Monthly Archives: August 2014

Food Valley

From the Academia Barilla presentation:

Located between the pointed peaks of the Alps and the green slopes of the Apennines, there is a vast plain created by the gentle waters of the great Po River, the largest in Italy. To the west you will find the farmlands of Piedmont and Lombardy, the land of rice fields and pastures; while to the east the Po River delta fans open before it joins the Adriatic Sea. At the center of this expansive territory, covered with rows of trees and streams, tended to like a garden, you will find the Italian Food Valley.
The fertility of the land, ancient traditions and entrepreneurial spirit of its inhabitants have given birth to incredible food products. In the province of Parma and nearby Reggio Emilia and Modena, you can find many of the best local salumi, Parmigiano Reggiano, pastas and vegetable preserves in all of Italy. Parma has always been considered the capital of the area, with its culinary specialties that are known throughout the world. Since the Roman Age, there has been a demand and an appreciation for aged prosciutto from Parma. During the High Middle Ages, the Benedictine monks started producing Parmigiano Reggiano and it is still made the same way today. Beginning in the 19th century, Parma became the center of an industrialized food industry, thanks to the mechanical companies located in the region and the extensive network of steam-powered trams. In fact, there were over 110 miles of tracks, connecting the major production sites of the city to the national railway and river port of the Po. And in 1877, a small bread store opened named Barilla, today the world’s leading industrial pasta producer and Europe’s leading baked-goods producer. In the 20th century, the Parma also became home to the Stazione Sperimentale delle Conserve Alimentari, (or Experimental Station of Food Conservation), the Food Conservation Fair, a precursor to today’s Cibus – the International Food Fair – and the many Consortiums created to protect local products like Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma and Culatello di Zibello. And to further Parma’s fame as a food capital, the city was selected in 2003 to be home to the headquarters of the EFSA, European Food Safety Authority.

Well, this year after a long time, we had the opportunity to visit Cibus (sorry, I’m late considering the fair was held in may!) A friend had some passes for VIP visitors and we really enjoyed the event….

We had every aspect of italian very best represented…..panettone

Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese….

olive oil………..

many regional traditional cheeses….

of course pasta…………

traditional balsamic vinegar….

The stands were funny, colorful and appealing….

There was even a Miss Mortadella!

This below is the stand of our friend….

We had the opportunity to attend a lesson about chocolate…..the best part? eating the results of the work of the maitre chocolatier. of one of Italy most know chocolate companies…

Very interesting also was to watch and listen to two of maybe the most famous chefs we have in Italy, Granfranco Vissani (in the middle)

and Carlo Cracco

The day we were there (it was the first day opened to the public, before it was a  two days only for professionals in the sector) there were also celebrities in many fields who have personal sponsors in the food industry. We had the chance to meet Max Biaggi and Jorge Lorenzo

Alvaro Bautista

and Carolina Kostner

Too bad there were so many food and sweets I couldn’t taste…….but just watching…it was a feast for the eyes!


Posted by on August 31, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Food for the soul

Not only for the soul……great dishes we had, following friends’ advices and the hotel manager suggestions….

Goulash soup

Saffron and prosciutto risotto

Beef steak with honey, saffron cream and saffron bread with caramelized pears

A big canederlo on goulash

Beef steak and chicken with polenta and mushrooms

Pork steak with herbs, potatoes and polenta

Frozen fruits and pumpkin ice-cream

Breadcrums with apples and pine kernels with blueberries and cream

Pork shank with potatoes and canederli

Sliced pork meat with potatoes, egg and cheese

Pizza with maize dough

Canederli, potatoes ravioli and mushrooms ravioli

Orecchiette tyrol style, with mushrooms and sausage

And a good lunch among the mist and the clouds at an alpin hut…..grilled sausage with potatoes, radicchio cream ravioli, and cake

Luckily for us, we also walked a lot…………..

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Posted by on August 29, 2014 in Uncategorized



A few days in the mountains – Part 5

The last day we were tired of ups and down, so we decided to discover the area near our hotel. First stop was the Castle of Andraz.

