We had spent the night in the Ampezzo National Park next to the ruins of a famous hunting lodge that had been built by Irish Countess Lady Emily Howard-Bury and her American millionairess friend Anna Potters-Pott. (I’m not making this up) Originally it had looked more like a castle than a lodge but it had become a victim of WWI when burned down by the Austro Hungarian side to prevent the Italians from using it. Apparently soldiers from both sides would gather there peacefully together looking for food.
This was going to be a busy weekend. A national holiday, the feast of the Assumption, and we were heading to what’s probably the most beautiful and popular part of the Dolomites, the Tre Cime du Lavaredo or Drei Zinnen both languages being spoken this far north.
The village of Misurina had a camp site and camper park at the beginning of a toll road leading into the iconic peaks that are featured in most illustrations of these mountains. We started up early again to give Tranny cold air around her/his radiator on the climb.
The campsite and parkup were rammed but we slid into a vacated place and did our best to fit in while we showered and washed clothes etc.
After a day of domestic chores and watching the constant stream of motor home coming and going we resolved to get the first shuttle bus to the Refugio where campers pay 36€ to park overnight ,and follow a trail that goes all around the base of the celebrated peaks. It was a repeat of the queue for Marmolada cable car except we had the dogs as well. A mighty scrum altogether.
The bus journey saved us about 7 km and 600m ascent and when we got there the expensive car parks were filling up and were obviously a real earner making the conservationists calls to shut them down to limit the pressure on the mountains unlikely to succeed.
But immediately you could see why everybody wants to go there.
What did though was getting back to discover that the €10 parking ticket we’d put on Tranny wasn’t enough to stop us getting a €30 fine for putting a camper in a car park. By now the town was heaving and with clouds gathering and rain forecast it was time to pull out. We made it out of the valley to the north and against a stream of traffic, up another a little further west the Val do Braies Vecchia.
It started to rain hard just after we had parked up outside some abandoned buildings which we sussed out had been victims of earthquake.
Over our 10 days in the Dolomites we had hiked in 6 different National or Natural Parks and even in the honey pot areas of mass tourism their was an awareness of their special need for conservation. Those white towers of stone, flower filled alpine meadows and vast green forests have been beautiful for millennia, long may it last.
The come down from our figurative and literal high was bad. We needed to cross Italy from east to west. The general busyness had persuaded us to give up on visiting the Lakes and head for the Valle do Susa in Piedmont on the way to France.
I’m not used to traffic jams and not very good at dealing with them. We alternated between motorway and A roads trying to find some space to drive through. The desperate situation was alleviated by the fact that the flashy Ferraris and Porches weren’t going anywhere at the same speed as us.
Eventually, for unknown reasons, it cleared enough for Tranny to prove her/him self again by cruising for hours at 120kph. And through a deluge. We felt like storm chasers as we belted along the edge of the strangest cloud formation.
Luckily Serena was on hand to guide us to a place of safety. Our parkup guide had listed somewhere just off the motorway as an “art city” although it didn’t appear in Lonely Planet or any of our maps. It was just what we needed to escape a rainy motorway at dinner time.