-hour windy drive from the Venice airport.
A Little History: The autonomous Italian province of South Tyrol was created in 1948 when Italy annexed it following the defeat of the Central Powers / Central Empires (German Empire, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Bulgaria) in World War I. From 1814 to 1919, Tyrol was part of the Austrian Empire. And before that – well, you know how European history goes…
Today, the Austrian influence in the area remains strong, with 70% German and 25% Italian speakers. Okay, so what about the hike, you ask? Well, I’m getting to it.
We took the Ortisei-furnes Gondolo and the Fummes-Seceda Cable Car to the summit and started our hike there. We stopped for refreshments at our first rifugio (translated as refuge/shelter /haven) before we hit our second mile. A young, handsome boy wearing traditional German lederhosen served our giant size charcuterie feast . The cheese was handmade by his family, and courtesy of their free-range cattle, the bread was baked fresh that morning. (Warning, weight can happen while hiking here.)
And yes, we stopped at another rifugio and had another “little snack” with a charming Italian couple from Milan who shared their trail map and helped keep us on the right path. From there, we took the St. Jakob Church trail that eventually meandered back down to the village of Ortesei. The route we chose was 12 miles with a moderate ~1,453 feet elevation gain.
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself singing or humming the Sound of Music soundtrack as you make friends along the trail with various cows, horses, donkeys, and chickens.
Getting there: ~3-hour drive to the village of Ortisei from Venice Airport
Notes: Unless you have plenty of time to spare and are game for gratuitous elevation gain, you’ll want to take the Ortisei-furnes Gondolo and the Fummes-Seceda Cable Car. This strategy will give you ample time to explore the many trails off the summits, which naturally have the best views. The cable car and gondolas run from 8:30 AM to 5 PM, early June through mid-October. The elevation at the top is 8,200 feet so if you’re sensitive to altitude, you may want to take a some time to acclimate.
You can purchase 1-way tickets for ~$30 or roundtrip tickets if you don’t want to hike all the way down back to town. (If you are hiking for more than 1 day, consider purchasing the Gardena Card, which provides unlimited use of specific cable cars and gondolas.) Once at the top, you can choose your own adventure to fit your fitness level and interest. The main trails are well marked, and the terrain is relatively easy. A combination of altitude, incline, and duration can be challenging—know your limitations, but also know that there are plenty of opportunities to take breaks and refuel along the way. You MUST stop at the huts for the local experience and fresh-baked bread, homemade cheese, and savory sausages. Running shoes worked for me this time, but poles and hiking boots are always a good idea.
As with most popular spots, get there early to avoid the crowds.
Stay tuned for the next post on spectacular Tres Cime.