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Chiesa di Santa Maddalena in the Dolomites

Dolomites and Venice, Italy in 7 Days

Map tips: each color represents a different day. Click a marker to learn more about the spot, and click the star in the map header to save the entire map under Your Places in Google Maps.

Day 1: Venice

  • Garage San Marco
  • Bridge of Sighs
  • San Marco Square
  • Rialto Bridge
  • Ponte dell’Accademia
  • Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo
  • Chiesa Cattolica Parrocchiale dei Santi Apostoli

We arrived in Venice, Italy at 9 am, got our luggage, and walked to the rental car garage that’s attached to the airport. Drove about 20 minutes to the San Marco garage, where we had a reservation. This is the closest place you can park to the city of Venice as no cars are allowed beyond it.

We walked from the garage about 25-30 minutes to our hotel in the city, Alla Vita Dorata. Our room was ready so we checked in, changed, and headed out to walk all over the city. We knew of several things we wanted to see, but we had no plans to go into any attractions and mostly explored at random. Since it was the middle of the day, everywhere was pretty crowded (especially San Marco Square, the view of the Bridge of Sighs, and Rialto Bridge). The view from Ponte dell’Accademia was our favorite.

Venice can be seen in a day or enjoyed over several, but one day was perfect for us. Loved staying at Alla Vita Dorata – in a quiet location right on a side canal, just minutes from the main area. Very clean, great breakfast, highly recommend.

Day 2: Venice to Ortisei

  • Seggiovia Vajolet 1
  • Seceda
  • Chiesa di San Giacomo

Had breakfast, walked back to the garage, and set out for the mountains around 8:30. Our final destination for the day was Ortisei, which is 3 hours 15 minutes if driving straight there from Venice. There are numerous ways to do the drive and many options for things to see along the way: Verona, Lake Garda, Lago di Carezza (aka Karersee), Castelrotto, and the Lago di Antermoia hike.

Our plan was to do the Vajolet Towers hike on the way, which adds an hour of driving plus ~4 hours of hiking. However, there was a rock slide that had us stopped for 45 minutes and the mountains were covered in clouds. We probably would have still tried the hike, but the Seggiovia Vajolet 1 chairlift was inexplicably closed from 12:15 – 2 pm and we got there at 12: 30. We would have been there in time if not for the rock slide. There was another way to get to the towers from a different lift, but we decided to continue on to Ortisei since it was so cloudy and the lift was in the opposite direction.

Approaching the Dolomites on the way from Venice

Checked in at Hotel Angelo Engel, which is one of the best places we’ve ever stayed. Everything is top-notch and it’s in a perfect location. We got settled in and took advantage of their free afternoon tea time food and drink.

The mountains were still covered in clouds, but since the next day was showing worse weather, we decided to walk to the lift to Seceda (5 minutes from our hotel). The ride up is very expensive – about 40 Euros per person to go up and back – but it will save you so much time. You can hike up and/or down to Seceda from Ortisei to save money, but each way will take hours.

There are 2 lifts that take you all the way up in about 20-25 minutes and both are included in the price. The first is from Ortisei to Furnes and has seats for about 6-8 people (many carts, constantly going up and down). The second is from Furnes to Seceda and is standing-room only (2 large carts that separately go up or down). Make sure you know the opening and closing times of the lifts, as in the summer you can’t go up earlier than 8:30 am and the last ride down is at 6 pm.

The Seceda ridgeline in cloudy weather
The clearest view we got at Seceda

It was pretty disappointing overall – the clouds parted briefly at times to reveal some of the mountain but no clear views. More on Seceda in day 3.

Went back to our hotel and took the free mountain bikes to the nearby Chiesa di San Giacomo (Saint Jakob’s Church). Had a great view of the area but unfortunately the mountains in the backdrop of the church weren’t visible.

Chiesa di San Giacomo in Ortisei, Dolomites
Chiesa di San Giacomo

Rode back down, had dinner at the hotel (half board so breakfast and dinner are included) and called it a night. While the views weren’t what we had hoped, it was awesome to get to our hotel and visit Seceda and the church without having to drive to either. This is one of the main reasons I picked Ortisei as our first overnight destination in the Dolomites.

Day 3: Val di Funes

  • Geisler Alm
  • Chiesetta di San Giovanni
  • Chiesa di Santa Maddalena
  • St. Valentin Chapel

The mountains were still covered and it was forecasted to be that way all day so we weren’t in a hurry. We started off exploring Ortisei on foot, which is very compact and a joy to walk through. Only need about 20 minutes, but could spend a lot of time going in shops and restaurants.

