This post continues our time in Italy.
Click here for 20 Amazing things to do in Venice
Since we were checking out super early, we had the hotel reserve a water taxi to pick us up at 6:30 am on Saturday morning.
The cost was 95 euros and we had to pay the boat driver directly.
The private water taxis and gondolas only take cash so make sure you have plenty of euros.
Tip: Do not use ATM’s that aren’t attached to a bank – they have horrible exchange rates and fees…click here to read more about ATMs in Italy.
Our taxi picked us up promptly at 6:30.
It was raining when we left the hotel…so glad the boat was enclosed!
The driver dropped us off as close as he could to the parking garage where we had parked our rental car.
Thankfully, we had packed raincoats or we would have been soaked!
We also only took two small carryons and two backpacks so that made it a lot easier navigating the streets!
We had to put the address to the parking garage in our GPS to be able to find it.
Tip: Do not forget the parking garage you parked in as there are several different ones located near each other. We parked at this one.
After entering the wrong entrance of the garage and having to ask more than once where the elevator was located, we finally made it to the 10th floor of the garage.
However, that proved to be the easy part, when we found ourselves trying to get out of the garage!
In the US, you pay at the gate as you exit the garage.
Well, in Italy, you pay inside the garage BEFORE you exit.
This is the case with every garage or paid parking area in Italy.
Read here about everything you need to know about parking in Italy.
We had to back up and drive around the garage and try to find where we had to pay. We finally saw a gentleman walking in the garage and asked him where we had to pay for parking.
He spoke very little English but pointed to the top of the stairs. So, I got out of the car and walked to the top of the stairs where I finally found where I had to pay.
Once you pay, they will give you your ticket back and then you will insert that ticket at the gate and the gate will open….it was very stressful!
Finally, after about an hour from when we left the hotel, we were finally on our way to the Dolomites!
The Dolomites are a mountain range in the northern Italian Alps that consists of 18 mountain peaks which rise above 9800 ft and cover over 350k acres.
It features some of the most beautiful mountain landscapes anywhere, with vertical walls, sheer cliffs and a high density of narrow, deep and long valleys.
The town where we would be staying, Cortina d’Ampezzo, was approx 2 hrs 10 mins from the parking garage.
But our first stop of the day would be the very popular hike, Tre Cime.
It rained just about the whole time but the views on the way there were breathtaking!
We went through so many cute little towns!
AND tunnels!! I bet we went through 10-15 tunnels on the way!
Click here to read about the Road of 52 Tunnels hike
Tip: We took the fastest route to Tre Cime but for a more scenic route click here
On the way, we passed this incredible teal colored lake!!
The lake was called Lago di Auronzo.
You will also pass Lago di Misurina on the way to the Tre Cime hike.
After about 2.5 hrs, we finally arrived to the road leading to the Tre Cime hike.
It had snowed the night before we arrived…the views were gorgeous!
The lines to get in were already long!
Sadly, after arriving to the entrance, we discovered they had closed the road due to the snow!
Tip: It costs 30 euros to park at Tre Cime
Tip: If you plan on hiking this trail in Sept or after, you can email them prior to arriving to make sure the road is open….the email address is email@example.com
So, we turned around and headed to our next stop of the day, Lago di Braies (aka Prager Wildsee)
On the way to Lago di Braies, we stopped off at a small cafe for a cappuccino and pastry.
A shot of our rental car
After driving approx. 10 mins, we came up on another lake called Lake Antorno so, we decided to stop and take a few pictures.
The reflections in the water of the snow covered trees and mountains were breathtakingly beautiful!
Of course we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take our pics on this little wooden bridge with the mountains in the background!
After taking about 328 pics of the lake, we continued our drive to Lago di Braies.
More views along the way
We passed this beautiful church on the way.
After about an hours drive from Tre Cime, we arrived at the parking for Lago di Braies.
You can park at the paid parking lots near the hotel. The cost is approx 6 euros for 3 hours.
Tip: We visited the lake on Sept. 17th. However, If you’re visiting during peak season (July 10 – Sept 10), you can only drive to the lake before 9:30 am or after 4 pm. During peak season you can only access the lake during peak hours by public transport, bike, walking or by booking a reserved parking space.
The parking areas are really close to the lake so there’ s no hiking involved.
