Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Dolomites Part One--Hike to Rifugio Bergamo

I'm not the most organized person on the planet. If you've read any of my former posts, this is already a given. (losing my car key and then my tent poles being a couple strikes against me...both of which were eventually found; more on that next time) Although I may be a scatterbrain most of the time, when it comes to planning a trip, I'm usually all over it. I enjoy researching everything about where we will be going and what we will be doing; this being especially true when it comes to backpacking. I always read a ton of trip reports and look through books and almost obsessively think about exactly how things need to go. (knowing full well they rarely do)
But I had to surrender all of that if we were going to hike in the Dolomites; because as much as I tried to formulate a plan, it was just not coming together. I was overwhelmed...the area is enormous, the possibilities are practically endless, and I had no idea when or even if we would make it to Bolzono. (the gateway town to the Dolomites)
Confused in Bolzano

Most people hike at least five days when visiting these mountains, but we only had three. So I bought a book called "Shorter Walks in the Dolomites" thinking I could connect a couple of the one day routes. Unfortunately though, the maps in the book are very specific, with no way to know for sure if you can connect them safely. This was enormously frustrating for me, until I decided I just had to let go. We'd pick a day hike and hope for the best; but at least I knew we could stay one night in a Rifugio, and then head back if we had to.

This is what fascinated me most about the Dolomites."Rifugio" is the name for the boarding houses that are scattered everywhere in the mountains for hikers and climbers to use. Little hotels in the middle of nowhere; it seemed too good to be true. I had to see one for myself. (The translation is "hut", which is how I described them to Ken. Boy, was he surprised when he saw one)

After getting to Bolzono way later in the day than I wanted (my night train idea having fallen apart) with no idea of where or what bus to catch, I was glad I had finally decided on one of the shortest hikes in the book. Walk #35 (out of 50) described a relatively easy 3-ish miles to Rifugio Bergamo. (I thought that's what it said, anyway) First you got off the bus at San Cipriano, then you were to cross the street to a hotel where the hike started...weird, right? Thankfully the receptionist at the hotel spoke a little English, so when I asked her if she knew about the trail she just escorted us through the bar to the other side of the hotel where there it was right out the back door. Talk about surreal.
Just getting started and WOW!
Before long the trial brought us to a Visitor Center with, would you believe it, yet another bar. I love Italy! Fate seemed to be telling me I needed to start this hike with a drink, so we ordered the house wine and sat down to contemplate our good fortune.
The Visitor Center...
...with helpful maps

Providence did seem to be on our side when we narrowly avoided heading out in the wrong direction. (maybe the wine wasn't such a great idea) Everything was going so splendidly, until we realized I had failed to notice that getting to the Rifugio was an "extension" of the easy hike; an extra hour and a half and straight up extension. Hummm....wishing we hadn't spent that extra time at the bar, because it was beginning to get dark.

I couldn't help starting to think about not being able to find this supposed boarding house; or maybe for some reason it was closed, or full, or shut down. Our fairly heavy backpacks were basically just our vacation suitcases we had to bring along...I doubted my cute sundresses with matching flats were going to help me get through a night at almost 7,000 feet. (though the wine we bought in Cortona might)
We are going to get there, right?
Just when I was starting to feel a panic coming on, we saw a flag perched on a pinnacle. Ken got to it first, and I pleaded for him to tell me that he could see the Rifugio. The way he excitedly got out the camera told me he could.
Rifugio Bergamo
What a sight to behold...we were saved! Stepping into the Rifugio was better than I ever imagined. It felt like coming home. A warm stove, a home cooked meal, and families with children playing on the floor. (Italian kids must be pretty hard core...but then again, they were not carrying 40-ish pound backpacks!) I seriously had to keep myself from crying and giving the host a big hug.

The stove complete with hangers to dry your clothes
Even better was finding out we could make it to the place I really wanted to see the next day. Rifugio Bolzano here we come.

To go to part 2: http://kellbell-whywouldanyonereadthis.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-dolomites-part-two-hike-to-rifugio.html


  1. Wow! What a beautiful hike and amazing experience. Now I have to add The Dolomites to my must-hike-someday-list. :-)

  2. We spent an amazing week hiking in the Dolomites last July, our second trip to the region. Not nearly as dramatic as your trip, but enormously fulfilling.

  3. Hello, and thanks for this! My daughter and I arrive in Italy in exactly one month, and most of the trip is fairly obvious, except hiking the Dolomites. We'd like to do roughly 3-4 days of hiking as well. Any post trip suggestions? We'll be getting to Bolzano late in the day, so was thinking we'll need to stay there?

    Any tips would be very helpful!


  4. Hi! Thank you for the route description. I've felt overwhelmed trying to choose a 3-day trip! Do you have a map of your route, and the distances between destinations? -Dana

  5. Hi There! I am trying to plan a 3-4 day hut to hut trip with my family, and am wondering if you think the trip you did would work for families with teens and some height fears. Your trip looked great!