The Dolomites in Italy

September 18-20, 2023

Dear Family, Friends, and Diary,

m taking pictRosey and FriedrichAfter almost two weeks, it was time to say goodbye to our friends in Franconia and, fittingly, the last were our hosts at Pommersfelden's GrĂ¼ner Baum, Rosie and Friedrich. The phrase "salt of the earth" applies here as, with continuous hard work, they have run the gasthaus for decades, taking over from his parents, who in turn had taken over from theirs - and so on. Reportedly, they will pass hotel management along at the end of 2023, for a well-deserved retirement. We wish them all the best.

packedburkhardtsPacking up the car is now a practiced process. The Tesla Model Y is large (by local standards) and our bags slip in easily. Of course, as we go, we acquire bits and pieces, so we do not know how we will get back within airplane allowances.

Because we faced a long drive, we made a final stop at Burkhardt's Bakery. One can never have too many trip goodies.

Google told us the drive from Franconia to Moena in the Italian Dolomites would be about seven hours. They did not account for traffic, charging stops, toll collection, and a bit of rain at the end. None of these were too bad, however, and we made it in eight-and-a-half hours.

road signs big tunnel
into Alps little rain

tesla germanyItaly TeslaCharging our electric car had been a concern, but the two stops at Tesla Superchargers, one in Germany and the other in Italy, went painlessly. Both were scenic and almost empty. We were able to end up with enough fuel to take us up to our mountain hotel and have electrons leftover for the return to the main autostradas.

We turned off Autostrada 22 and headed toward Moena in Val di Fassa. The first thing we hit was a long, curving, two-lane, two-way, empty tunnel. After autobahns and autostradas, we had turned off the beaten path for sure. Farther up the road, we started to glimpse mud slides, the Dolomite mountains, and a number of scenic ski chalets and villages. The highway was twisty, steep, and not so wide, but navigating without ice and snow was easier than we imagined winter trips would be.

two way tunnel flood damage
Dolomites chalet

After over an hour of small-road driving, we reached Moena. Marianne turned up the hillside that held Hotel Monza, our home for the next three days, but the driveway was twisty and tiny, so we needed a driver switch for the final hundred yards. Inside, we checked in and brought our things to a perfectly charming room at the very top of the hotel. The view was spectacular from the room and from a generous balcony.

Hotel Monza room
balcony view

dinnerBecause it was clear that driving into town for meals might be too challenging, we had opted for "half-board": breakfast and dinner. I don't think we have ever done meals this way, but our first dinner proved that it was a great decision. Our four- or five-course meal was delicious, from cheese to dessert. (Interesting enough, most of the courses did not take good pictures - maybe the photographers we too tired.)nighttime

Upstairs, we crashed shortly after returning from the restaurant, but not before enjoying a night-time look over Moena.

On Tuesday, we had nothing planned, beyond eating and enough walking to justify eating.

Tuesday went according to plan. We ate again, a standard-but-excellent breakfast buffet, then we left the hotel and hit the trails just outside. Looking back to town, we could see the day was dawning with perfect weather, despite rain predictions.


We walked up past St Mary's chapel in Forst and through the tiny ten-building village. Some of the buildings looked like they had withstood winters for decades, if not centuries.

st mary's old one old too

One enterprise was turning chickens into eggs-for-sale.

eggs for sale

Eventually, we came to a fork in the road. Marianne chose to pause at the nearby bench, but I forged ahead. My goal was to get to the other side of the hill, just to see what was there. (More views of the same Dolomites.) Along the way, I walked through fields of blossoms.
It was all good

winding road blossom dolomites

The walk down gave us another chance to see our valley, the Val di Fassa.
(The map shows all the places I took pictures.)

view map

Of course, the best part of a morning hike is a mid-day rest. Since our half-board meal was still several hours away, and we were far away from any snack shops, there was no interruption for food. This is a change from our normal home routine, where we eat our lunch/dinner at 2:00 or 3:00, but we need to be adaptable.

After resting, we enjoyed the view from our balcony. Puffy clouds had arrived, not the forecasted rain. Great.

dolomites again puffs more puffs

Since it was still hours before dinner, we went out again, down into the town of Moena. We wandered through twisty, narrow roads, glad we were not driving the too-big-for-here Tesla. The town seems to consist mostly of small and medium-sized guest houses and hotels.

picture taking narrow other hotels

beerThe walk back to the Hotel Monza was as much uphill as we could manage. I passed 10,000 steps for the day, but the Fitbit doesn't give extra credit for hills. It should.

In any event, we celebrated with a glass of beer, non-alcoholic from a local brewery. German influence is everywhere up here! Then we moved on to another great dinner. No photos. I just can't seem to picture the food as well as it deserved.

Finally we took the elevator up to our fourth-floor room (no more uphill walking), looked out again, and crashed. Another successful day.

The Wednesday plan was not much different: breakfast, walk into town, back to rest, maybe another small walk, good dinner, and rest before we start the next leg of our Italian excursion.

windowsignBreakfast had me looking out on another bright day, looking forward to finding our way around in Moena.

Signs help, but only if one studies them long enough. For pedestrians, stopping and staring works, but car drivers need these signs too. Not sure how THAT works and that's another reason to leave our car parked.

Goal #1 was San Vigilio church and cemetery. The church was founded in the 12th Century and parts were added over the years. That's how grand churches grew, and so did Moena's not-quite-grand parish church.

St V side St V front

Inside was simple and a bit worn,
but somehow more welcoming than many we have visited.

inside organ

The cemetery next to the church was remarkable. We don't think we have ever seen one quite so orderly. Every grave was neatly outlined and arranged in precise rows. The sections seemed to have been populated in order of use, with the newest graves side-by-side. I can imagine that when all the plots are full, the oldest were removed, since there were no burial dates older than the early 20th century.

orderly iron recent

Sixty-seven village men died in World War I,
but only a half-dozen in WW II. I wonder why.

carver family war dead

From the church, we walked lower and found the quiet center of town. We stopped and sat at a cafe, but shopping was limited, since most places were closed for a mid-day break - or for between-seasons vacation.

moena cafe house

The most exciting thing we did was watch workmen repairing the river bed,
repairing damage done in a 2018 flood.

river flood fixer

trudgeThe walk back up to the Hotel Monza was shorter than the way down, but steeper. It was all I could do to trudge my way back. Somehow, I do not think we are the hearty hikers that populate the trails in these hills.

Tomorrow, we leave for motor city.

Stay tuned,

John and Marianne