Dolomites Diary Day 1
14,393 steps
Trek from F├║rcia to the Piz da Peres

Since coming to the Dolomites for the first time in 2014, I have been mildly obsessed with the idea of returning. The Autumn after that first unforgettable trip, I decked my student bedroom out in everything Alpine; red and white checked bedspread, potted ferns in red and white pots, wooden deer, pine cones... anything I could get my hands on to recreate that fairytale land. My second trip occurred at the beginning of the month and this time, Michele and I went with Lizzie and Haico, who just so happen to be two of our favourite people in the whole world. 

Our first day got off to a bit of a rocky start; after setting off from Milan dead on time at 10am, we were a couple of hours into our journey when what first appeared to be smoke started streaming from the air conditioning in Michele's car. It only turned out to be steam - but then steam isn't really very good either is it? So it was a U-turn back to Milan and then onwards to Linate airport to hire a car - where we had to wait for 4 hours in order to shave off an extortionate €600 from the price. After hanging around and eating as much pizza as we could manage, then finally we were on the road again!

We took the road up to Bergamo, sweeping along to the foot of Lake Garda before coasting up in the valley of the mountains that frame the lake itself. The landscape undulated towards the mountains, the rolling hills draped in vineyards, villas and cypress trees. Outside the cicadas heralded the heat which quickly faded behind us as the mountains closed in on us and the valley narrowed, with huge biting rock faces looming up above vast swathes of rich green pines, across which the shadows of clouds hung lazily in the sun. I fell into my book (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone for the first time in over a decade!) and when I looked up, I found that the valleys had ceased to press in on us and that the sky instead had widened immeasurably over a panorama of swooping hills and distant jagged peaks. We took a swerving road that coasted a tumbling river and passed countless fields of corn (polenta), apples (strudel) and strawberries. Above us, the hills were decked in vineyards, another promise of the delicious bounty to come.

We found our home for the week, a small apartment in a chalet-style building in the village of Teodone, which sits neatly on the outskirts of the city of Brunico. Outside of the car, there was a hint of ice on the cool, fresh air which smelt so wonderfully of the countryside. The reception smelt of fresh pine wood and behind the building, a sloping lawn invited us to relax in the sunshine (which we most certainly did later in the trip!) After dropping our bags in our room, we hurried to the supermarket to load up with €100 of wine and cheese and Nutella for the week before dropping into the most glorious of sleeps, ready for our walk the next day...

Parking the car at a height of 1700m, we set out to reach our peak at 2500m. The path cut up through a rich pine forest, instantly tugging at lazy calves and thighs with its gradient. I began to feel rather out of my depth as my companions sprung ahead up the stony track like woodland nymphs, still with another breath in them to stop and admire the various flora around them and wonder what they could be. Admittedly, there were times during our two hour ascent where I almost abandoned my willpower to the temptation of tears but instead, I pushed (slowly) on and told myself that I could do it.

Because of my multiple stops throughout, I was able to feel (because it really is more than just an absence of sound) the heavy mountain silence we were wrapped in. The air quickly chilled as we climbed and the forest track fell away and was replaced by a steep, rocky (and at times, sandy) slope. Here my legs officially turned to stone and only very reluctantly pushed me onwards and upwards. Meanwhile, everything else fell away.

Despite my slow progress, every break seemed to show a newly dizzying view across the valley when I turned around to see how far we'd come. When I had finally hauled myself to the top, I found that we were perched on a narrow strip from which the ground quickly sloped away on either side. And the views - my goodness, the views! On our left, a gargantuan hunk of rock both loomed above us and plunged down into the shingle we had just toiled up. Ahead of us, the mountains sat in a wide arc, fading in and out of view and the clouds shifted around them. We sat together and enjoyed the view until the air around us cooled a little too much on our skin, and we set off again for the final push.

I quickly discovered that going up on all fours is actually much easier and more efficient than the traditional two-legged approach. In the distance, church bells sent heavy ripples of sound circling through the air around us. We took a break beneath the cross at our final peak, greedily munching a mix of dried apricots, dark chocolate drops and hazelnuts.

 Our descent took a different route down the other side of the mountain, which involve steep climbs down and certain stretches that required all hands on deck to shift ourselves down the narrow, rocky crevices. Slowly, the air warmed around us again and began to soften. The track slowly levelled beneath our feet and turned from crumbling stone to solid earth.

We began to bound downwards, practically running when our lunch stop came into view. And then it was a scenic lunch break, tucked onto the sundeck of a wooden chalet, with huge pints of radler (essentially a shandy), a big basket of homemade bread with herby, homemade butter, canderli (a typical dish from the region - big cheesy dumplings in a sage and butter sauce with extra parmesan for good measure), polenta dripping in cheese (and a salad for good measure). We clinked our tankards together, devoured our feast and then I of course added an apple strudel with vanilla cream to the order because why the hell not?

We finished lunch off with a few moments of paradise in the deckchairs with the sun warming our faces before heading on down through the forest again, homeward bound.

We finished the day by lazing in the sun-filled garden, painting and reading and easing the stiff muscles in our legs, ready for another day of hiking the following day.