Alta Via Day 1: Lagos De Braies to Rifugio Biella

After our brief stay in Austria, we were off to Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy which is close to Venice. David had been driving Egbert, our stick-shift rental car, for the experience.  I drove my loving stick-shift SAAB for many years, so I was used to it and was perfectly fine being passenger.  The tolls in Italy are pretty frequent, and that most cars were packed with people, unlike in Texas.  We had a good laugh when some old ladies started honking at us from behind for driving too slowly, and David was worried, “I’ve got grannies riding my ass!”

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Also, on the way over, we stopped for gas at a local Agip and had quite a difficulty with the self service pumps. Eventually some locals helped us out, but it was quite confusing given and there were no attendants. We arrived in Cortina around 7, and the lady at the hotel only spoke Italian, so we had to employ David’s Spanish and my German to get by. The hotel, Meuble Villa Neve, is a cute one just on the outskirts of town. In Cortina:

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We headed to a Pizzeria nearby and ordered a ½ bottle of wine and a pizza to share for only 20 Euros. Tuna pizza with Cippollo (onions) – weird but yum!  The house wine was surprisingly good too.  After dinner we headed back to the hotel, repacked our backpacking bags and got some sleep so we could prepare for our big hike ahead.

The next morning we were woken up abruptly by our alarm at 7 AM, so it seemed our bodies were finally getting back on schedule. We had a bus ride to Lago di Braies (Lago = Lake), then a 3.5 hr hike to Rifugio Biella, and a possible <2 hr side trip hike up the Croda del Becco. 

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We ate breakfast at the hotel – love European breakfasts which are generally included in the stay! David devoured some sweet Italian croissants. We had our backpacks on, and had locked any other luggage in the car, which the hotel was nice enough to let us leave at their parking lot during our trek. Before catching the bus, we stopped by the local grocery store to buy some sandwiches for lunch. The deli boy made us Prosciutto sandwiches on homemade Kaiser with a thick chunk of local cheese.

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We took a short walk to the bus stop and after asking around in broken Italian/Spanish, we discovered the next bus to Dobbiacco then to Lago di Braies was at 10 AM, which meant we had an hour to kill. I journal-ed while David watched diligently for the bus. We made it on the right bus and gave each other a high 5 for our logistical success. The bus ride was a windy 45 minutes to the Lago, passing lots of road cyclists and being passed by motorcycles on curves.  We were happy to get off the bus and stopped to admire views and the teal color of the lake.

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We had to walk around the lake to get to the trailhead (seen at the center of the picture above).

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We set out hiking clockwise from the hotel on the lake, which we think might have been the long route. Regardless, we found the “Alta Via 1” trailhead with its triangular signs and had a quick stop for chocolate before starting on the trail.

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The first bit of trail was fairly steep with lots of switchbacks. It felt straight up for quite a while. 

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After going uphill for quite some time we broke for lunch. David knows I like eating spots with a view, and he likes shaded comfy seats, so we found this perfect bench with a great view.  We only eat fine Italian prosciutto while hiking!

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After our delish 6 Euro lunch, we said bye to the perfect stop and continued on to some rockier area with small Via Ferrata chains.

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This led to a boulder field area, which then led to a moon-like landscape. Amazing, no?  (Note the red and white flag with the “1” – this is the trail marker)

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At 2 or 3 PM we emerged at a crossroads overlooking Rifugio Biella, our rustic mountain hut accommodation for the evening.

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We checked in, and saw that many of the hikers were enjoying Apfelstreusel and beer already. Instead, we dropped our big bags off and took a side trip to Croda del Becco. The Croda was a “difficult” rated path and started out with scrambling. The trail wasn’t too distinguishable, but finally we saw chains (Via Ferrata) and followed those.

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One of my faves.

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Glad this blood wasn’t from us (David of course thought this made the hike more hardcore).

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Up and up!

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We hiked over an hour, but with clouds rolling in, we decided not to summit and made our way back down. During the descent, we saw the hostess from the hotel trail running up the mountain for her afternoon workout – boy, did we feel wimpy!  Still, I took my time down, and we went back to the hotel to clean up for dinner.

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There were only sinks (no showers) at this hut, and the rooms were dorms with 8 people. It was rustic like it sounds, but it was the most memorable hut for me. Dinner was superb – we shared a table with a group of older Germans and we were impressed by their fitness. I had fun bantering back and forth with broken German, and even though the conversation was confusing they thought I was “charming”.  They must have been drinking a lot of wine 😉

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And the food… I ordered Aglio e Olio (Spaghetti with Olive Oil & Garlic), a favorite from my high school days in Germany, and I was not disappointed.  Mmmm, you could smell the garlic wafting a few tables away.  The whole room even cheered when they brought in the garlic deliciousness!  David had Polenta with Goulash (meat). He washed his down with beer, and I had a house wine. We planned the next day’s route and played cards until I got sleepy.  Prost!


2 thoughts on “Alta Via Day 1: Lagos De Braies to Rifugio Biella

  1. Hi, your blog has GREAT info.! Can you tell me how often and how long the bus runs from Cortina to the trailhead at Lago di Braies ?? THANK YOU SOOOOO much!! Also , can you tell me what it might be like to travel from Venice to Cortina on a Sunday morning?? Have travelled in Italy before and want to be sure we will make it up there on Sunday am! 🙂

    1. Hi Karen! Glad you love the blog 🙂 Unfortunately, I don’t know how long the bus runs (it has been too many years!). I also am not sure on the travel from Venice to Cortina on a Sunday morning. I hope you have a wonderful trip!!

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