Regarded as Italy’s spiky rooftop, whereabouts about they located?
They crown the skyline of Italy’s most northerly province, Alto Adige, which is probably better known by its German name, the South Tyrol. The Dolomites is a sprawling mountain range of 18 peaks, most of them nearly as high at Mt. Cook. These pink and gray granite peaks are jagged, toothy and iquite ethereal. Once 500 feet under the sea, they now kiss the clouds at 10 thousand feet. Beneath these spires, vast green lush meadows stretch out across the countryside, many of them high alpine plateaus, with storybook villages and blazing flowers.
Have they featured in many movies? ( Huge legacy in James Bond.)
Well being so photogenic, they have served as a backdrop for countless movies. Sly Stallone starred in Cliffhanger, which was shot in the mountains. But the most famous flick, would probably be James Bond , For Your Eyes Only. The Dolomites was the location for the stunt sequence featuring Bond being chased by assassins on motorbikes and bobsleigh, down the slopes. One of the stuntmen actually died in the process.
Does the Dolomites region feel more like Austria, than Italy?
They very much serve as the judder bars separating the two countries. And if you take the Brenner Pass by train or road, you will zip straight past them. Until the end of the First World War this was Austrian territory, and Bolzano still prefers to think of itself as semi-autonomous of Italy. German is the most commonly spoken language, so you’re far more likely to be greeted with Guten Tag, than Buon Giorno. Mussolini did his best to stamp pride in Italia, into the local consciousness. But it didn’t stick. On the streets, you’ll see plenty of chaps strolling by in lederhosen and felt hats.
The best tourist base is Bolzano, right?
Surrounded by the Dolomites , Bolzano is an awesome base for hiking, biking and skiing and the alpine town is a charmer. Nothing much has been built since the late 19th century, and the cityscape is dominated by bell towers and church spires and lovely arcaded buildings. The medieval cathedral sits under a decorative green and gold tiled roof. The produce market is a classic, spilling across the cobblestones of Piazza delle Erbe, selling everything from strawberries and prosecco, to gelato and kaminwurzen, which is the local smoked sausage.
How easy is it to get up close and personal with these incredible peaks?
The cable car rides are absolutely staggering. The Colle Cable Car is the world’s oldest funicular, which whisks you up to an old mountain lodge. I took the Renon Cable Car to Klobenstein, which hurtles you up to the flowery alpine meadows and a close encounter with spiky peaks. Hauled up 7 thousand feet , and dangling on a couple of wires. Incredible engineering, but if you don’t have a head for heights, you’ll be petrified.
What about Bolzano’s most famous resident? He’s 5000 years old, right?
I’m sure many people will recall the discovery of Ortsee the Iceman , in 1991. The mummified corpse of this Stone Age man, was discovered by two German hikers , in a rocky gully covered by glacier melt. That preserved his body and belongings remarkably well. He died from blood loss from an arrow wound, but along with his body, his copper-bladed axe, his backpack, bearskin cap and goat-hair leggings were all secured and are on permanent display at Bolzano’s Museum of Archaeology.
Best time to visit? Easy to get to?
It’s a year round destination, but the early spring and late autumn are really good, because the mountains will be sporting a snow-top, while you can enjoy the mild weather.
There are frequent train services from Milan to Bolzano, taking about three hours with a change in Verona.So for a dollop of Italy with a twist, I think Bolzano makes for a spanking side-trip, to complement your European holiday.
For further travel insights, tips and advice, check out the website of New Zealand’s premier travel magazine, For the Love of Travel. http://www.fortheloveoftravel.net.nz
Mike’s travel notes, as discussed on Newstalk ZB’s Jack Tame Show.