Rain lashes the windshield as a shuttle van pulls up on the edge of the village of Sesto, Italy. We pile up without enthusiasm. Early September in Suttirol, just south of the Austrian border. Under the eaves of a drooling cafe, I put on my rain gear. Nadine, a shuttle driver for a local travel agency, has the rosy cheeks of an Austrian and accelerates like an Italian, but he smiles sympathetically. She will carry our luggage to our hotel for the night. “Can someone give me a ride?” she asks.
There is no taker. We are her 5 friends, all from Washington State, and he has been training for over 6 months to run the trails of the Dolomites, one of the most beautiful places in the world. No one wants to take the easy road. not yet.
As Nadine drove away, I turned to the others. I am a lifelong runner, ex-Italian resident, speaks poor Italian and the self-proclaimed leader of our group.
“I’m proud of you guys,” I say. “I could have spent the day in a warm hotel drinking hot coffee and reading a book.
And we’re off.
The first step begins modestly on a wide, gentle path. It’s a ruse. Soon the road bends towards the sky. It’s raining. The road becomes a stream. Fog covers the meadows, meadows and mountains around Val Pusteria. We have waited a year to see a view like this.
I tell myself to be patient as a thin layer of ice water drips down my back and down my shorts. I think I’ll just keep running. Always better.
find the perfect route
Trail running, a sport that takes participants from paved roads to hills and mountains, is exploding in popularity.Number of Americans who have participated in trail running tripled From 2007 to 2021, according to outdoor foundation, a division of the Outdoor Industry Association, a trade association for the recreational industry. With the boom, more companies are offering trail running vacations in the United States and abroad.
The Dolomites, an Italian mountain range with astonishing limestone spiers, delicious food and vast trails, have emerged as a top destination. Runners are now trying out some of the Dolomites Alta Via (“highways”) that are traditionally hiking routes. Many of these multi-day traverses stand up to vertical challenges enough to make even the most leggy Heidi stagger over pasta every night.
But the soft light pouring down on the larch forest, the cold beers served with a warm smile in the Rifugio alpine huts near the hotel, and the cowbell lullaby every night while lying in one of those huts. You can also I don’t have much trouble falling asleep after a long day of running.
All experienced trail runners, my friends and I weighed our options. Alta Via 1, the classic hiking route, is the easiest. AV1 also tend to spend more time at lower elevations in forests, which can be crowded. The AV2 is great, but there are a lot of steep climbs that runners have to walk on, and they don’t run as much as they would like. which one would you choose?
Igor Taberais one of the owners of Holimiteis a local organization that has been running trail running trips and other tours in the area for many years and provided the fascinating itinerary his company dreamed of years ago. Most Alta Via routes run north-south, but this one crosses the land and runs east-west. Every day for six days, the runner passes through a landscape of soft green meadows punctuated by towering rocks, often reaching elevations of 8,000 feet above the forest line. At night, the runners stay in Lifugios. Otherwise they descend to the bottom of the valley, where comfortable lodgings await. Along the way, the route connects other Altavian segments. According to Tabera, this route was easier to run than the AV2.
And he probably won’t see any other runners this week, he added.
“Sold,” I replied.
shelter in the clouds
As I trudged up on the first soaking morning, the climb reminded me of the contradictions of trail running in the mountains of Europe. That means even very fit runners need to walk a lot. The trail can be steep up and down. And run away when you can. and walk when needed.
On the first climb we deployed our running poles. That’s one of the secrets to surviving on slopes like this. Once upright, your arms can take the heavy strain off your legs thanks to this foldable, ultralight pole.morning soundtrack We climbed into the soup as we listened to the tips of the poles clattering against the rocks and rain spraying our jackets.
The rain soon stopped and the clouds cleared a little. Like a mirage, a pale building with bright red shutters atop a high saddle appeared.that is Rifugio Antonio Locatelli. we picked up the pace.
hut This system is one of the biggest reasons to run in the Dolomites. Dozens of rifugios dot the highlands, usually in postcard settings like this one, at the foot of the towering Tre Cime di Raveledo with three-fingered stones. A little relief is getting out of the rain to a clean, bright spot to enjoy a hot barley soup or an espresso.
Later that afternoon, after a long descent, we arrived at the doorstep of a simple and comfortable hotel on the edge of an Alpine lake. Our luggage was waiting at the front desk, courtesy of Nadine. Bag picked us up every night thanks to the service provided by Holimites. This allowed us to run every day with a pack containing only water, jackets and snacks, as well as plenty of change of clothes.