The fortification, castled on a rocky spur to the border between the Patriarchy of Aquileia and the Diocese of Bressanone, dominated the roads that leaded to the Falzarego, particularly those from south (Belluno and Agordo), from west (Bressanone and Val Badia) and from north (Ampezzano). In tight communication with other small fortresses (Rocca Pietore, Selva in Cadore, Avoscan), it was part of a system that guaranteed therefore the total control on the traffic between Agordino and Val Pusteria. The first historical references are from about the year 1000, but we have to wait for the documentations from 1221 to have some most precise news. In that year, the bishop of Bressanone gave it to the feudal family Schoneck (in italian Colbello). It passed then to other lineages (Avoscano, Stuck), always vassals of the bishops-counts, until, in 1416, it returned under the direct dependences of the latter. Since then it was used as small military garrison under the command of a captain. From this period, it to remember the bishop-philosopher Nicola Cusano who chose the safe castle to spend long stays meditating.

In the XVI century the importance of the fortress grew, due to the apprehension of the bishops towards the expansionistic politics of the “Serenissima” Republic of Venice, that then began to turn its attention toward the hinterland. The area here was in fact particularly rich of natural resources, especially of lumber and mineral, partly extracted in the near proximity to the castle. The changes in the  political conditions following the Napoleonic wars, but also the exhaustion of the mining resources, caused the decay of the castle that, abandoned, began to seriously collapse and was damaged during the first world war.

Indeed distinctive is the architectural structure, due to the fact that it actually rises on a rocky spur. To the fortress it was possibile to enter only by a ramp of stone (today partly recovered) that put in communication the various overlapped floors.. For the restocking, they resorted, due to this, to the use of a winch. Around the spur there were surrounding walls, that besides the clear defensive functions, allowed also a space for the stables. On the ruins of the walls, are still  visible the shelves that supported the chemin de ronde. Near the main entry there was a sixteenth-century chapel  (devoted to St. Raffaele), whose precious wooden altar is now kept in the church of the near village of Andraz. The castle was restored many times. The most remarkable intervention was in the years 1484-1488 after a fire. In this occasion, to the detriment of the military functions, less and less useful, those administrative were strengthened, giving particularly attention to the aspects of a residential use. Other interventions were those in1516, after a further fire, and in the 1599.

The Superintendence for the Environmental and Architectural Preservation of the region of Veneto has recently conducted an imposing and avant-garde restoration of the ruins. We enjoyed the final results, and as you can see, when we were there, so it was an artistic exhibition about the First World War (being this year its centennial, there are exhibitions everywhere) by the local painter and sculptor Franco Murer.

I didn’t expect to find these little flowers on the castle stones…we called it “velo da sposa” (bridal veil) but its scientific name is Gypsophila paniculata……

From and to Arabba, we passed several times this little village called Colle di Santa Lucia (here from the opposite side of the valley….isn’it a charming view?)

Finally we stopped and had a walk through it………..

Once called Puchberg o Wersil (and later Fursil) we have documents of Colle di Santa Lucia since 1145 when it was included in the possessions of the Bishop of Bressanone and run by a captain residing in the Castle of Andraz. In 1177 there’s the first evidence of the Fursil mines that with their iron provided for the wealth of the entire region, and in that year the locality was transferred under the power of the Novacella Abbey with the right to collect taxes.  With the Birth of the Austrian Empire, in 1803 the Bishop of Bressanone looses his powers to the Austrian Counts so the area changes master again and it was annexed to the Kingdom of Bavaria and then to the Kingdom of Italy (Napoleonic) and back to the Counts of Tyrol.

This one below is Cesa de Jan (in ladin language) or Chizzali-Bonfadini Palace, built in 1612 for housing the administration of the Fursil mines by the Chizzaly family and then home of the venetian branch of the family called Bonfadini. A typical example of the Tyrol style is the bay window, in local Language erker, an unusual one is the mullioned window. The gratings are made by the same iron extracted from the Fursil mines.

This is the little white church we often saw from far away, the adjacent cemetery a serene and peaceful resting place….

