Arriving in Belluno felt like the beginning of the end; after a week in the wonderful Dolomites we're now on the final run into Venice. And the focus of the trip seems to have shifted from scenery to food.
It started last night when we found a little family osteria near the cathedral, the three owls I think, which served perfect Italian food in a really friendly way. We were all gushing about the meal and its amazing value, but when we tried to express our thanks with a tip they insisted on sending us on our way with complementary large grappas.
The weather was raining yesterday morning when we set off but it didn't seem to affect Christine's spirits. She was happily spinning her walking pole, which was closed but apparently not tightened, when the end section shot off behind her and narrowly missed spearing one of two smartly dressed police men. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view they saw the funny side and we carried on our way without even an official warning.
The rain soon eased off but cloud and mist spoilt what would have been amazing views back into the Dolomites as we climbed into the Croda Longa, a mountain ridge running south from Belluno. About an hour out we met a retreating German hiker in sandals heading back to town -his boots were kaput and the mud ahead was too deep.
Slightly disturbed, we pressed on with what was our last big climb on the walk to Venice. As usual on this trip what looked like being a fairly boring route on the map turned out to be altogether more interesting. After lunch (pizza) we followed a lovely old path, carefully engineered, that gently climbed through trees up the steep valley side. Although we had to gain 1200m the only tough bit of climbing was the last 30mins or so on the final approach to the hut.
|Rifugio Col Visentin - more space station than refuge|
The next morning, with still enough cloud to spoil the view, our final mountain walk was a good one. After a short stretch down a rough track the route follows a gently descending grassy ridge path for about two hours. At the end is Rifugio Pian de le Femene and a tiny museum ( closed) to the Italian resistance.
Inside the Refugio was a woman cooking food for what frankly looked like an over indulged family and although she was very busy meeting their requirements she had time for us as well. Within 10 minutes she had dished up plates of gnochi in tomato sauce, french beans and spinach in dressing, a rich venison stew and, believe it not, razor clams dressed in a mild pesto sauce. Brilliant lunch.
We tricked Chris into taking a steep and slightly treacherous descent down through the trees which, if it had been any wetter, would have been deadly. As it was we emerged safe and sound 600m lower into what felt like a new world, very hot with stone buildings, mediterranean rather than alpine. We arrived just in time to say goodbye to a couple of young walkers we had first met in Tutzinger Hut three weeks ago. They were going on to Venice by bus.
|Into the land of plenty|
|No more dorms - a lovely hotel at Tarzo|