A little history & re-tracing the Italian Job

A day off for both of us today.

We’ve taken ourselves on a self-guided history trip of our area today. During the period, 1915-17 in WW1, the Dolomiti and in particular this Arabba/Marmolada area was the site of a fairly significant scrap between Italy and the Austrian-Hungarian empire. It was trench warfare at altitude. Both sides dug a huge network of tunnels through the mountains. Some were dug entirely into the side of the glaciers. As with all trench warfare, there was a lot of effort and hardship for very little gain. We saw the remnant of their glacial tunnels today at the side of Lago di Fadaio. With the glacial recession, only the barest remnants remain.

The Austrians also let off some seriously big bombs. At one site between Cortina & Alta Badia – the Col di Lagazuoi their bomb created a huge new pass through the mountains. The hole was 200m high and 140m wide!  It’s now a pass where the cable car runs through! We’ve tried to ski to Col di Lagazoi earlier this week, but the strong winds have stopped the cable car from operating. We’ll get there eventually…and now we’ll know the history when we do.

On the way home we visited a war-memorial and chapel to remember the soldiers who fought the battles in this harsh region.

We also visited a famous ice-climbing canyon called the Serrai di Sottoguda. It’s a 2km long canyon with frozen waterfalls cascading down on both sides. At the moment it is closed while the ensure that the ice is stable and will not fall on people walking on the path at the bottom of the canyon. In good snow, you can actually ski through this canyon. Definitely on the list of things to do.  Since the canyon was closed today, I found a good clip of what it’s like on Youtube.

Graeme also found a fantastic outdoor shop. Possibly the neatest, tidyest gear store he’s ever seen. Aside from A Vieux Campeur in France, this store was first serious outdoor store we’ve seen so far in the Dolomiti. It would have been rude not to have purchased a T-Shirt!!

Best outdoor gear store found so far
Best outdoor gear store found so far….Much excitement from Graeme

Lunch destination was to drive along the shore of the frozen Lago di Fadaio, which at the time of WW1 was not a lake. Some smaller alpine lakes were dammed in 1955 to create a deep alpine lake which is used to generate hydro-electricity. But most importantly for Graeme, the dam wall on which we travelled today was the location for the re-make of The Italian Job. Here’s a clip from the scene featuring the bridge over the dam wall to watch first – and then our version….sadly quite a lot less snow, although the lake was well frozen!

And THEN ….or “Allora” as the Italians say can you believe it….a Mini crossed the bridge too!   We were overcome with excitement.   We will have to download and watch the movie tonight!!

And wait...there's a real mini!!!
And wait…there’s a real mini!!!

We then found a nice sunny picnic spot to enjoy a home-made lunch. You have to time this right. The steep sided valley only receives sun during the middle of the day for about an 1.5 hours. Fortunately we got it right.

Well tonight…New Years Eve….? We confess that both of us have been going at the skiing pretty hard. I’ve skiied 13 days in a row and Graeme 12. According to the electronic record from our season’s card, we’ve racked up 383km of piste and nearly 70,000m vertical. We’ve been invited to Bar Peter for a huge degustation meal and dancing tonight. And yes… we know it will be great, given the quality of the food we have enjoyed there before and the friendly staff, but we just can’t eat that much food. We have been scarred by our Lyon over-indulgence. So we have gracefully declined and promised to visit Peter & Miriam again very soon.

I was a bit depressed by our “boring old person” decision to stay in tonight, but this morning, I received a lovely “Happy NY” email from a good friend in Wanaka.  She informed me that she & her partner were cooking up a delicious Blue Cod, sipping on a cool Bogle Chardonney and being tucked up in bed by 10am to celebrate their New Year’s Eve. I immediately felt a little less old. Thanks mate!!

We also have a cunning plan to go to one of the far-flung reaches of the Dolomites tomorrow. It will be a 1.5 – 2hr drive from Arabba. We will be going to an area called the 3 Zinnen Dolomites – The 3 Peaks and we’ll need to leave before 8am to make a day of it. Everyone has assured us that the Italians party hard on NYE and the roads and slopes will be empty. We’re counting on it!


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