We then made the 55-minute drive to Malga Zannes Zanser Alm. This is where you park to hike to Geisler Alm, which is the mountain hut in front of the mountains that may have first turned you on to the Dolomites. There are so many trails and options in the area, but if your main goal is to get to Geisler Alm and back, you can do it in a 5.6 mile loop.

When we got to the parking area (fee, they accept credit cards) and started the hike, we couldn’t see any mountains. After a few minutes, we got a glimpse of the top of one of the peaks and were both blown away and sad. It looked like the mountain stretched forever into the sky and we could only imagine how awesome they all would have looked with a clear view.

As we followed the trail to Geisler Alm, the mountains started to play hide and seek and the moments in which they were visible were pure glee. We snapped photos as soon as we could and had some very awesome views, especially when we were passing right by the foot of them.

A few miles into the hike is the first hut, Gschnagenhardt-Alm. The food looked and smelled amazing but we passed straight through to get to Geisler Alm, which is only a few minutes away downhill.

The goulash at Geisler Alm was the best thing we ate the entire trip. I know, we were in Italy, but it was that good. We spent about an hour there, relaxing on some of the awesome chairs they have to take a break and enjoy the views. We got lucky and a couple was leaving shortly after we arrived – all the seats were occupied pretty much the entire time we were there.

The rest of the hike back was facing away from the mountains and downhill the whole way. The whole loop, including an hour at Geisler Alm, took about 4.5 hours.

Next we drove back towards Ortisei on the same road we took on the way and stopped to see 2 churches, which are both must-sees. Chiesetta di San Giovanni is the most famous church in the Dolomites and the one you’ll pass first. You only need about 3-5 minutes here, and less than a mile away from that is parking for the second church, Chiesa di Santa Maddalena. This one requires at least a 30-minute walk.

Next we continued back to Ortisei but went further south to see the St. Valentin Chapel. While the other 2 were must-sees, you could consider skipping this one. It only added about 20 minutes of driving and allowed us to pass through Castelrotto. This is yet another charming small town, so it was worth it to us.

View the in-depth article with exact steps on finding the 4 churches here

We got back to our hotel around 4:30 and checked the webcam for Seceda. Crystal clear. Even though it was so expensive and we’d already had a long day, I went back up and it was worth every cent.

When you get to the top of the gondola, don’t head straight for the viewpoint across the incline. Instead, immediately head uphill to the cross. Once there, continue straight the same way you had been going – up to the cross and down the other side. There may be some wildflowers and the view looking at and around Seceda is stunning.

Walk back up and now you’ll want to take a left to head downhill, along the ridgeline towards Seceda. The best viewpoint is from a little bit down that hill (the first picture in the gallery of 3 immediately above), and you may not see it at all if you headed for Seceda right away. You can spend as much time in the area as you want, as there are tons of trails to explore. Since the last ride down was soon, I ran to the end of the trail by Seceda and headed back. Craziest ridgeline I think I’ve ever seen, and so glad I got to see it in good conditions.

Enjoyed the pool and sauna, had dinner, and walked around Ortisei again. There happened to be an orchestral concert right in the center, which was an awesome surprise. Loved walking through the pedestrian-only area with live, local music in the background. The stuff made from fairytales. What. A. Day.

Day 4: Ortisei to Cortina d’Ampezzo

  • Passo Gardena
  • Passo Giau
  • Fanes Waterfalls

Had breakfast, packed up, and got on the road about 9. It takes about 1 hour 30 minutes to drive from Ortisei straight to Cortina d’Ampezzo. Of course, there are lots of things you could add to the drive. Lago di Limides and Cinque Torri were 2 that we considered but ultimately decided against. The drive already included the very scenic Passo Gardena and I really wanted to see Passo Giau, too.

Giau adds 40 minutes of drive time but we’re really glad we went there. There is lots of parking on both sides of the incline leading up to the pass. We found a spot, walked to the top of the pass, and up the hill away from the rocks for an elevated, far-away view. Incredible vantage point.

You could spend much more time on trails around Passo Giau, but we only walked a little bit towards the rocks and went back to the car. Drove the last 30 minutes to our hotel, Dolomiti Lodge Alvera. After getting settled, the weather had turned for the worse. Most of the mountains were covered in clouds and it was raining (hard at times). Rather than waste the afternoon/evening, we put on our rain gear and headed to see the Fanes waterfalls.

