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A Day Trip Through the Dolomites from Venice, Italy

Updated on August 11, 2017
bdegiulio profile image

Traveling has always been one of my passions. It exposes us to new cultures, experiences, and makes the world a better, more tolerant place.

Lagazuoi Cable Car
Lagazuoi Cable Car | Source

When most people think about making a trip to Venice the last thing that probably crosses their minds is taking a trip into the mountains of northern Italy. In fact, I’m willing to bet that most visitors to Venice are totally unaware that a mere two hours away is some of the most dramatic and majestic mountain scenery to be found anywhere. The mighty Dolomites are part of the Italian Alps and are nestled into the north-eastern corner of Italy in the provinces of Belluno, Bolzano and Trento. They stretch for some 125 miles from east to west and contain 18 peaks over 10,000 feet. This region of Italy is a virtual playground for the outdoor enthusiast. Whether it’s skiing, hiking, biking or just enjoying beautiful mountain scenery then a trip into the Dolomites may be just the thing to quench your mountain thirst.

Dolomites
Dolomites | Source

If you are looking to spend some extended time in the Dolomites then there are certainly some wonderful locations from which to choose. Cortina d’Ampezzo, Ortisei, Selva and Corvara in Badia all make for a great base from which to explore the region. But if you’re ultimate destination is Venice, and you would like to get just a taste of the mountains then let me take you through a day trip from Venice that will get you into the heart of the Dolomites and back safely to Venice in one day.

I’ll preface this by telling you that there are numerous tour companies out there ready and willing to take you on a day trip to the Dolomites. They are not cheap, but if you are not into driving yourself then you might consider this option. For me, there is nothing quite like driving through the mountains at your own pace, stopping when and where you want and not being subject to someone else’s schedule. So if you want a little adventure and don’t mind doing some driving then sit back and enjoy this day trip through the Dolomites.

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Our day starts in the beautiful city of Venice. While there is obviously no vehicle traffic in Venice there is the Piazzale Roma, which is the terminal for buses and rental car companies on the island. You can rent a vehicle from Macro Polo Airport but this would involve traveling to the airport, which only wastes time so if possible I would rent the car from Piazzale Roma and be on your way. The only issue you may have with doing this is if you're looking to rent a van. We tried to rent a seven passenger van from Piazzale Roma and were unsuccessful so we had no choice but to travel to the airport.

Alleghe
Alleghe | Source

Upon exiting Venice you will quickly find yourself on the A27 Autostrada heading north which is an easy road to travel on. Presumably you are traveling with a GPS device, which I highly recommend. For the first part of the journey I would program into your GPS; Belluno, Agordo and then Alleghe. This will take you from the Autostrada through the town of Belluno and then onto route SS203 going north through Agorda and Alleghe. The trip from Venice to Belluno should take a little over an hour. You will notice that the scenery is changing quickly, you are only one hour from Venice and the landscape has changed from a coastal lagoon to mountain scenery. The best is yet to come.

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Shortly after leaving Alleghe you will have to make a decision on one of two possible tours to take. If you left early enough and don’t mind a little extra driving then you may want to head for Arabba and a loop around the Sella Ronda. This route will take you around the Sella, the huge plateau shaped massif, and over four mountain passes; Campolongo, Pordoi, Sella and Gardena. The entire loop is only about 35 miles and can be done in either direction from Arabba (clockwise or counter). If you opt for this option be prepared for a long day. Even though it’s just 35 miles to make the circuit you will want to make plenty of stops and I always recommend taking a gondola or lift up for the best views.

Sella Ronda Loop

The Sella Ronda Loop
The Sella Ronda Loop

The other option, and the one that we took due to a delay at the airport in picking up our rental is to head from Alleghe to Passo Falzarego on SS48. The drive takes you up to 2105 meters and to the Lagazuoi gondola lift which I highly recommend. The lift is right off the road and there is plenty of parking right there. There is also a gift shop and a restaurant so it makes for a great spot to take a break. The gondola lift is quite impressive and really goes straight up to the peak of Lagazuoi at 2733 meters. Needless to say the view is magnificent.

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Our route

show route and directions
A markerAlleghe, It -
Alleghe, Province of Belluno, Italy
get directions

B markerFalzarego Passo -
Falzarego Pass, 32043 Cortina d'Ampezzo, Province of Belluno, Italy
get directions

C markerCortina -
32043 Cortina d'Ampezzo, Province of Belluno, Italy
get directions

D markerPasso Giau -
Giau Pass, 32046 San Vito di Cadore, Province of Belluno, Italy
get directions

The cable car ride up
The cable car ride up | Source

We found this particular spot to be quite interesting as this historical area was the site of some heavy combat during World War I. As you take the lift up you can see some of the caves in the mountain that were used by the Italian troops. At the top you can hike the Austrian troop path that follows the ridge along the top of the mountain. It makes for a very scenic and interesting trek.

