VENICE TO THE DOLOMITES- THE ITALIAN ALPS
While searching for a Christmas present for my boyfriend, I found some 20 euro round trip tickets to Venice. I first thought, well I've already been there. But then it occurred to me that I could possibly drive to the Dolomites for my first time. I had always dreamed of driving through the Italian Alps and my Pinterest boards had been filled with photos from the region, so here was my chance to go. We tried to cram as much in as possible in 4 days and to see as much as we could from the region... I think in order to see it all though, I'll just have to move there.
Venice is a collection of 117 tiny adorable islands surrounded by turquoise waters all linked together by bridges. It truly is one of the most romantic and charming places in the world. The quaint city also has some of the most narrow streets ever walked (one is only 53 cm wide.) The canals are the only route for transportation- the ambulances, post men, police, etc. all travel by boat on the canals. One of my favorite things of the city is how walkable it is. Although, one must be prepared with good shoes- it can begin to feel like the stair master at times (but who doesn't need a good workout after eating delicious Italian food?) We went in the low season (February) and the crowds of tourists were much smaller than other months (which is why I loved to travel in the off seasons more.) Getting lost in Venice is easy and fun, but just make sure you have a map to get home because the tiny winding streets can really confuse you. It is super helpful to have mobile data for Google Maps to navigate around.
We stayed in the gorgeous Ca' Sagredo Hotel which is a palace dating back to the 15h century and is truly a step back into history. The hotel is right on the Grand Canal and in the most perfect location in Venice- walkable to all the main attractions. The 5 star hotel is dressed with murals, vast lounge areas, and a grand staircase that makes you feel like royalty walking around. You can grab a gondola for a ride right at the front steps of the hotel. From our bedroom window we looked over the colorful canal and Venetian rooftops- welcomed by the singing seagulls and waves crashing. The hotel mimics a museum and everything from the tapestry covered walls, venetian antique furniture, to the crystal chandeliers- the hotel is magical. One of the most prestigious families of Venetian nobility, the Sagredo's, bought the castle in the middle of the 17th century. The Sagredo family was known for their passion for art, where a large collection of stuccos and sculptures amoung others pieces still live in the palace. We loved how close the hotel was to everything including the Rialto Bridge with some of the best views.
We only had half a day to wander around Venice (good thing I've basically figured out how to take pictures while walking so I can see more in a shorter amount of time.) We grabbed our car and headed North to the Dolomites. I couldn't believe that within an hour we were already in the mountains and the weather got noticeably colder. The mountain range located in the Northeastern part of Italy is a haven for photographers, skiers (and snowboarders), mountain bikers, hikers, paragliders... you name it there are sports for all tastes. The region is known to have about 300 sunny days a year and is also famous for its wine where it boasts 25 different kinds of grapes. Every little village that we passed through had a stunning church with a steeple that you can spot through the mountains from miles away. Driving through the snowy Dolomites was unlike anything I've ever seen. The jagged and dramatic cliffs had sheer drops into stunning valleys. 3 languages are spoken in the Dolomites: Italian, German, and Ladin.
We found the coolest hotel in the Dolomites! Hotel Melodia Del Bosco sits on a mountainside with panoramic views of the Dolomites which is located right in the heart of Alta Badia. The welcoming hotel has spacious rooms, giant wood balconies, and the coolest bathtub with views of the mountain peaks. We loved doing the "half board" which includes an insanely delicious breakfast buffet and 4 course dinner. We loved having our same reserved table every night and getting to know the other visitors. The food from this region is influenced by Mediterranean and Ladin culture- resulting in a delicious fusion cuisine. We enjoyed the epic wellness room with a Finnish Sauna, whirlpool, and steam bath along with a gym for those of you who didn't get enough of a work out on the slopes :) On top of that there is a cozy lounge area equipped with a fire place to relax by after a day in the snow along with a well stocked wine cellar. The hotel is surrounded by tons of different skiing towns and some of the most iconic spots in the region are just a short drive away. You'll receive the warmest welcome from the Irsara family who are so kind to give you all the best tips on places to go and things to see. We cannot wait to go back there this summer!
HOW TO GET AROUND
When it comes to traveling to the Dolomites, a car is absolutely necessary. Especially if you're a photographer and wanting to stop and take pictures every 5 seconds. We teamed up with Europcar for the weekend and had my dream car- an adorable mint colored Fiat to cruise around in. Renting with them was so easy and they hooked us up with snow chains for the trip (which we ended up having to use.) They also have some super helpful tips on their website and great ideas for trips. When you're lugging around loads of bags, camera equipment, and a drone, sometimes having a car is much easier than public transportation. Especially when in some countries the trains and buses fall short. In Italy you won't see giant trucks rolling around. The Italian way is a small car that can zip through the mountain passes (while stopping here and there for a quick espresso at the stand up coffee bars.) Make sure to always reserve your vehical in advance, especially if there is a particular car you want.