The Great Dolomites Road – Travel in Italy by Enrico Massetti
Great Dolomite Road from Bolzano to Cortina d’Ampezzo Driving Tour
This itinerary crosses three regions: Sudtirol, Trentino and Veneto. It is a classic itinerary to visit some of the most scenic parts of the Dolomites.
The itinerary starts from Bolzano (in German Bozen), capital of the autonomous province of the same name, in Sudtirol, that lies in a fertile basin at the junction of the River Isarco (Eisack), coming from the Brenner, with the Talvera (Talfer), coming from Val Sarentina. The Isarco, thus reinforced, flows into the Adige (Etsch) to the south of the town.
The background to the east is formed by the magnificent Catinaccio group, with the Torri del Vaiolet, typical Dolomite peaks. Situated at the intersection of important through routes and at the starting point of popular mountain roads, Bolzano has a busy transit traffic, but its convenient situation and beautiful surroundings also make it an excellent base from which to explore the region.
Not far from Bolzano we cross the Brenner motorway and climb the steep gorge in the Eggen valley through which flows the Karneld stream. On a steep rocky height on the left stands Karneld Castle (13th century, restored about 1880; chapel and frescoes) that is above the village of the same name.
In Kardaun there is the Eisack power station, beyond which a road bridge crosses the Eggen valley waterfall. Then the valley broadens out, near Birchabruck (Ponte Nova; 877m/2,728ft) there is on the right a fine view of the Laternar and the Rosengarten on the left. Beyond Birchabruck the Dolomite Road leaves the Eggen valley and ascends the Welschofen valley.
The village of Welschnofen, picturesquely situated on the hillside, is popular both as a summer and as a winter sports resort. From the Hainzer sawmill a chair-lift goes up to the Frommer Alm (1,730m/5,678ft) and continues to the Kölner Hütte, (2,337m/7,679ft). From the Cologne Path (Kölner Weg) it is possible to reach in about 1.25 hours walk the Paolina Hut (2,127m/6,981ft) above the Karer Pass.
After almost 6km/4 mi we reach the little hotel settlement of Karersee (Carezza al Lago; 1,609m/5,281ft) not far above the Carezza Lake (Lago di Carezza; 1,530m/5,121ft; nature reserve), in which are reflected the rough rocky walls of the Laternar (2,794m/8,611ft) which rises in the south. In the northeast towers the Rotwand (2,806m/9,209ft). The Carezza Lake is a classic tourist destination, the walk around the lake is recommended, easy and can be done in about 20 minutes.
Passo di Costalunga
The Dolomite Road continues from Carezza Lake downhill above meadows to the Passo di Costalunga (1,753m/5,753ft) on the German/Ladin language frontier between the Laternar and the Rotwand. High above the top of the pass stands a monument to the Dolomite pioneer Theodor Cristomanos. At the Pass the road enters the province of Trento.
Vigo di Fassa
On the far side of the summit of the pass is Vigo di Fassa (1,382m/4,536ft), a popular holiday and winter sports resort on the slopes above the Fassa valley.
In the 15th century parish church in the community of San Giovanni can be seen frescoes dating from the 16th century. Above the village is a military cemetery.
Pozza di Fassa
Further up the Fassa valley in which flows the River Avisio lies the resort of Pozza di Fassa (1,290m/4,234ft), with a chair-lift to the Buffaure slope (2,020m / 6,629ft; ski-lifts).
Campitello di Fassa
Campitello di Fassa, dominated by the jagged peaks of the Langkofel, is much visited both in summer and in winter. A chair-lift goes up to the Col Rodella (2,387m / 7,834ft); it takes about 15 minutes to climb to the Rodella (2,485m / 8,156ft; TV transmission antenna; refuge hut).
At the end of the Val Lastie lies Canazei a very popular touring base and winter sports resort of the upper Fassa Valley.
A cableway leads to Pecol on the road over the Pordoi ridge where there is an extensive skiing area. A chair-lift ascends to the Belvedere (2,389m/7,841ft; refuge hut). From the Pordoi ridge the Viel dal Pan track leads in 2.5 hours via the Viel dal Pan Refugio (2,346m/7,746ft; refuge hut) to the Refugio Marmolada / Castiglioni on the artificially dammed Fadaia Lake (2,046m/6,715ft).
Alba road to the Fadaia Pass
On the road leading south from Canazei to the Fadaia Pass is the village of Alba (cableway to Ciampac, 2,136m/7,010ft; skiing area).
The road to the pass reaches the picturesque mountain village of Penia (1,556m/5,107ft) and, above Pian Trevisam (1,717m/5,635ft; Refugio Villetta Maria), continues to the Fedaia Lake and the Fedaia Pass, where the road enters the Province of Belluno in the Region of Veneto.
Pieve di Livinallongo
The Dolomite Road now follows the Livinallongo Valley watered by the Cordevole river, first along the floor of the valley and later high on the northern slope and over a gorge. Then we reach Pieve di Livinallongo, the administrative center of the extensive district of Livinallongo del Col di Lana. Southeast below Pieve is the Sacrario di Pian di Salesi, an Italian military cemetery. The road to it continues south to Caprile and Alleghe on the lake of the same name.
Col di Lana
To the north above Pieve di Livinallongo towers the 2,462m/8,080ft-high Col di Lana which can be reached on foot in three hours via the Refugio Gaetani (1,835m/6,022ft). The summit was the scene of intense fighting in 1915 to 1918; Italian alpine troops drove a tunnel under the positions of the Austrian Imperial infantry on the summit and on April 17th/18th 1916 blew it up. Near the summit stands a memorial chapel and remains of the military positions; from the top there is an exceptional panorama.
Falzarego Pass, Passo di Falzarego
Beyond Pieve di Livinallongo the Dolomite Road turns north and climbs the 2,177m/7,145ft-high Falzarego Pass, a broad depression which is overlooked on the west by the Sasso di Stria (“witches’ rock”; 2,477m/8,130ft), on the east by the curiously named Cinque Torri (“five towers”; 2,362m/7,752ft) and on the south by Nuvolauo (2,575m/8,451ft). North of the pass a cableway goes up to the Piccolo Lagazuoi (2,728m/8,953ft).
From the Falzarego Pass a road leads northwest along the beautiful Lago di Valparola to the 2,192m/7,194ft-high Valparola ridge, overlooked on the northeast by the Lagazuoi (2,803m/9,199ft), then winds downhill to Armentarola (1,640m/5,382ft); from here we continue through the charmingly situated village of San Cassiano (1,537m/5,044ft) to the village of La Villa (Stern; 1,483m/4,867ft), high in the valley of the Gader. The Dolomite Road continues in curves and S-bends steadily downhill; on the left is the mighty rock wall of Tofana.
A good 5km/3 mi beyond the summit of the pass a road branches off to the Refugio Cinque Torri (2,131m/6,994ft); from here there are climbs on the rocks of the Cinque Torri (“five towers”; main summit 2,362m/7,752ft). About 15 minutes west of the hut is the Refugio Scoiattoli (2,230m/7,319ft; ski-lift), from where a chair-lift descends to the Refugio Bai de Dones (1,900m/6,236ft) on the Dolomite Road.
About 7km/4.5mi beyond the summit of the Falzarego Pass a 6km/4mi-long military road branches off to the Refugio Cantore (2,545m/8,353ft), the starting point for climbing the 3,244m/10,647ft-high Tofana. Via Pocol we reach in 9km/5.5mi the winter sports resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo.