Wednesday, July 19, 2017



"The most beautiful architecture on earth."  --Le Corbusier, Swiss Architect
     The Dolomites, with their impressive peaks, jagged ridges, rock pinnacles, deep gorges, and steep rock faces, lie in the eastern section of the northern Italian Alps. The highest point is Punta Penia (10,968 feet) in the Marmolada range—often referred to as the “Queen of the Dolomites.” We recently spent a few days in May in the Val di Fassa—home to this spectacular range.

Our base was the village of Vigo di Fassa (pop. 1,256)—one of the smallest of the seven municipalities in the valley. We arrived by bus from Bolzano—a two-hour ride providing spectacular scenery and dozens of hairpin turns as we rose 4,000 feet in elevation. We were dropped off about four blocks from the Mason La Zondra, our apartment for the next few nights. Although an uphill walk, the location was convenient to the bus stop for our daily excursions.

     We chose to stay in Vigo because it was recommended by friends who especially liked the cable car up to the Ciampedie Valley. It departs from the town center. Unfortunately, we didn't get a chance to enjoy the gentle hikes on top because the cable car was closed until June 1. As a matter of fact, most of the town of Vigo was closed in May; we were lucky to even find a restaurant open. It seems that the locals like to take vacation between the busy winter and summer seasons.

It was still beautiful, and we could easily ride buses to the larger and more active villages in the valley. We also loved the walks along the Avisio River that flows through the valley. I enjoyed an early morning hike to the historic Santa Giuliana church that is perched on a hill overlooking Vigo. 

The ski and summer resort of Canazei (pop. 2,000) is located at one end of the 20-mile long valley, easily accessible by bus and bike. The village, with its colorfully decorated houses and old wooden barns, is surrounded by the majestic Dolomites. It is home to the largest ski area in Europe. Cable cars take you to the top and were operating on the day we were there. It was well worth the ride up because it provided one of the most spectacular and unforgettable mountain views I've ever seen.

We didn't realize, until arriving in Italy, that the Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy) was passing through Val di Fassa while were were there. In Europe, this 21-day bike race is second only to the Tour de France in popularity, and it was celebrating its 100th Anniversary.

     We decided to head over to Canazei to see what takes place in a
small village that is honored with the Giros' Stage 17 finish line. When we arrived, there were already four bands setting up and playing music on this sun-filled morning. Flowers and decorated pink bicycles, honoring the pink jerseys worn by the daily winners, adorned the town. Vendors with food, beverages, and t-shirts lined the streets. The “people watching” kept getting better as hundreds of people descended upon the town to see the best bikers in the world roll in. They began arriving about 4 p.m. after the completion of another challenging day of pedaling 160 miles through the peaks and valleys of the Italian Alps. They still had four days remaining before the finish line in Milan.

Related Posts: Castelrotto, Italy South Tyrol - July 2015
                        Haybaths, Dolomites, Northern Italy - July 2015
                        Merano, South Tyrol Italy - June 2017