The Dolomites

Day 3

Our bus driver, Sauro, who would be with us the entire tour, picked us up in Varenna and off we went towards the Italian Alps. Our group only took up a little over half the seats on the bus, so there was more than enough room to spread out (especially if you were already spending too much time with your travel partner!) and plenty of opportunity to move around and sit next to others of the group. While there was a toilet on the bus, Sarah and Sauro requested that it be used only in extreme emergencies because it wasn’t easy to find a place to ‘off-load’. This wasn’t an issue, and I can say that with confidence given that I drink at least two cups of coffee every morning. On every trip between cities, we made at least one bathroom stop and as Sarah commanded “at least TRY to go pee!”.

On our way to Castelrotto, we stopped in Verona and Bolzano. In Verona, we took advantage of our time and followed Rick Steves walking tour. RS Italy guidebook (included when you sign up for a tour!) was invaluable on this trip and we used his audio tours whenever something else wasn’t provided. Our lunch consisted of gelato in Verona!

In Bolzano, despite closed roads due to road construction, we (thanks to Sarah and Sauro’s navigation) visited the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology, where Ötzi the Iceman ‘lives’. The unique way in which he was naturally preserved is incredible, not to mention all of the things researchers have been able to discover about his way of life and history.

From Bolzano, we continued to climb into the mountains. The architecture became more and more Austrian and less Italian. The steep hillsides were terraced with grapes and apples and we started to see more castles nestled in the hills. The light was fading as we entered Castelrotto, but we did get a glimpse of the Dolomites!

After getting settled into our hotel rooms, we gathered again to walk to our dinner destination. The atmosphere in the restaurant we went to was decidedly Austrian. I had a wonderful pasta with salmon sauce, though a little salty, and apfelstrudel for dessert. Sarah was sitting next to me and kept my wine glass topped off, which always makes the evening extra enjoyable.

Day 4

We had the whole day free to ourselves to enjoy the Seiser Alm area. Nearly everyone elected to go for a hike on the Alpe di Siusi even though the weather wasn’t entirely cooperative. Guided by Sarah, we took a bus up to Compatch, then gondolas up to Alpe di Siusi, and finally a chairlift up to the start of the hikes. I don’t think I’ve ever been on so many different forms of transportation in such a short time! A few of us who wanted to do a more challenging hike peeled off from the group and had quite the bonding experience! (Want details?) This was definitely the beginning of lasting friendships.

After an exciting 9 mile hike in the Dolomites, we were soaked, shivering, and exhausted, but very happy to return to our hotel and trade adventure tails with the group! We had happy hour at the hotel during which we reintroduced our buddy to the group, in an effort to help us remember names and get to know everyone a little better. Some hilarious mistakes actually cemented a few names in my head. Dinner tonight was on our own but between RS and Sarah’s recommendations, many of us ended up at the same restaurant.

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