A picture of the hotel that sits on the shore of Lago di Braies
Our first glimpse of the lake
The views were incredible!!
The lake covers 77 acres and has a maximum depth of 118 ft deep! The surface temperature of the water is 57 degrees.
There is an easy trail that encircles the lake; the loop takes about 90 minutes to walk.
We headed straight to the boat house to rent one of the beautiful wooden canoes.
The cost is 25 euros for 30 mins and 35 euros for 60 mins up to 4 people in one boat.
Tip: Book a canoe & see canoe rental hours here
We decided to book a canoe for 30 mins.
Pictures taken from the boat house
Getting our canoe
As we were canoeing on the lake, it started to snow….the views were surreal!
After our boat ride, we took more pics at the end of the dock.
Another shot of the beautiful boathouse!
More shots of that incredible lake!
After taking 986 pics of the lake, we headed to find something to eat.
There are a couple of options for food at the lake…you have food at the hotel or there’s a self service grill that serves pizza, sandwiches, soup, etc.
We decided to order pizza and fries at the grill.
The food was average but the views made up for it!
After lunch, we walked over to the nearby chapel that sits near the lake.
The chapel was built in 1904.
The leaves were starting to change…
After spending approx. 2 hrs at the lake, we decided to head to our hotel, the Hotel Villa Blu. The hotel was approx. 50 mins from Lago di Braies.
A church we passed
On the way to our hotel, we had decided to stop and get more euros from a bank’s ATM only to have our debit card taken by the ATM …and the bank was closed so we had no way to retrieve our card!
Thankfully, we had taken 3 debit cards with us!!
After that frustrating fiasco, we continued our drive to our hotel.
Views along the way
Another cute little church that we passed
On the way to the hotel, we spotted a pullover that had a view of the Tre Cime mountain.
After this short stop, we continued our drive…however, a few minutes later, we came up on another lake.
So, of course, we pulled over again…
This lake was called Lago di Landro.
The lake and the views were beautiful!
After leaving here, we continued our drive to the hotel.
The views along the way were breathtaking!
Finally arriving to Cortina d’ampezzo
After arriving, we decided to drive the Falzzrego Pass
The pass is a high mountain pass that is nestled between the mountains Lagazuoi and Col Gallina, in front of Mt. Sasso di Stria at an altitude of 6900 ft.
The drive has incredible views!
We drove through this tunnel while driving the pass
A short while later, we came up on a small, simple church (Cappella della Visitazione) with a gable roof.
This chapel was built in 1958 in a beautiful location, slightly elevated above the Great Dolomites Road.
More views along the drive
We came up on Rifugio Col Gallina.
Rifugios are mountain huts that provide accommodations for hikers, climbers, mountaineers, and ski mountaineers in the Alps.
Set in spectacular locations high in the Dolomite’s, Rifugios are accessible only on foot (with a few exceptions that are reachable by car).
These unique huts are open primarily in the summer (from mid June to mid September), with a select few in winter, and offer meals and sleeping facilities.
I highly recommend you eat at one of the many Rifugios while in the Dolomites….the views they provide are incredible!
At this point, we decided to turn around and head back to Cortina and check into our hotel.
We passed another Rifugio on the way down and decided to stop in and see if they were open for dinner.
Sadly, they didn’t start serving dinner until 7 pm and it was only 6.
You will find that a lot of restaurants in Italy are only open from 12-3 for lunch and 6/7-10 or 11 for dinner. So, always check the days and hours of the restaurants you may want to eat at.
Heading down the mountain
A shot of Cortina from the Pass
After 12 hrs of driving, we finally arrived to our hotel and checked in!
We stayed at the Hotel Villa Blu
We booked the double room with a balcony.
The room was really nice!
We had a huge bed, a huge bathroom and a balcony with incredible views of the mountains and town!
During check in, we had made a 7 pm reservation at the restaurant inside the hotel called Amadeus.
Read reviews here
So, after getting settled into our room, we headed downstairs for dinner.
We first ordered the caprese as an appetizer.
Then, for our main course, we both ordered the sliced beef with porcini mushrooms.
After dinner, we headed outside to sit by the fire for a while.
A shot of the hotel lit up
We then headed back to our room and called it a night…it had been a very long day and we were exhausted!
Thanks for reading!
Stay tuned for Day 4!