Another mini-guide: there are 2 places to park, both with a fee and both less than 10 minutes from Cortina:

  • Parcheggio Sant’Uberto – some free side of the road parking, too. Trail goes downhill, then uphill.
  • Punto informazioni Parco Dolomiti Bellunesi – trail goes uphill the whole way.

No matter where you park, following the trail signs for Fanes Cascate will take you to a trail intersection. You’ll be right by a bridge with this viewpoint that’s labeled “Le Ciòces di Pian di Loa” on Google Maps:

A glacial stream with a looming mountain in the background in the Dolomites
View from the bridge at Le Ciòces di Pian di Loa

This is where you can choose which side of the water to follow. Crossing the water over the bridge and going to the left of the stream takes you to the top of Fanes waterfall with no view of it. This trail is called Sentiero dei canyons e delle cascate. When you get to the top of Fanes waterfall, there is a via ferrata trail that goes behind the falls, crosses to the other side of the canyon, and then descends to the canyon floor.

If you don’t take the via ferrata, you can continue uphill on Sentiero dei canyons e delle cascate to about 4 other waterfalls. That’s what we took and made it to all but the last waterfall. That might be the best one from the pictures I’ve seen, but we were running out of daylight.

Back to the bridge at Le Ciòces di Pian di Loa – if you slightly backtrack and take the trail on the right side of the water, you’ll have a comparatively flat hike and end up at the bottom of the falls. We didn’t do this, but I know there is a trail on that side that goes up for an elevated view of the falls, too. I’m glad we got to see more waterfalls but it would have been nice to see the big, main attraction.

Had an amazing dinner at Il Vizietto di Cortina. Parking in Cortina is scarce. We parked 3 times at Parcheggio Via dei Campi (per-hour charge, free after 8 pm) and walked into town from there.

Day 5: Tre Cime and Cadini di Misurina

We had a via ferrata tour booked for this day, but it was cancelled the night before due to the weather forecast. As predicted, the weather was awful. It was raining very hard (we learned later in the trip that it hailed in some areas) so we spent all morning relaxing at Alvera. It was showing that the clouds might clear and the sun would come out in the afternoon/evening (spoiler: never happened), so after lunch we drove 40 minutes to Rifugio Auronzo.

There is a gated, guarded entrance that displays the number of parking spots left. It costs 30 Euros per vehicle to go all the way to the rifugio, but it is well worth it. That’s the best place to combine the must-do hikes around Tre Cime and Cadini di Misurina. I’ve read that despite having hundreds of spots, the lot can fill up completely. You’ll probably want to get there before 9 am on peak days.

View the in-depth Hike Guide for Cadini di Misurina here

Even though it was very cloudy and raining a little bit, we could see from the parking lot that the spires of Cadini di Misurina were in clear view so we headed there first. It is very obvious where to go. You’ll be at the famous viewpoint in about 30 minutes from the parking lot. You can’t really get lost as the trail is very straightforward. There is a bit of exposure in parts, however.

We followed the same trail back to Rifugio Auronzo and got some food to warm up. The soup was excellent and exactly what we needed.

Recharging and warming up at Rifugio Auronzo. Cadini di Misurina can be seen in the distance.

After a brief break, we set out on the Tre Cime loop. The loop trail starts and ends at Rifugio Auronzo and most people do it counter-clockwise. While there is only one trail on the south side, there are lots of options once you get around to the north of the rocks. I went to Rifugio Locatelli, which was definitely worth it, then looped all the way back around.

I hadn’t considered the trail around Tre Cime a must-see for several reasons: it’s very, very popular; there were other things I wanted to see more; and I knew we’d get a view of the one side when going to Cadini di Misurina. However, we both thought it was awesome and it was way better than we anticipated. Even in the rain and clouds. The rocks are much more impressive in person. I know it’s cliché, but pictures don’t do it justice.

View the in-depth Hike Guide for Tre Cime here

We drove back down to Cortina and stopped at Lago d’Antorno (must-see) and Lago di Misurina (should-see). You’ll pass right by Antorno on the way up and down. Misurina is a 30-second detour off the main road.

We had a fantastic dinner at Quinz – Locanda Al Lago, which is right on the shore of Lago di Misurina. It was getting dark and cold, but I’m sure it’s even better to eat outside and enjoy the view in warmer times. Despite the weather, an awesome day.

