Wednesday, April 29, 2020


(via Cortina d’Ampezzo, Valparola, Bolzanno, Trento)

It’s rare for anyone to ‘begin’ a driving story in Venezia, because most people know the capital of the Veneto is most famous for canals and gondolas.

However, let’s say you arranged a car at the Venezia Aeroporto Marco Polo (VCE), and that you are ready to enjoy the countryside, the mountains, and several of Italy’s most beautiful northern cities.

Depart the airport, taking the SS13, direction Treviso.

This sets you up for a journey through several of Italy’s most important national parks, which are rarely experienced by travellers, because in this area it’s the mountains and the skiing that is the great attraction, and speed of arrival onto the slopes is foremost in most tourists’ minds.

However, Treviso is more than a pit stop along the way. It is famous as a base for several well-known Italian sportswear companies, like Benetton, Geox shoes, Diadora and Lotto Sport Italia. It’s also supposedly the birthplace of Prosecco sparkling wine (Italy’s answer to France’s champagne), and many say that Tiramisu had its origins there.

Also, one of the world’s best-known appliance makers, De Longhi, is based in Treviso.

Treviso (right) is an ancient walled city dating back to 89BC, so today only a small number of Trevisani live inside the walls (3000), with more than 80,000 living outside the city limits.

If you’re looking for your first night’s accommodation, Treviso is an excellent choice, because there’s not much, except the occasional pensione and tiny hamlets, between Treviso and Cortina d’Ampezzo. That is, if you decide to travel via the A27, which then leads to the SS51.

The road changes its status from an A road to a rotta regionale at Ponte Nelle Alpi, where it becomes the SS51. At that point the altitude is just 400m, and you are a mere 80km from Venezia – but around you are peaks in the Parco Naturale Regionale delle Dolomiti Friulane which rise to over 2100 metres.

Cortina d’Ampezzo (right) is a ski town, that’s it. More than half the town shuts down in summer, but of course there are excellent hotels and restaurants which do remain open. The permanent population is barely 6000, and it sits at 1,224m, with ski slopes towering around it.

The next section of this journey is on a road definitely closed in winter – the SR48, using the Passo Falzarego. However, one of Italy’s most spectacular passes is next – the Passo Valparola. The highest, surrounding elevation, is 2,168m, but the road stops rising at a lower altitude, opening out to a flat, but scenic roadside vista in the summer.

Travelling along the floor of beautifully scenic valleys (below), you join the SS244 at La Villa Stern.

Journey just a few kilometres south on the SS244, then take the SS243, to the SS242, heading west towards the busier SS12. It is this autostrada which will take you to Bolzano.

With a population of over 100,000 Bolzano, in 2014 was named ‘Best Quality of Life for Italian Cities’.

It sits in a deep valley, surrounded by vineyards and it is the largest city in the South Tyrol, because it is so close to Austria. 

You’ll know that if you stop for food or fuel, as many in the area speak the local Austrian dialect.

Travelling south, toward Verona the most practical road is the A22 autostrada, passing through Trento.

As you approach Verona, and fancy a really decent switch in scenery and ambience, you could turn west just past Rovereto onto the SS240.

There before you will be the beautiful Lago di Garda – but that’s a whole different story.

John Crawford

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