Italy every time has blown me away! From my first trip before I was really into photography; the culture, language and FOOD amazed me and was my European highlight. I've been lucky to have come back twice since. Recently I returned on a whirlwind adventure in the north with my friend Simeon. Our goal was simple - Mountains! Climb, Photograph, Rest and Climb and Photograph some more.
These exceptional views stood before us, and these are just behind the scenes of the final shots which I'm slowly releasing over the next few months.
We started in Spain finishing up a project there, Simeon and I had a few free days so we decided to do something crazy! Mixing together our love for nature and mountains and only being 18 hours drive away we decided the place to visit was here. The amazing Alps - the Italian Dolomites. We hatched a plan. An itinerary developed in a few hours and smoothed it as best we could on the adventure towards the Italian Border.
Our first and only stop was kind of on the way and was needed to fit into Simeon's ever growing collection of world famous bridges. This bridge blow is the Millau Viaduct in the south of France; it also happens to be the tallest bridge in the world.
This bridge was a bit difficult to photograph as there was heavy construction going on for what appeared to be a visitors centre and we lost a lot of light so finding a vantage was made even trickier. It was impressive and worth the stop spanning over a vast valley between the two ranges either side. Finishing our final shots the French police came along and told us we couldn't take photos here so quickly we packed up and continued on before they decided to tell us to delete anything.
Continuing on our journey we pressed towards the Italian border but had to pull over and spent probably the most uncomfortable night of our adventure curled up in our hire car in a rest stop in France. Can I mention also the scariest night possible of our trip I won't get into the details but lets just say France can be scary!
I'll speed up the rest of the trip by giving you the advice - It will be cheaper, faster and healthier to fly to Venice or Milan and Hire your car there unless you have a lot of time. The Tolls added up to at a guess AU$400, Fuel AU$250 and way too much roadside food (which wasn't the most terrible thing being in Europe).
Finally we made the destination and Man was it wow!
Val di Funes stretched before us after a series of winding one lane roads which weren't one lane; Up dead ends and a few google maps mixups. This sight was what I expected of quintessential Northern Italy. Mountains lay backdrop to a collection of anachronistic houses and numerous dotted churches splayed among them.
Parking in sort of a field I think was the way to go and hiking the rest of the way gave us a unique view of the valley. I would suggest a AWD or 4WD car for some of these areas as art of gravel or slippery grass/mud can be present.
The next spot on the list was Tre Cime National Park which if you only have limited time has some of the best views in the Dolomites very close to one another. Scaling Tre Cime was the first thing we did. Stupidly with no gear but we decided to anyway. With no designated path and just shale most of the way it was a tough but rewarding climb. I would suggest if you do it in a big group to wear a helmet and be careful as many loose rocks were dodged successfully and unsuccessfully. The sight was really phenomenal and rewarding but wasn't quite what we were after but makes a good story and was enjoyable. (next 2 photos)
Going down was much easier sliding/surfing on our bottoms when it wasn't our feet gracefully to the bottom. This is why I always try and hike in long durable pants, saves your legs big time!
Several of our hikes over 2 days were around here with continuing amazing views - Unfortunaltey the weather was blue sky and the photos weren't as dramatic as they could be. Just means I need to come back... Right?!
The weather here was sensational however - Cool enough for hikes and warm enough to not chill in the mountain breeze. If you're a photographer and want to visit you must be aware during the month of July when we where there the days are really long. After such a long drive we had to wake up at 4 am to start hiking for sunrise and for night time not getting back to the hotel till 10-11 after hiking back from 9 pmish Sunset. Which means the places to eat were really limited; the food in Cortina d'Ampezzo in the heart of the Dolomites where we stayed was still sensational with only the pizzas available after 1030 we didn't care. Sipping on a mix of Aperol Spritzes (my fave summer drink in Italy), Cold Beer after hikes and sensational Italian wine with a simple slice of Italian goodness was heaven!
This spot below was on our departure after the 2 days of trekking we headed off to one more sunset hike. Before that we made a short midday Pitstop on Lago De Braise - You've probably seen way to many Instagram shots here right?! Still it was pretty sensational to dip in with this view.
I should mention if you plan to visit allow a lot longer than you think to drive as the roads are ever windy and if road works or a crash catches you it takes hours to conquer in the mountain roads. 10km can take 2 hours.
Our final Hike. I. Almost. Died.
Not having trained enough after 3 days of exhaustion and hiking my calves gave in. I almost had to scream as we got to halfway of part 1 of the two ascents to the Vajolet Towers. Simeon the tank was fine for this bit and thankfully he pushed me on when I was ready to quit. So important to have a buddy when you climb even if its just for this. Burning through the pain after 20 or so minutes of torture, my body exploded with energy. At the start of the second ascent, (scrambling up sheer rock faces hanging only to fixed pitons and steel wire) I could bound ahead again. I like to think I traded places and returned the help to Simeon at this point who looked like he traded my struggle town on the second half.
The view was one of my all time fave views here however so I am so glad we made it just in time for sunset. Unfortunately it got blocked by a cloud towards the end but we didn't care. We just were so glad in conquering the mountain, never ever take it for granted because it may look easy but always brings unexpected challenges.
We ended up climbing up in a record time of 45 minutes + maybe a little bit which was probably why we suffered a little as well. Always leave a bit more time so you don't have to rush for a sunset.
These views mixed with the food and challenge of the exploring made this my top 3rd favourite travel experience.
The unique culture of the Alsatian region was another highlight showing off the diversity of Italy. I think I could spend the rest of my life exploring this region if I have time and can't wait to go back and share more of it. If you want to know anything about this region or Italy and our experience including hotels, car hire, locations comment below and I will answer them.
If you leave your Instagram handle too if you have one and I will check your account out. 😊 happy travelling!