The Scenic Great Dolomite Road Italy

Think Italy and the mind naturally wanders to consider the great city of Rome, one of the world’s most historic cities. Then again, there is Florence, a truly beautiful and artistic city that is a joy to behold. Or Venice, a romantic town built upon small islands that one simply must visit.

Italy has many faces, and it is in the north where mountains dominate the landscape, that you can do one of the prettiest drives in all of Europe.

The Great Dolomite Road, is a spectacularly scenic route which runs between Bolzano, in the west, and Cortina d’Ampezzo.

The Strada delle Dolomiti as it is called in Italian, and the Dolomitenstrasse, in German is a 140km (86 miles) journey with a plethora of stunning views. The road curves around some of the highest peaks in the Dolomites, including the 3,343m (10,968ft) tall Marmolada, as it winds its way through a scattering of mountain villages and ski resorts before dropping out of a high pass into Cortina d’Ampezzo.

The town of Bolzano is located 154 kms (92 miles) north of Verona. By heading north from Trentino into the Alto Adige region, you’ll find yourself in a place that doesn’t resemble Italy at all. In fact, the town is closer to Innsbruck in Austria than it is to Verona.

During its long history, this pretty town at the confluence of the Talvera and Isarco rivers has been ruled by the bishops of Trentino, the counts of Tirol, and the Hapsburgs, to name but a few. The town has only been part of Italy since the end of World War I. As you explore the narrow streets and broad piazzas and stroll through the parks that line the town’s two rivers, you get the sense that, with its gabled, Tirolean-style houses and preference for Germanic dialect, the city is still more Teutonic than Italian.

The road can be treacherous so if you are mad you can drive yourself, or if you are crazier you can ride one of the local buses. Whichever method you choose, you are in for a heart-stopping drive. Once past the Marmolada you approach the tower of Sassolungo. Then directly ahead the stunning ‘Stella’ mountain group looms above and to the left. The road continues to wind its way ever upwards until you finally reach the summit at the Passo Pordoi.

From here you descend to Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy’s best known mountain resort and location of the 1956 Winter Olympics. Even without its 145km (90 miles) of ski runs and 50 cable cars and chairlifts that make the slopes easily accessible, Cortina would be one of Europe’s most appealing Alpine towns.

The surrounding Dolomite peaks are simply stunning as eighteen of them rise more than 3,000m (10,000 ft.). It is an expensive place to visit, but worth the effort and certainly a most attractive place to finish your journey along the inspiring Great Dolomite Road.

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