This region is deeply rooted in its past, beginning with the language all of the population speaks, youngs and elders. Ladin is a language consisting of a group of dialects (which some consider part of a unitary Rhaeto-Romance language) mainly spoken in the Dolomite Mountains in Northern Italy in South Tyrol, the Trentino and the province of Belluno. It is closely related to the Swiss Romansh and Friulian. The precise extension of the Ladin language area is the subject of scholarly debates. A more narrow perspective includes only the dialects of the valleys around the Sella group, wider definitions comprise the dialects of adjacent valleys in the Province of Belluno and even dialects spoken in the northwestern Trentino. A standard written variety of Ladin (Ladin Dolomitan) has been developed by the Office for Ladin Language Planning as a common communication tool across the whole Ladin-speaking region, but it is not popular among Ladin speakers. Ladin should not be confused with Ladino (also called Judeo-Spanish), which, while also Romance, is more closely tied to Spanish. The name derives from Latin, because Ladin is originally a vulgar Latin language left over from the Romanized Alps. Whether a proto-Romance language ever existed is controversially discussed amongst linguists and historians, a debate known as Questione Ladina. Starting in the 6th century, the Bavarii started moving in from north, while from the south Gallo-Italic languages started pushing in, which further shrank the original extent of the Ladin area. Only in the more remote mountain valleys did Ladin survive among the isolated populations. Starting in the very early Middle Ages, the area was mostly ruled by the County of Tyrol or the Bishopric of Brixen, both belonging to the realms of the Austrian Habsburg rulers. The area of Cadore was under the rule of the Republic of Venice. During the period of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and, after 1804, the Austrian Empire, the Ladins underwent a process of Germanization. After the end of World War I in 1918, Italy annexed the southern part of Tyrol, including the Ladin areas. The Italian nationalist movement of the 19th and 20th centuries regarded Ladin as an “Italian dialect”, a notion rejected by various Ladin exponents and associations, despite their having been counted as Italians by the Austrian authorities as well. The programme of Italianization, professed by fascists such as Ettore Tolomei and Benito Mussolini, added further pressure on the Ladin communities to subordinate their identities to Italian. This included changing Ladin place names into the Italian pronunciation according to Tolomei’s Prontuario dei nomi locali dell’Alto Adige. Following the end of World War II, the Gruber-De Gasperi Agreement of 1946 between Austria and Italy introduced a level of autonomy for Trentino and South Tyrol, but did not include any provisions for the Ladin language. Only in the second autonomy statute for South Tyrol in 1972 was Ladin recognized as a partially official Language.

Below is one of the many museums of ladin traditions in the region, the one we visited.


It was just a few days escape, the weather didn’t cooperate too much, we were forced to leave home our bike, but it was a very nice trip. Stay tuned for more about typical dishes….


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Posted by on August 28, 2014 in Uncategorized



A few days in the mountains – Part 4

Another stunning view we enjoyed was from the top of the Giau Pass……and the ascent wasn’t bad either….

The Giau Pass is known as one of the most beautiful Dolomites passes. It is famous not only because it was one of the stages of the Giro d’Italia, but also because during the year here take place some important competitions like the Ronde Dolomiti Bellunesi rally and the Maratona dles Dolomites, a single-day bicycle race.
Therefore it is not by chance that the Giau Pass is loved by cyclists and bikers, who enjoy the challenge of the difficult climb through endless hairpin turns up to the top, where many trekking trails begin. Here, after all this effort, you will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the basin of Cortina d’Ampezzo, with the mountains Tofane, Croda Rossa, Pomagagnon, Croda del Lago, and further away the Tre Cime di Lavaredo and the Croda dei Toni. In summer the Giau pass is the starting point of the trekking trails that go up to peaks like the  Nuvolau, the Averau, the Cinque Torri or the Cernera. Here too passes the Haute Route n.1, that starts from Lake Braies and ends in Belluno. The Giau Pass, connecting Cortina to Selva di Cadore, is one of the most legendary among the passes of the Giro d’Italia. The road on the side of Selva di Cadore is especially known as one of the hardest to ride, while the road on the side of Cortina, while shorter, is challenging nonetheless. In winter ski lovers can take the Lagazuoi-Cinque Torri ski lifts, only two kilometers away from the pass. The Lagazuoi-Cinque Torri is the starting point of the First World War ski tour and of the Dolomiti Super Ski resort, and here skiers can enjoy the sky runs of the Val Zoldana too.
The Giau Pass is also the ideal place to practice snowkite, a still little known free ride discipline involving skis and a kite.

Obviously at the top there’s a shelter, and obviously owned by a biker…..

