Dolomites in Northern Italy 22 October 2013


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October 23rd 2013
Published: October 26th 2013
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Dolomites in Northern Italy 22 October 2013

We woke up to a very cloudy morning with a real nip in the air. Was this going to be a good day to view the Dolomites? We have been very lucky on this trip with the weather so we were thinking confidently.

After setting off at about 9.30am we drove back into Ponte nelle Alpi to have a walk around. We found a river that had sheer rocks on either side of it, a big castle on the hill and some clothes and food markets. The town was surrounded by mountains. The town itself was built in a terraced way.

We were watching the clouds. Were they clearing? After a wander around, we had lunch and started our drive through the Dolomites. We had got a couple of maps and a bit of advice from the local Tourist Information Centre.

We drove north to Cortina D’Ampezzo to get a little more information. This was a much bigger town. We then drove over a total of 3 Passes, between the elevations of 1800-2121m high. I have included a photo of the map showing were we drove.

The weather cleared. We were in luck. The sun shone. It was beautiful. When the sun shone onto the grey and white rocks of the Dolomites, they glistened. What made the view even better was that it was autumn and the trees were of brilliant colours. Magnificent! But what made it that much better was a couple of days beforehand, it had snowed and so the small crevices were still holding snow. In a couple of places there was snow on the ground.

We kept thinking “why wasn’t Kerrie & Gemma still with us”. Kerrie wanted to show Gemma snow for the first time.

We drove through, stopping many, many times to just gaze around us and take in this beauty (some might say “smelling the roses”)….and take photos too of course. All the towns along the way were gearing up for their snow season. Towns in alpine regions in Europe are always neat and very pretty in the off season. The standard of ski slopes were predominantly for intermediate and beginners, with a few advanced runs. All of a sudden I wanted to get back on the skis. We haven’t skied since Canberra days. Must put that in the ‘to do’ list.

I had finished taking my last photos up on the last Pass (Passo Gardena 2121m) and the clouds started rolling in. What fantastic timing. We had been travelling through the Dolomites with clear skies for about 4 hours. As we dropped in elevation, we came out of the clouds and saw more autumn colours and a couple of other pretty little towns.

Satisfied that we had seen a lot of the Dolomites, we headed to Bolzano which is one of the major cities in the area which had a lot of industry around the city.

We had heard and read about some thermal springs which had been developed into a spa complex in a town called Merano. It was north of Bolzano and there was a camp site near the town centre, and it was opened. So off we drove.

Meran (known as Merano by the Italians) is about 15km from the Austrian border. Merano is steeped in history and was a site of an ancient Rhaetian settlement, was an important crossroad in Roman times, and developed into a fortified centre in the early Middle Ages. It was during these early days that the thermal springs were discovered. As the years rolled by nobility and others such as Emperor Elizabeth of Austria (known as Sissi) visited numerous times to get the benefit of the thermal water. It wasn’t until 1836 when a Viennese physician published the health benefits of Meran’s climate, thermal waters and the effectiveness of the city’s grape and goat whey cures in treating respiratory tract and cardiac disease, did Merano expand rapidly. It became the most important health retreat in Central Europe.

In 2005 the Terme Merano Spa & Vital Centre opened. A large glass cube building houses multiple indoor and outdoor thermal pools. It has saunas, and a massive fitness centre. You can swim from the inside pools to the outside pools by going through plastic sluice gate while walking in the pool.

So after dinner, we walked a short distance to have a swim in these thermal waters. It was about 8.30pm when we got there so we only had an hour to float around in the warm pools and spa. We had to pay for 2 hours (12.50 Euros). It was beautiful. When I was doing backstroke, I looked up to the ceiling and saw myself. There was a mirror on the very tall ceiling. It was an incredible centre. We walked back to our motor home, very relaxed and cozy. What a great night and a very good ‘finish-of’ to the Dolomites.

The next morning the cloud was hick and it was trying hard to rain. We knew we had driven through the Dolomites just in time. After breakfast we walked through the town, wandering down several malls. Everyone was wearing their winter jackets but it wasn’t too cold.

Back to the motor home, we checked out of the camping park and drove to see some of the 8 castles close to the town. The most notable was Trauttmansdorff Castle. It had received awards for the best garden of the year. Merano is also known as the garden city so this award for one of its castles was fitting. When we arrived at the castle, we saw how big it was. We then had to decide to spend 3 hours there or be on our way up to Switzerland. The weather looked threatening so we decided to be on our way. As soon as we left the city, it started to rain so we had made the right decision.

Switzerland, here we come (back).


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