A few days before heading into Italy we decided to hire a car. We calculated the time, effort and cost of trying to get around the Italian mountains and countryside would be far more expensive and headache inducing trying to use public transport. So if you want to visit those out of the way places in Italy and go into the mountains to some quieter Italian villages then this is the most economical possibility! We also have a tent to go camping, which would keep accommodation costs down to at least a fifth of the cost of a budget hotel.
We shrugged off all the online warnings about crazy Italian drivers and booked a small Ford Fiesta through Europcar. It worked out to be around $45 a day including reducing our excess to $300 in case of an accident. It was only about $30 without the extra insurance, if you’re game! We picked up the car in Trieste, a port city that is on the border with Slovenia. Nothing to write home about, we only stayed one night here on our way through from Croatia.
And off we sped along the coast road. Italians are aggressive and defensive drivers, which suited Tom just fine as this is also his style. Having just driven for two months in a huge automatic SUV in the US, a week of driving a zippy manual compact car would be a piece of Tiramisu.
Our first stop was the small village of Codogne, north of Venice. We were here to pay our respects to Tom’s Italian ancestors on his mothers side, the Bazzo family. A small village, it was very quiet when we visited as everything closes in small towns after lunch for siesta. One small cafe was open and the lovely hostess made us some tasty toasted sandwiches. We then visited the picturestque cemetery and church area to search for the Bazzo ancestors.
From here we jumped on the autostrada – the toll highway – where it’s best to stick in right lane unless overtaking as the speed limit is 130km an hour! You will be tailgated if you don’t keep up to speed!
We stopped briefly at Farra D’Alpago, a small village on a lake and thought about camping there the night when we met a Dutch couple who suggested we keep driving another hour into the mountains to the village of Falcade. So we did! The views from the window of the looming granite Dolomite peaks are outstanding and we soon found ourselves driving on the famous Italian roads, Tom channeling his inner Mario Andretti as we wound up and around into the mountains, driving on the narrow asphalt, navigating the hairpin turns.
The temperature had dropped considerably as we found Camping Eden and set up our tent for the night. This campsite was a bargain for €16 a night, including super hot showers. It also has a cafe/ bar and does great cappuccino and brioche for breakfast.
The next day we had marvelous sunny weather and completed a scenic day hike up to the Focobon Peaks. It was such a gorgeous hike, we were all alone in the mountains with only the sounds of the wind in the trees, the birds chirping, and the mountain streams running. An unforgettable day!!! The afternoon was even topped off with Italian pizza and pasta in Falcade at an awesome local restaurant.
The next morning we enjoyed Italian Cappuccinos and pastries and on the recommendation of our host completed more hiking near small mountain village of Passo S. Pellegrino. It was a sunny and clear day and the views of the granite mountains were suburb.
Then it was time to channel Mario Andretti again to drive towards the village of Alleghe and up and over numerous mountain passes on the narrowest of narrow, 28 hairpin turn road. It certainly is one of the worlds best drives and one we shared with gangs of bikies, groups of Italian super cars and keen cyclists.
Once we reached Passo Giau at 2236 metres, it was time to get out of the car and stretch our legs and take lots of photos of the jaw droppingly, out of this world landscapes.
What goes up must come down, and we continued our decent into the postcard perfect mountain town of Cortina D’Ampezzo, the largest town in the Dolomites. Our camp for the night was the large campground, Camping Dolomiti, which had the most stunning views of mountains surrounding the valley. Unfortunately this gorgeous sunset was the last of the uninterupted good weather and for the next two days it was cloudy and intermittently wet.
We weren’t able to do anymore hiking, instead enjoying the scenery from the comfort of the Fiesta as we drove north and along the back ridge of the mountain range, bordering with Austria, stopping to admire some cute Italian/German villages such as Dobbiaco and Villabassa.
We came back into the mountains for one last night camping at the village of Canazei, famous for two churches from the 16th century, before setting off the next morning to leave the Dolomites and head towards Lake Garda.
On the way out towards Bolzano, we stopped at the magical Lago di Carezza, a bright blue/green lake bordered by scenic mountain ridges. Well worth a stop and a short hike around on the board walk pathways.
And that ends our adventures in the Dolomites. We will be back, perhaps in spring/summer to enjoy better hiking weather. This area is also a winter wonderland for skiing and other snow sports.
So after road tripping and camping in the Italian Dolomites Two Trekkers has a couple of budget tips to get you through these expensive mountain towns:
1. Bring a tent – Accomodation here is super expensive and camping is the cheapest option available. Ranging between 16 and 28 euro you wont get a better deal for 2 people!
2. Hire a car – Public transport to these mountain towns is few and far between. You’ll spend half your time waiting around for the once daily mountain bus then enjoying the actual mountains!
3. Eat Italian fresh – Wow! The local markets here have the best and cheapest cheese and deli produce we’ve seen anywhere in Europe, so enjoy while you can.
4. Moutains are free – Skip any paid tours as there are moutain trails for days. Speak to the local tourist information offices, grab some maps and head into the mountains. You can’t go wrong, especially if you’ve packed an Italian picnic.
5. Italian wine – Grab a bottle of the locals finest for 1 or 2 euro and you wont be disappointed!
If you have any other questions about traveling in the Italian mountains shoot us an email and we’d be happy to discuss!