Down again the road, but on the other side of the mountain, we drove under a heavy sky towards others well known destinations….

Lake Misurina  is the largest natural lake of the Cadore and it is 1,754 mt above sea level.. The lake’s perimeter is 2.6 km long, while the maximum depth is 5 m. Near the lake there are about ten hotels with accommodation for around 500 people.The particular climatic characteristics of the area around the lake, make particularly good air for those who have respiratory diseases. Near the lake is the only center in Italy for the care of childhood asthma. Lake Misurina is where the speed skating events were held during the 1956 Winter Olympics of Cortina d’Ampezzo – the last time Olympic speed skating events were held on natural ice.

There are at least two different legends associated with Lake Misurina. In the first one, Misurina is a little capricious and spiteful girl who lives literally held in the palm of the hand of her gigantic father, the king Sorapiss that, to fulfill another desire and obtain for her the magic mirror from the Queen of Monte Cristallo, he is transformed into a mountain. During the last stages of the transformation he sees his daughter fall and her tears flow like rivers and form the lake beneath which his daughter will forever lie with the magic mirror. In the second one, Mesurina (who is later nicknamed) is a daughter of wealthy merchants from Venice who send her away in the mountains by her father anxious not to fulfill a prophecy that would see the girl give away all their possessions. Following some tragic amorous events than vaguely reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, the girl dies, and she is recognized on the point of death by a lover whom she met in bloom and from whom she was brought away by deception from the stables of his father and a servant sent by him.

From there we drove through a valley up to one of the most famous places in the Italian Alps, on a toll road among deers, fawns and eagles up in the sky…..too bad I wasn’t quick enough with my camera….Hubby continued the tradition of having photos taken at all the highest points we visited….This is the shelter (2333 mt of altitude) at the base of all the possible ascents and via ferrata……

The Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Italian for “the three peaks of Lavaredo”), also called the Drei Zinnen (German, literally “three merlons”), are three distinctive battlement-like peaks, in the Sexten Dolomites. The three peaks, from east to west, are: Cima Piccola/Kleine Zinne (“little peak”) – Cima Grande/Große Zinne (“big peak”) – Cima Ovest/Westliche Zinne (“western peak”). The peaks are composed of well-layered dolostones of the Dolomia Principale (Hauptdolomit) formation, Carnian to Rhaetian in age, as are many other groups in the Dolomites. Until 1919 the peaks formed part of the border between Italy and Austria. Now they lie on the border between the Italian provinces of South Tyrol and Belluno and still are a part of the linguistic boundary between German-speaking and Italian-speaking majorities. The Cima Grande has an elevation of 2,999 metres (9,839 ft). It stands between the Cima Piccola, at 2,857 metres (9,373 ft), and the Cima Ovest, at 2,973 metres (9,754 ft). The first ascent of the Cima Grande was on August 21, 1869, by Paul Grohmann with guides Franz Innerkofler and Peter Salcher. The Cima Ovest was first climbed exactly ten years later, on August 21, 1879, by Michel Innerkofler with G. Ploner, a tourist. The Cima Piccola was first climbed on July 25, 1881, by Michel and Hans Innerkofler. The routes of these three first ascents are still the normal ascent routes; the Cima Piccola’s route is the most difficult of the three. Emilio Comici was the first to climb the north face of the Cima Grande in 1933 in a party of three, after an ascent time of 3 days and 2 nights. This partly overhanging northern face is considered by climbers to be one of the great north faces of the Alps.


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Posted by on August 27, 2014 in Uncategorized


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A few days in the mountains – Part 3

One day we thought it was time we paid tribute, if only for our friend S. who lost three family members there.

Longarone is now a neat and clean little village on the banks of the river Piave. There is evidence of Roman presence in the site of Longarone. In the regions of Fortogna and Pirago have been discovered tombs, and at Dogna, a burial site with coins, rings, bracelets, clay jars and a plaque dedicated to a person called Asclepius. Remains of a Roman road were also found. But the early story of the city is not clear until the establishment of the municipality by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1806. In the Middle Ages and modern era, the city was subject to the social and political events taking place in Belluno, being dominated by several groups and families, such as the Vescovi, the Ezzelino Romano in 1250, the Scala family in 1300, the families of Carrara and Visconti and the Venetian State domination in 1420. Longarone was the site of a battle in World War I, in which a few companies of German troops lead by Erwin Rommel successfully captured an entire Italian division of over 10,000, retreating after the Battle of Kobarid (Caporetto). Rommel was awarded his Pour le Mérite medal for this achievement.

