The area around Colle Santa Lucia is one of my favorite parts of the heart of the Dolomites. From big mountains to wild adventures, it has it all.
Perched high above the two valleys Val Fiorentina and Val Cordevole below, and surrounded by the iconic mountains of the area, Civetta, Pelmo and Marmolada, Colle Santa Lucia is the perfect base for those who want to play in Italy.
It’s also the gateway to the Giau Pass, and if you’re lucky you might even hear the locals around here chatting in Ladin, their own dialect.
This is a seriously epic part of Italy, made even more so on a powder day in winter!
During my time in the Dolomites, I spent a fair amount of time having adventures around Colle Santa Lucia and the Passo Giau.
The top of the Passo Giau, which connects Cortina d’Ampezzo with Colle Santa Lucia and Selva di Cadore, is stunning.
On my second day I woke up to a layer of fresh snow on the mountains, with moody clouds drifting back and forth across their peaks, creating an atmosphere of mystery and beauty. Call me an Instagrammer, but I do love moody weather, which the Dolomites has in spades.
Today we were going snowshoeing with locally based operator TravelSport who runs guided adventures around the Passo Giau.
As we wound our way up towards the mountains, the clouds began to lift a bit, revealing a monochrome world with a little fresh snowfall.
One of my favorite things about traveling in the Dolomites (and in the mountains of Europe in general) is how people have settled for centuries high up in the mountains, and you can drive in between them all.
The roads can be terrifying, and don’t be like me, make sure you get a car hire with winter snow tires on a trip to the Dolomites in winter. Otherwise you’ll be stuck putting on chains which is SERIOUSLY the worst!
Also, please note that at least in Venice, they are now requiring all foreigners to have an international drivers license to hire a car (I’ve never needed it before, what a pain in the ass!)
I was able to get one expedited over but it certainly made the beginning of the trip a pain. On top of being American, where I still don’t know how to drive manual (most hire cars are manual in Italy), it means hiring cars are quite limiting.
Anywho, where was I?
Here chocolate box towns dot the mountainsides, and on the way up to the Passo Giau you’ll pass through many a quaint and charming village.
And if you’re a passenger in the car of a local, you might be like me, and yell “stop the car” every few minutes to take a photo.
But seriously, the light after a snowfall ends in the mountains is usually magnificent. The world is quiet and still and peaceful and you often get crazy beams and rays of lights as the sun begins to peak through the snow clouds.
And if the snow sparkles on the ground? Well, I’ve just died and gone to Instagram heaven.
Eventually we made it to our destination in the Passo Giau to go snowshoeing, right as the clouds began to pack in again.
A completely silent world of white, still and cold, noiseless except for the crunching snow beneath our snowshoes, we made our way into the clouds.
Man, there is nothing I love more than fresh snow.
Except for maybe Jon Snow. BOOM.
Every so often the surrounding mountains would peak through the clouds, showing their faces for a few minutes before disappearing into whiteness again.
So tantalizing, it was killing me!
Of course once we made our way back down for lunch at one of the chalets (show me the polenta) the clouds began to lift again.
I’d be back!
Later on, all on my own at the end of the day, I made my way back up the Passo Giau for sunset. Cold from a day out in the snow, I was bundled up and yes, I was wearing my favorite onesie for warmth. No judgements please.
There are dozens of hairpin switchbacks on the way up the mountain towards the top, and normally I am ok oh crazy mountain roads – I live in New Zealand after all – and I was decidedly lazy and really want to get to the top without putting the chains on.
Seriously if someone can teach me how to put on tire chains without my fingers freezing off and getting covered in dirty snow, I’d love a lesson.
Sliding in almost sideways I made it to the top in 2WD with summer tires, wahoo! Champion!
And man was it beautiful.
The clouds moved back and forth over the peaks around the Giau Pass, and I popped on my snowboots and followed some of the trails through the snow til it started to get dark.
If I didn’t love the Dolomites before, I do now.
Have you been to the Dolomites before? Are you a fan of fresh snow as much as me? Spill!