Hiking and Cow Festivals: A Cool October Weekend in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy

Hiking and Cow Festivals: A Cool October Weekend in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy

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Picture this: mountains with snowy peaks, cows parading through town with floral headpieces, shops of the most amazing handmade items, and delicious fresh meats and vegetables. What you’re imagining is the town of Cortina d’Ampezzo. Lucky for you, I have actual photographs of all the above so keep reading to find out about this quaint ski town in Northern Italy!

Cortina d’Ampezzo has been one of my favorite towns to date in all of Italy. It has something for everyone! I highly recommend visiting this place if you are having guests in town and need the perfect place to go sightseeing and/or shopping. This village located at the base of the Dolomites, two hours from Vicenza, has it all. The Dolomites are a mountain region located in Northeastern Italy. They were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 2009. Often referred to as the “pale mountains”, they take their name from the carbonate rock dolomite. Random fun facts about Cortina: the movie Cliffhanger was filmed in the Dolomites, it is the home of the Alpine Ski World Championships in 2021, and they are also home to SG Cortina – a top league professional ice hockey team.

The group I traveled with in October rented the perfect Airbnb within walking distance of the town center. You can visit the place we rented here. It had tons of antique furniture, a beautiful balcony with an incredible view of the Dolomites, an old-timey tub. It was ideally located for all things hiking, shopping, dining out, and just sightseeing. There was no one else in the entire building while we were there, so we never had to worry about noise or sitting out on the balcony and talking quietly.

Our Airbnb for the weekend

Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites Cortina d'Ampezzo DolomitesCortina d'Ampezzo DolomitesCortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites

Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites
Enjoying a glass of wine on our balcony overlooking the Dolomites

On our first night there, we walked around town and found a place to eat dinner – Ristorante Pizzeria 5 Torri – which would become our new go-to spot. As we were walking around after finishing a delicious meal with lots of wine and vin brule, I spotted a sign on the community bulletin board with a picture of a cow on it. I remembered that late September/early October was usually the time of the cow festivals. Using Google translate, we translated the poster into English and decided that’s where we would start our Saturday morning. And dang am I glad we did!

Fešta del Dešmonteà

Bright and early Saturday morning, we bundled up and walked down the hill from our Airbnb. Before we even made it to the main plaza, we were stopped by police officers so that horses could cross the road. They were absolutely beautiful! We hurried to catch up with them to take pictures. Okay yeah, these aren’t just any cows and horses. They’re SWISS cows! Happy cows! And many had head decorations on.

Fešta del Dešmonteà is a traditional festival blessing the agriculture held in northern Italy. Cows, horses, donkeys, sheep, and goats are brought down from the Alps where they have spent their summer grazing in pastures. They will now spend their winter in stables to battle the cold weather. The cows were paraded through the town with lovely flowers on their horns and for all to see. There were tents with local dishes, agricultural products and handicrafts, vin Brule, and cheese galore. This celebration is typical of Switzerland and Italy.

Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites Festa del Desmontea
Horse crossing!
Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites Festa del Desmontea
Cows paraded down from the Alps to the town center
Cow Festival located at the base of the Dolomites
Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites Festa del Desmontea
This cow was definitely posing for me in front of the flowers

Native horses of Italy used for herding as part of the agricultural festival
Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites Festa del Desmontea
The sheep and lambs were adorable

Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites Festa del Desmontea

Hiking the Dolomites

After attending the festival in the center of town, we drove up to Falzarego Pass – a high mountain pass in the province of Belluno in Italy. They have a huge parking lot where you can park for free and it was a jam-packed day due to the beautiful weather forecast. The first 200 meters of the hike was brutal to put it lightly. I thought to myself, at this rate, I’m never going to keep up with these guys. Little did I realize they were huffing and puffing as well.

Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites
Dolomites – a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites
The roads around Cortina are just beautiful in October

Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites

Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites Falzarego Pass
The first 200 meters was the worst part of the hike
Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites Falzarego Pass
Taking a breather
Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites Falzarego Pass
“Photo Optime” aka I need a break!

Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites Falzarego Pass

Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites Falzarego Pass
The path we came up on to START the hike
Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites Falzarego Pass
These 3 look like trouble right
Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites Falzarego Pass Mount Lagazuoi
Mount Lagazuoi

Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites Falzarego Pass Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites Falzarego PassWe adventured on the Lagazuoi Mountain Path which included lots of caves, tunnels, and steps. I’m talking like dark, dark, steep, straight up through the mountain kind of steps. A headlamp is absolutely vital if you’re hiking through the tunnels of the Dolomites. Otherwise, you’re going to be walking a long while in pitch black. Fortunately for us, it wasn’t too cold and the water in the tunnels was not frozen, meaning it wasn’t slick or iced over. The only thing I wish I had brought was my hiking helmet – the ceilings of the tunnel are very low at times and it’s easy to bump your head.

Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites Falzarego Pass Mount Lagazuoi

Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites Falzarego Pass Mount Lagazuoi
A view of what the tunnels look like
Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites Falzarego Pass Mount Lagazuoi
Headlamps are a necessity!

Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites Falzarego Pass Mount Lagazuoi

Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites Falzarego Pass Mount Lagazuoi
Finally an exit from the tunnel
 The truly intriguing part of the hike was that it is a historical landmark. All throughout the path, there are signs marking the structures and what happened during World War I where the Italian and Austro-Hungarian forces ran through the Dolomites. Mines and a number of long-distance footpaths were used extensively. The soldiers would often be stuck in the tunnels of the Dolomites for a very long time. For this reason, they built barracks as a temporary housing. There were also lots of bunkers that we saw along the way.
Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites Falzarego Pass
View out of one of the many bunkers

Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites Falzarego Pass Mount Lagazuoi Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites Falzarego Pass Mount Lagazuoi Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites Falzarego Pass Mount Lagazuoi Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites Falzarego Pass Mount Lagazuoi Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites Falzarego Pass Mount Lagazuoi

My favorite thing about the Dolomites is the via ferratas (iron rods). These are protected climbing routes found in the Alps and certain other locations. In other words, steel cables which run along the route and are periodically fixed to the rock. As climbers and hikers, we can secure ourselves to the cable and use them for climbing aids. This allows us to safely and securely hike and climb without carrying climbing equipment. They were originally used during the First World War among the soldiers as they moved along the paths.

Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites Falzarego Pass Mount Lagazuoi
Iron rods used to help climbers and hikers along the way
Cortina d'Ampezzo Dolomites Falzarego Pass Mount Lagazuoi
Taking a lunch break at the end of the tunnels

While hiking up is all fun and everything, hiking down is a whole different story and we avoid it if at all possible. Luckily, there is a cable car that runs until October 22nd of each year. You can actually take the cable car up to the peak and back for only 15 euros. We decided to just take it back down, costing us each 11 euros…but again totally worth the short ride. (Tip: Technically, you’re supposed to get a ticket at the cable car shop before you hike up the mountain, but we pleaded and were able to catch a ride down regardless.)

Making it to the top was a feeling like no other. The best view comes after the hardest climb. It is worth it every. single. time. The serenity you feel sitting at the top of a mountain knowing how far you just climbed (while feeling like you were dying and claustrophobic the entire time) …that is a feeling I will never grow tired of.

XOXO

Summer Rae

12 Replies to “Hiking and Cow Festivals: A Cool October Weekend in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy”

  1. Summer,

    I LOVE your pictures! This looks so beautiful.. I am sure the pictures don’t do it justice. Loved the cow:) He was totally posing. The history is so interesting too; thank you for adding that in. It’s almost unbelievable to us in this day and time what those soldiers encountered and endured in those mountains during war time. Clint’s grandfather was a part of the D Day landing in Normandy during WW II and when we visited Normandy some years ago it was unreal to stand on that beach and think about what that day was like.

    Keep sending pictures. Ave and I are coming over with Jennifer next July through EF and are hoping we can work out getting to see you somewhere along our trip!

    Merry Christmas,

    Amy

    1. Right! That cow was definitely posing. Or thinking of me as his next meal 🤔
      That’s how I felt when we were in Rome…awestruck at the history and the fact that we were standing where those events took place. That’s what I love about travel and especially Europe – it is so old that it has so much history to it.

      I’d love to visit a place where my grandfather served. I can imagine that was an incredible opportunity for your family.

      I will definitely make it to Scotland one way or another to see everyone. Thanks for always being an avid reader and Merry Christmas to the Wyscarver family!!!

  2. Wow I’m just tired looking at all those pictures of your hiking trail. There’s no way I could’ve done that even 30 years ago. Love reading your blogs and feel like I am right there with you and Steven. Keep them coming and have a merry Christmas the Italian style (whatever that is).

  3. Amazing experiences you are having that makes everyone that reads them feel like they are apart of them. So excited for yal and all your new adventures . Be safe and enjoy . Merry Christmas

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