Of the old village all that remains is the City Hall, restored and standing as the only evidence of what once was. On the front, a painting of an old watch stopped at the moment of maybe the worst tragedy my country has ever saw.

The Vajont Dam is a disused dam, completed in 1959 in the valley of the Vajont River under Monte Toc (Toc Mount). One of the tallest dams in the world, it is 262 m (860 ft) high, 27 m (89 ft) thick at the base and 3.4 m (11 ft) at the top. On 9 October 1963, a massive landslide caused a tsunami in the lake, the overtopping of the dam, and 1910 deaths. This event occurred when the designers ignored the geological instability of Monte Toc on the southern side of the basin. Warning signs and negative appraisals during the early stages of filling were disregarded, and the attempt to safely control the landslide into the lake created a 250 metre (820 ft)megatsunami (ten times higher than predicted) that brought massive flooding and destruction to the Piave valley below, wiping out several villages completely. On 12 February 2008, while launching the International Year of Planet Earth, UNESCO cited the Vajont Dam tragedy as one of five “cautionary tales”, caused by “the failure of engineers and geologists”.

Of the 1910 victims of the tragedy, 487 were children under the age of 15 (the youngest just 21 days old), an entire generation cancelled. Now the local school is dedicated to them.

We visited the museum, full of evidences by the few survivors, the documents that testify that the tragedy was an announced one, the photos of the disaster and the damage left, the years of the controversy on who to blame (a very few paied for their mistakes and not that much considering the tragedy) …an impressive and very sad visit, but an interesting one.

Then it was time for a visit to the Monumental Cemetery where the victims were buried, all gathered in families……We searched the entire field until we found the aunt, the uncle and the little cousin (he was just 1 month old) of our friend S. He was 18 at the time, living with his parents not too far, and he went there with his father to give a hand recovering the bodies…….he doesn’t talk much about that, still shocked by what he saw…Hubby and I were too young to remember this tragic event, we read and saw everything on tv over the years, but being actually there was really different, even our voices were low and hoarse walking between the graves…..

We drove down to the Piave valley and up again to the other side, just opposite Longarone, where once was the top of the Mount Toc, the part of the mountain that fell into the dam. A plaque remembers the date, 9 october 1963, and the time, 10.39pm……….