Day 6: Lots of Lakes

  • Lago di Sorapis
  • Lago di Landro
  • Lago di Dobbiacho
  • Val Fiscalina
  • Lago di Braies

We finally had a good weather forecast and it was beautiful almost the entire day. We would have done the via ferrata tour but there was no availability, unfortunately. The trailhead for Lago di Sorapis was only 15 minutes away and we got there shortly before 7 am. We were one of the first cars there and got a spot right at the entrance on the side of the road. It’s a little over 3 miles to the lake on a generally easy trail. There is 1,500 feet of elevation gain and some exposure at times, however. There were also lots of slick rocks because of all the recent rain.

View the in-depth hike guide for Lago di Sorapis here

We got back to the hotel around noon, had a snack, and headed back out. Still had a lot of things we didn’t get to see over the past couple of days due to the weather. When going north from Cortina, there are 2 lakes right on the main road that are worth a quick stop.

Lago di Landro (aka Durrensee) is first and the prettier of the two. It is on the right shortly after the turnoff for Rifugio Auronzo. There is a fee for parking, but we parked at the beginning of the lot along the edge of the lake and the pay station was at the other end. We were only there for about 2 minutes for a picture and didn’t realize we were supposed to pay until we left.

The next lake, Dobbiacho (aka Toblacher See), is another 10 minutes north from Landro. This one you could skip, but you don’t need more than a few minutes to get to the water’s edge, do a quick stroll, and grab a picture. You could spend lots of time at either or both lakes, however. You’ll need to pay at Dobiacco, too.

Continuing north, there is a roundabout in the town of Dobiaccho. Most traffic goes to the left for Lago di Braies. We went right first to get to Hotel Dolomithof in Val Fiscalina. There is a parking lot (fee, of course) just before the hotel. This is where you can start the Croda di Fiscalina loop.

This is a less-crowded hike which touches part of the Tre Cime loop and is about 12 miles total. I don’t know that it was absolutely necessary for us to go there since we weren’t doing the whole hike. However, the views on the 30-minute walk from the parking lot to the first rifugio are great. We got some dessert, admired the views, and walked back to our car. Had to don our rain gear again as it started pouring on our way back.

Our last stop for the day was Lago di Braies (aka Pragser Wildsee). It was a 35 minute drive from where we were (50 minutes if going straight from Cortina). If you’ve ever been to the Canadian Rockies, think of Moraine Lake: a mesmerizingly beautiful, easily accessible lake surrounded by mountains. That means there will always be tons of people, no matter the time.

Be aware that in 2023 you could not drive to the lake between 9:30 am and 4 pm without a reservation. That’s why we went to Val Fiscalina even though logistically it didn’t make sense. We couldn’t have gotten to Braies for another couple of hours.

There are several lots to park at and they all cost (credit cards accepted). If you’re looking for the social media shot of the dock going into the water, you’ll need to pay to take a boat on the water (we did not). I did the 2-mile trail around the lake, and just like Sorapis, it should not be skipped. There were some of the most beautiful reflections I’ve ever been lucky enough to see and the views are great the whole way around.

We drove back to Cortina and ate at Il Vizietto di Cortina again. This day was full of some of the most beautiful scenery on earth.

Day 7: Marino Bianchi Via Ferrata

On our last day, weather and guide availability were in our favor. We thankfully got to do our via ferrata tour of the Marino Bianchi route. I contacted multiple tour companies a couple months before the trip and went with Fassa Guide, which worked out great. We met our guide at the Rio Gere chairlift, at 8:30 am when it starts running. The lift is very close to the Lago di Sorapis trailhead and only about 12 minutes from our hotel.

After the lift ride is the worst/hardest part of the day. You must hike up a steep, loose chute where another chairlift used to run. It took us 1.5 hours to get up to Rifugio Lorenzi, which is also no longer in use and decaying. To the left of the rifugio is the start of the Ivano Dibona via ferrata. This is one of the most famous in the Dolomites because of the suspension bridge.

The Bianchi route is to the right and ascends to the summit of Cristallo Di Mezzo. The route features several ladders and takes about 1.5-2 hours to reach the summit (same time for the descent). We took a break and had lunch at the summit. I’ll let the pictures do the talking, as the views overlooking the Dolomites in every direction left us speechless.

I wanted to do the first part of Ivano Dibona, across the bridge and up the ladder, and we had enough time before the last ride down. That section is close to the rifugio so you can add it on with only about 30 minutes extra.

The suspension bridge on the Ivano Dibona via ferrata
Looking down the ladder to the suspension bridge, with Rifugio Lorenzi in the distance

We had a quick hike/slide down, which took less than half the time it took on the way up. Much more enjoyable. Took the lift back down and drove to the hotel. Spent the last evening relaxing in the pool and balcony staring at the mountains.

Our balcony at Lodge Alvera

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