1 Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.
3 For the Lord is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
Desperate to escape the oppressive heat that has arrived so early this year, we booked a couple of nights in the mountains. More specifically amongst the Dolomite Mountains in the SudTirol region of Northern Italy. Having stayed in a little village called Maranza on our way to Germany a month before, the easiest option was to go back. We considered the little family-run pension where we’d stayed previously but instead chose an Airbnb apartment to give ourselves a bit more space.
Stopping off at Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm)
We were surprised by a few spots of rain as we tackled the 3km walk to collect Monica’s car. On one hand, we were grateful that it didn’t rain too hard, but given the extreme heat and drought currently being experienced in Italy, it would have been a good problem to have.
We had a fairly significant delay on the autostrada due to what appeared to be an accident. The amount of traffic, particularly the number of trucks, that move along the European freeways are unreal, so when there’s an issue, it tends to bring things to a standstill. One time we even had the truck drivers taking out their pots & pans to cook in the middle of the road. Fortunately this time, the delay wasn’t too bad and apart from a brief break for coffee, things went smoothly.
About an hour before the end of our drive to Maranza is the Alpe di Siusi. Being one of the most well-known landscapes in the area, we decided to take a break and check out what the hype is about.
Alpe di Siusi is a Dolomite plateau and the largest high-altitude Alpine meadow in Europe. Located in Italy’s South Tyrol province in the Dolomites mountain range, it is a major tourist attraction, notably for skiing and hiking. It is located in the western part of the Dolomites and has an altitude between 1,680 m and 2,350 m and extends for 52 km² between Val Gardena to the north, the Sassolungo Group to the north-east and the Sciliar massif to the south-east, which with its unmistakable profile is one of the most famous symbols of all the Dolomites. Given the vastness of the area, from here it is possible to admire a large number of mountain groups: among others, the Sella Group, the Rosengarten group and the Marmolada. The Marmolada is the mountain that achieved notoriety earlier in the month when an enormous glacier broke off, killing at least 10 people.
During the summer months, the road from the villages of Siusi at the bottom to Compaccio is closed to vehicles, so we parked at the bottom and caught the cable car up to the hiking area.
On arrival on the plateau, we were dumbstruck at the beauty surrounding us on all sides (and the number of people hiking the trails in every direction). The hiking was easy, but we were still happy to reach the mountain refuge, Ristorante Laurinhütte, where we could replenish our sugar and caffeine stores with a café macchiato and apple strudel whilst marvelling at the famous picture postcard views.
Another view of the Dolomites at Maranza
It was good to have a short drive for the final leg of our journey. Our previous arrival at Maranza was wet and misty, so we were grateful for the clear blue skies and blown away by the stunning scenery. Lea’s apartment where we were staying turned out to be a lot bigger than expected. It was a short walk down the hill to the local bakery and just as convenient across the meadows to the bottom of the cable car to take us up the mountain.
Mountain summit & glacial lake in a day
We caught the Gitschberg cable car as far as we could and then embarked on the steep track up to the summit of the Gitsch mountain at 2,510m. If you’ve read our post from early June you may recollect that we climbed the same mountain then https://mitchell.news/2022/06/02/__trashed/. The upward climb seemed much quicker than last time – possibly because it wasn’t misty and we didn’t have the same level of uncertainty about where we were going, and we didn’t have to navigate patches of ice as they’d all melted. The clear blue skies made for a very different experience and the wild flowers that had appeared up the slopes were very pretty. Nothing could have prepared us for the stunning views at the summit!!
Instead of backtracking as we had before, we chose the path down the other side of the mountain, with the intent of heading to a glacial lake in the next valley. The track down was rocky and slippery, a little more technical than expected. The narrow pass over the ridge of the mountain reminded us of walking along the ridges in the Northern Territory whilst tackling the Larapinta Trail in 2021. By the time we reached the contour path that head around the other side towards the lake, we had our hiking legs and we enjoyed traipsing along the edge of the mountain, passing a few groups that were finding it rather challenging. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-niD-k5TdZc
The appearance of the brilliant blue water of the Seefeldsee from across the valley was sufficient reward for the tough walk. It was even better to be able to take the track around the lake, enjoying the vistas and greeting a number of fellow hikers along the way.
We didn’t stop as we were keen to head over the crest of the next hill and down into the valley to one of the mountain refuges commonly found in the area. Getting down was a little tedious as we navigated the switchbacks, but we did cheat in a few places and take some shortcuts. We made it Rifugio Wieserhütte about ½ hour before they were due to close the kitchen, but Walter missed out on chips with his wurst as they had run out. Glenda’s yogurt and fruit went down a treat as did the café macchiato.
The rest of the hike was easy albeit long. We followed a service road through the valley and came out on the road into Maranza near our apartment. We stopped off to change shoes and enjoy a coffee before heading off to the bakery and supermarket to stock up on food.
A detour to Jochtal
Included in the tourist card issued by our accommodation was another cable car up the Jochtal Mountain. The base of the mountain was a short drive from Maranza, so we decided to make the most of the free ride before heading back home to Florence. The drive turned out to be a little longer and more hairy than expected –the main road was closed, and in typical Italian style, the detour was narrow. Catering for 2-way traffic (including campervans) on a dirt road barely able to cater for a single vehicle, made for lots of stopping, starting, reversing and patience. In spite of the inconvenience and the misty, wet weather, we enjoyed the trip up the mountain. Despite being able to see the Gitchberg cable car in the distance, the scenery was very different. For Walter, a highlight was honing his musical skills playing the cowbells (you can check it out here https://www.youtube.com/shorts/M5ebnsNRbv4), whilst for Glenda it was a coffee stop at the Jochtal Bergrestaurant at the top, of the mountain just as the drizzle started.
All too soon we were in the car on our way back to the heat of Florence – via an equally hot Bologna where we stopped off for Glenda to have her hair done.