The dam was built by SADE (Società Adriatica di Elettricità, English: Adriatic Energy Corporation), the electricity supply and distribution monopoly in northeastern Italy. The owner, Giuseppe Volpi di Misurata, had been Mussolini’s Minister of Finances for several years. The ‘tallest dam in the world’, across the Vajont gorge, was conceived in the 1920s to meet the growing demands for industrialization, but not until the confusion after Mussolini’s fall during World War II was the project authorized on 15 October 1943. The dam and basin were intended to be at the centre of a complex system of water management in which water would have been channeled from nearby valleys and artificial basins located at higher levels. Tens of kilometres of concrete pipes and pipe-bridges across valleys were planned. In the 1950s, SADE’s monopoly was confirmed by post-fascist governments and it bought the land despite opposition by the communities of Erto and Casso in the valley, which was overcome with government and police support. SADE stated that the geology of the gorge had been studied, including analysis of ancient landslides, and that the mountain was believed to be sufficiently stable. Construction work started in 1957, but by 1959 shifts and fractures were noticed while building a new road on the side of Monte Toc. This led to new studies in which three experts separately told SADE that the entire side of Monte Toc was unstable and would likely collapse into the basin if the filling were completed. All three were ignored by SADE. Construction was completed in October 1959, and in February 1960, SADE was authorised to start filling the basin. Throughout the summer of 1960, minor landslides and earth movements were noticed. However, instead of heeding these warning signs, the Italian government chose to sue the handful of journalists reporting the problems for “undermining the social order”. On 4 November 1960, with the water level in the reservoir at about 190 metres (620 ft) of the planned 262 metres (860 ft), a landslide of about 800,000 cubic metres (1,000,000 cu yd) collapsed into the lake. SADE stopped the filling, lowered the water level by about 50 metres (160 ft), and started to build an artificial gallery in the basin in front of Monte Toc to keep the basin usable even if additional landslides (which were expected) divided it into two parts. In October 1961, after the completion of the gallery, SADE resumed filling the narrow reservoir under controlled monitoring. In April and May 1962, with the basin water level at 215 metres (705 ft), the people of Erto and Casso reported five “grade five” Mercalli scale earthquakes. SADE downplayed the importance of these quakes. SADE was then authorized to fill the reservoir to the maximum level. In July 1962, SADE’s own engineers reported the results of model-based experiments on the effects of further landslides from Monte Toc into the lake. The tests indicated that a wave generated by a landslide could top the crest of the dam if the water level was 20 metres (66 ft) or less from the dam crest. It was therefore decided that a level 25 metres (82 ft) below the crest would prevent any displacement wave from over-topping the dam. However, a decision was made to fill the basin beyond that, because the engineers thought they could control the rate of the landslide by controlling the level of water in the dam. In March 1963, the dam was transferred to the newly constituted government service for electricity, ENEL. During the following summer, with the basin almost completely filled, slides, shakes, and movements of the ground were continuously reported by the alarmed population. On 15 September, the entire side of the mountain slid down by 22 centimetres (8.7 in). On 26 September, ENEL decided to slowly empty the basin to 240 metres (790 ft), but in early October the collapse of the mountain’s south side looked unavoidable: one day it moved almost 1 metre (3.3 ft). There is no known record of any warning or evacuation order being issued to the populace. On 9 October 1963, engineers saw trees falling and rocks rolling down into the lake where the predicted landslide would take place. Before this, the alarming rate of movement of the landslide had not slowed as a result of lowering the water, although the water had been lowered to what SADE believed was a safe level to contain the displacement wave should a catastrophic landslide occur. With a major landslide now imminent, engineers gathered on top of the dam that evening to witness the tsunami.

At 10:39 P.M., a massive landslide of about 260,000,000 cubic metres (340,000,000 cu yd) of forest, earth, and rock fell into the reservoir at up to 110 kilometres per hour (68 mph), completely filling the narrow reservoir behind the dam. The landslide was complete in just 45 seconds, much faster than predicted, and the resulting displacement of water caused 50,000,000 cubic metres (65,000,000 cu yd) of water to overtop the dam in a 250-metre (820 ft) high wave. The flooding from the huge wave in the Piave valley destroyed the villages of Longarone, Pirago, Rivalta, Villanova and Faè, killing around 2,000 people and turning the land below the dam into a flat plain of mud with an impact crater 60 metres (200 ft) deep and 80 metres (260 ft) wide. Many small villages near the landslide along the lakefront also suffered damage from a giant displacement wave. Estimates of the dead range from 2,000 to 2,500 people, and about 350 families lost all members. Most of the survivors had lost relatives and friends along with their homes and belongings.

The dam was largely undamaged. The top 1 metre (3.3 ft) or so of masonry was washed away, but the basic structure remained intact and still exists today, as you can see below. Where there was water, not there are trees and bushes…..

Along the path that leads to the dam, colored little flags, reporting the names and age of the 487 children who died that day, the white ones for the unborn babies…..

It’s really impressive that this giant, that caused such a tragedy and so much pain, is still there, solid and bold…..someone says it must be demolished, I think it should stay as a reminder of the human stupidity and greed…

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Posted by on August 26, 2014 in Uncategorized


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A few days in the mountains – Part 2

From Arabba, if you choose the other road, you can drive up to the Falzarego Pass.

The Falzarego Pass stands at  2.117 mt of altitude and it mainly connects Andráz and Cortina d’Ampezzo. From the pass, starts also SP24 (Strada provinciale del Passo di Valparola) directed northbound to Val Badia passing below Sas de Stria and through Valparola Pass.The name Falza Rego means false king in ladin and refers to a king of the Fanes, who was supposedly turned to stone for betraying his people.A gondola rises to the Lagazuoi (2762 m.), which was the object of heavy combat in World War I. The tunnel that the Italians built under the Austrian lines is open to the public.The Falzarego Pass is one of the Dolomites mountain passes riders cross in the annual Maratona dles Dolomites single-day bicycle race. As riders proceed directly from the Falzarego Pass to the higher Valparola Pass the Falzarego is not counted as one of the canonical seven Maratona passes.

