La Dolce Vita
The author and his running partners set out to discover whether the Dolomites’ trail and hut systems measure up to Italy’s proud legacy
Janine Patitucci and Amy Rasic running the Alta Via 1 Trail on day one, nearing the Civetta. Photo by PatitucciPhoto.
I have never had a problem being Italian. Overly dramatizing trivial events and swinging my hands when I speak (loudly) come quite naturally. And, like most Italians, I love to broadcast, advertise and generally promote my Italian heritage. We are a proud people. A visit to Italy reveals why Italians do it right. Consider: Armani, Ferrari, Michelangelo, Rome, prosciutto, espresso, pizza and pasta-La Dolce Vita!
In the summer of 2006, my wife, Janine, our friend Amy Rasic and I traveled to the Dolomites of Northern Italy to find out if the trails, mountains and huts would prove as fantastic as all other things Italian.
The Dolomites feature massive towers and peaks of light-orange- and gray-colored dolomitic limestone. It is an idyllic landscape with tiny villages dotting narrow valley floors, and sheep and dairy cows wandering the green, grassy hillsides that suddenly terminate at the bases of the stone walls.
We chose a section of the Alta Via One Trail, the premier high route through the Dolomites’ most dramatic peaks and landscapes, linking villages, roads and huts.
Beginning near the northern town of Dobbiaco, the trail winds its way south, staying high in the mountains and connecting a series of huts until it reaches Belluno 150 kilometers later. Thanks to the well-worn path and relatively mild terrain, it is one of the easier long trails in the Dolomites and makes a great running tour.
Lacking time to do the entire Alta Via One, we began near the middle and worked our way north. Our entry point was Agordo, a town near the base of the Civetta, an El-Capitan-like wall of dolomite. Three thousand feet of steep trail straight up from the car put us on a high plateau and linked to the Alta Via One Trail.
A newcomer to European trails, Amy, a certified Rolfer from Bishop, California, was in awe at the sheer relief and at how the trail led us among gothic-like formations.
Five miles into the Alta Via, we arrived at a Malga, or family owned mountain-dairy hut. Spread throughout the Dolomites, these working farmers offer fresh milk and cheese, dried meats and sometimes coffee to hikers.
“Now I see why you didn’t seem concerned ab out carrying food in our packs, ” said Amy, as the crowded hut came into view.