When the skies cleared again the next afternoon, our next night’s breakout was still five miles and a mountain away. I had no choice but to put on my rain gear again and climb through it with my chin up. But when things get tough in the Dolomites, these mountains provide a distraction. We climb past moss-covered gun emplacements and avoid ledges cut into the rock face by soldiers during World War I.
Overnight, the sky cleared of clouds. The weather turned out to be wonderful. We left our bags by the door and filled our bellies with cappuccinos, muesli and fresh bread. spots, Zoot Tirol’s excellent answer to prosciutto headed into the blue morning under the majestic peaks of Croda Rossa.
Edelweiss and delicious food
Our route required about 16-16 miles of travel each day. Holimites does not specify fitness requirements for the tour, but one truism holds true. The healthier you are, the more fun you will have. A few miles a day for a week, you’ll feel very comfortable riding in rough hills.
Every day I ran maybe half a mile to my next destination. At first this bothered me. I wanted to be able to run more. It took me a few days to readjust as a runner who came all the way to Europe just to run, remembered the mistake I had made. Savvy runners seek it all: the warmth of a mountain hut, the glimpse of edelweiss blooming along the side of the trail, the view of pale stones rising from the green lawn apron, the sweaty delight of reaching the high meadows. come to these mountains. Beyond the track for day hikers.
And always Rifugio and their food. On the third afternoon, as we climbed the high pass along Alta Via 1, a cold wind picked up and we stopped at a hut. The list of daily specials had something you might find in Paris. Pumpkin gnocchi and smoked ricotta was about €9, or $9.75 for him. Braised pork cheek with potatoes, about 14 euros. A few days later, during our longest day of running, we stopped at Rifgios three times for beers and radlers to quench our thirst for lagers and lemon sodas. Could I have tried to run farther on an afternoon like this? of course. But this was the joy of running the Dolomites. And anyway, I was pretty full.
Every night we went to bed a little earlier. And every morning, I ate breakfast a little later. I saw some hikers, but didn’t see any other runners until the 5th day, still only about 4-5.
On our last morning we woke up at the next hour. We visited Rifugio above the famous ski slopes of Val Gardena to check on the health of our group. After five days on the trail, we were all in a little pain (and one or two were in a lot of pain). But when I came up with the idea of taking a gondola to the bottom of the valley, no one agreed. The finish line is almost in sight.
We stopped at the village of Santa Cristina Gerdina for a final coffee and Nutella croissant break, passed through exclusive shops and finally made a tough climb to the Alpe di Siusi, a lush green plateau dotted with cowherds. Picturesque dilapidated chalet.
There the forest path became as wide as the road.German tourists flocked to the deck of the restaurant where we stopped for lunch. A lonely afternoon surrounded by marmots is clearly over. A slight melancholy poured in. However, I struggled to put down roots. The day was lemony and warm, and we ate with a view of the green fields that fold over the vast mountains of Sassolungo and its sister peak, Sasso Piatto, leaning against it like a shipwreck.
After lunch on this golden day, the others left satisfied with spinach spaetzle and lunchtime beers. But the road ahead stretched through green meadows. It was irresistible. I murmured an unsincere apology to my friend. Then I started running.
if you go
The Dolomites are located in northeastern Italy, near the Austrian border. We flew into Venice Marco Polo airport and then boarded the plane. Cortina Express Take the shuttle bus to a drop-off point near Badia town (approximately 3 hours). The cost is approximately 48 euros.
we booked a self guided tour Holimiteis a Badia-based company for over 20 years that offers several running itineraries and other activities in the Dolomites. Holimites is locally owned and they were very professional and helpful in answering questions as well as arranging other logistics.
Guided 7-day trail running tours in the Dolomites start at €1,650 this year. This includes escorting local tours throughout the trip, accommodation, most meals, and luggage transfer from hut to hut.
Self-guided itineraries start at €1,050 and include accommodation with breakfast and dinner, maps, detailed information on the daily route, and pre-departure briefing from a local trail expert. It is also possible to add luggage transfer to the self-guided tour (we did).
The guided version of the 7-day itinerary, the Dolomites Trail Running Traverse – Traveling from East to West, includes a day of warm-up and prices start at €1,950.
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