From here the road leads to one of the most famous place in the Alps, Cortina d’Ampezzo. Located in the heart of the Dolomites in an alpine valley, it is a popular winter sport resort known for its ski-ranges, scenery, accommodations, shops and après-ski scene. After the scheduled 1944 Winter Olympics had been cancelled because of the Second World War, it hosted the 1956 Winter Olympics as well as various world cup events and motion pictures. Much of 1963 classic The Pink Panther, the progenitor of the series, was filmed in Cortina. One of the memorable James Bond stunt sequences in 1981’s For Your Eyes Only, gunners on spike-wheeled motorcycles chasing Roger Moore on skis, was filmed on its slopes, as were several scenes in the film Cliffhanger. It is also known for its jet set and aristocratic European crowd. In the Middle Ages, Ampezzo fell under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Aquileia, and of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1420, the village was conquered by the Republic of Venice. In 1508 it was conquered by Austria, and by 1511 people of Ampezzo swore loyalty to the Emperor Maximilian. Although remaining a Habsburg possession until 1920, aside from being home for an ethnic German-speaking minority, Ampezzo never became a German-speaking territory and conserved its original language, Ladin, a Rhaeto-Romance Language. Until 1918, the town was part of the Austrian monarchy (in Austrian region after the compromise of 1867), head of the district of Ampezzo, one of the 21 Bezirkshauptmannschaften in the Tyrol province.

 When Italy entered the First World War in 1915, most of the male inhabitants were fighting for Austria on the Russian front. Six hundred and sixty-nine (669) male inhabitants (most of them under 16 or over 50) tried to fight the Italian troops. Outnumbered by the Italians, they had to retreat. After the Austrian recovery in 1917, the town was occupied again by the Tyrolese Standschützen. Following Italy’s victory in World War I, Ampezzo was finally given to Italy. After the war the city was renamed “Cortina d’Ampezzo” (Curtain of the Ampezzo Valley), adopting the name of one of the six villages that made up the territory of Ampezzo, located in the middle of the Ampezzo valley. Already an elite destination for the first British tourists in the late 18th century and early twentieth, Cortina d’Ampezzo became a favourite resort for upper-class Italians as well after World War I. After the winter Olympics were held there in 1956, Cortina became a world-renowned resort, experiencing increased mass tourism. Cortina Airport was built for the Games, but is currently closed.

We choose a very bad day to drive up the Sella Pass. However the view and the road were amazing….The Sella Pass (2240 m) is a high mountain pass between the provinces of Trentino and South Tyrol and it connects the Val Gherdena in South Tyrol and Canazei in the Fassa Valley.

(poor hubby under the rain….)

Luckily for us, going down the weather improved a lot and we stopped at a belvedere to admire the valley below….

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Posted by on August 25, 2014 in Uncategorized


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A few days in the mountains – Part 1


This summer (though I wonder if we indeed had a summer…..) our vacation was limited to a few days not so far from home. My mil conditions are worsening very fast and even if she has a care woman living with her, and our daughter was home, we were unconfortable with being too far for too long….We had a very hard time finding the right destination because everywhere the forecast were so bad and when we decided which place, we had to re-think about going on bike, it would have been too much driving up the mountains under the rain and with that cold….Our “base camp” was the village of Arabba, in the North of the region veneto, under the Alps… reach it we had to drive along the Gardena Pass….

At an elevation of 2,137 m (7,008 ft) above sea level, the pass connects Sëlva in the Val Gardena on the west side with Corvara in the Val Badia. The road over it comprises part of the famous Sella Ring, in which four linked passes (Gardena, Sella, Pordoi, and Campolongo) encircle the spectacular Sella group. The route becomes busy with tourists, motorcyclists, and cyclists during the summer. There are tourist accommodations on the pass itself, and hikers visit the pass to access the dramatic Dolomite mountains.

Here is our hotel in Arabba

Surrounded by the most beautiful mountains of the Dolomites, there is the Livinallongo valley ( Fodom in ladin language) , with its most important centre, Arabba ( Rèba in ladin language, 1612m ), overshadowed by the imposing Group of the Sella mountains. The past of Arabba is not well known.There remains a confused memory of an apocalypse, maybe a pestilence, maybe a flash flood, certainly a catastrophe from which only two families were lucky enough to escape; one on the mount Pizzach and the other on the opposite mount Cherz. One night, a member of the first family would have lit a fire and the second family would have replied, lighting their own fire: in this way the two families would have found one another, and the village would have risen again. As in every legend, there is probably a grain of truth in this one, and the name Arabba serves to confirm it: in the ladine language Arabba is “Rèba”, a word derived from “royba” meaning landslide or from “rebia” meaning avalanche and also an overflowing torrent. For a long time Arabba and Livinallongo were under the dominion of the prince bishops of Bressanone , in 1796 under the control of Napoleon and then returned in 1815 to become Austrian territory. However with the end of the First World War, Arabba and Livinallongo became Italian territory. Up until the First World War, the economy and the general culture were oriented around the German language, therefore Italy’s annexation meant joining a political, cultural and economic reality completely different from the one experienced until that time. Arabba is a very small village, just hotels, a few restaurants, the tourist office, all around the main place where a church consecrated to the apostles Pietro and Paolo was built in the second half of the seventeenth century.

Beside the Church the only attraction of the village is an old mill, hidden behind a house…..Where for centuries the people of Arabba had ground rye and barley was some years ago at risk of ruin. The municipality of Pieve di Livinallongo financed the restoration work. Now, the mill is in perfect working order, it is an evidence of past generations and a mechanical masterpiece with its sculpted wooden gears.

And obviously there’s a very well furnished shop that sells a huge selection of grappa and local spirits…

Even if at 1612 mt of altitude, Arabba is nevertheless in a valley, and to go around you have to drive through one pass or another…..the Pordoi Pass is maybe the better known, if just for the fact that the Giro d’Italia passed here many times….Pordoi is located between the Sella group in the north and the Marmolada group in the south. The pass is at an altitude of 2,239 m (7,346 ft), and the road crossing the pass connects Arabba (Livinallongo del Col di Lana) with Canazei (Fassa Valley). It is the highest surfaced road traversing a pass in the Dolomites. A memorial to Fausto Coppi stands at the summit of the pass.

Down towards the valley on the other side of Pordoi, there’s Canazei. Its name derives from the Latin word cannicetus (cane thicket) and is the base station for many excursions and rock climbs to the Sella, Marmolada and Sassolungo Groups.

From here you can easily reach the Marmolda and the Fedaia.

Marmolada is the highest mountain of the Dolomites, and it’s located about 100 kilometres north-northwest of Venice, from which it can be seen on a clear day. It consists of a ridge running west to east. Towards the south it breaks suddenly into sheer cliffs, forming a rock face several kilometres long. On the north side there is a comparatively flat glacier, the only large glacier in the Dolomites the Marmolada Glacier. The ridge is composed of several summits, decreasing in altitude from west to east: Punta Penia (3,343 m), Punta Rocca (3,309 m), Punta Ombretta (3,230 m), Monte Serauta (3,069 m), and Pizzo Serauta (3,035 m). An aerial tramway goes to the top of Punta Rocca. During the ski season the Marmolada’s main ski run is opened for skiers and snowboarders alike, making it possible to ski down into the valley. Paul Grohmann made the first ascent in 1864, along the north route. The south face was climbed for the first time in 1901 by Beatrice Tomasson, Michele Bettega and Bartolo Zagonel. Until the end of World War I the border between Austria-Hungary and Italy ran over Marmolada, so it formed part of the front line during that conflict. Austro-Hungarian soldiers were quartered in deep tunnels bored into the northern face’s glacier, and Italian soldiers were quartered on the south face’s rocky precipices. As glaciers retreat, soldiers’ remains and belongings are occasionally discovered. It’s not by chance that there’s a little but interesting musueum dedicated to WWI

Situated at 2054 m. there’s Fedaia Pass. The area features the presence of the imposing artificial embrace defined by the dam which blocks the top of the Avisio valley, from which a 1.85 km lake originated. The Fedaia Pass, in view of the Marmolada glacier, is well attended in summer and in winter. Lake Fedaia lies at the base of Marmolada. It was also used as a location for the film Italian Job.



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Posted by on August 25, 2014 in Uncategorized


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