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From the Falzarego Pass it is a short ride on SS48 into the quaint former Olympic village of Cortina d’Amprezzo. I might add here that SS48 is otherwise known as the Grande Strada delle Dolomiti or Grand Dolomite Highway and is considered one of the most scenic drives in all of Italy. The Grand Dolomite Highway stretches for 65 miles from Bolzano in the west all the way to Cortina d'Amprezzo in the east.

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Cortina
Cortina | Source

We found it worth the time to stroll through the pedestrian center of Cortina and even stopped for a late lunch at a wonderful café called Pasticceria Bar Domino.

Cortina d'Amprezzo is famous as the host city for the 1956 Winter Olympics and is a beautiful alpine town set in a valley among the Dolomites. From Cortina you have a few options for returning to Venice. If you are short on time you can set your GPS back to Venice and take route SS51 back to the A27 Autostrada and be back in Venice in less than two hours. Or, if time permits you can take a more scenic route back over the Passo Giau, which is what we did.

A trip over the Passo Giau is well worth your time. At 2236 meters the pass here provides for a stunning view of the Dolomites in all directions. You are literally at the base of the Nuvolau (2574 meters) with its striking peak and there is a path that leads you directly to it. This area of the Dolomites is dotted with alpine cows and herds of sheep and we came across numerous deer on the drive up to the pass.

Passo Giau - the Nuvolau
Passo Giau - the Nuvolau | Source

From the Passo Giau you can continue to follow the road off the mountain and then set your GPS to Venice and you should be good to go. The ride to Venice from Passo Giau is a little over two hours. We found both Passo Falzargo and Passo Giau to be beautiful locations with stunning views. If you want a taste of the Dolomites and find yourself in Venice with a day to spare, grab a rental car and head north. And don’t fret too much over the driving. The roads in northern Italy were wider and less travelled than in many other parts of Italy. We took a full size Ford Galaxy Minivan on this route and had no problems. I might even go so far as to say the driving was fun.

Ciao for now.

Sunset from Passo Giau
Sunset from Passo Giau | Source
show route and directions
A markerVenice, It -
Venice, Italy
get directions

B markerBelluno, It -
32100 Belluno, Province of Belluno, Italy
get directions

C markerFalzargo Passo, It -
Falzarego Pass, 32043 Cortina d'Ampezzo, Province of Belluno, Italy
get directions

D markerCortina, It -
32043 Cortina d'Ampezzo, Province of Belluno, Italy
get directions

E markerPasso Giau, It -
Giau Pass, 32046 San Vito di Cadore, Province of Belluno, Italy
get directions

© 2012 Bill De Giulio

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    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 2 days ago from Massachusetts

      If we had that extra day we would have spent the night in Cortina d'Ampezzo. Quaint former Olympic village.

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      Claudia 2 days ago

      Where would you recommend spending the night on the route you did?

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 months ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Jennifer. It was pretty much all day. We left about 8am and made a number of stops on the way to Falzargo Pass where we took the Lagazuoi lift. From there we went to Cortina, walked the town, ate, looked around. We watched the sun set from Passo Giau on the way back to Venice. Probably arrived back in Venice between 9 and 10pm. It was a long day but so worth it. We made a lot of stops on the drive and spent a fair amount of time at the Passes and in Cortina. Thanks for stopping by. Good luck.

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      Jennifer Guadarrama 4 months ago

      How many hours was the day trip to the Dolomites?

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      NorthernCATravler 6 months ago

      Yes, we'll take the cable car ride. We hope to visit Venice and possibly Innsbruck, I'm not sure how far Innsbruck is - we've stayed on the Val Gardena side of the Dolomites. Looking forward to the trip.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 6 months ago from Massachusetts

      Hi there NorthernCATravler. Sounds like an amazing trip. The Dolomites and Cortina d'Amprezzo are simply stunning. I don't know if the cable cars will be open, I would think they would be for skiing, but take a ride up just for the views. You are also close enough to visit Venice? Enjoy, this is an amazing region of Italy with unsurpassed scenery.

    • NorthernCATravler profile image

      NorthernCATravler 6 months ago

      Thank you for your article. We will be in Cortina d'Ampezzo March 4-11th, 2017, not Skiing this time, hopefully, we can make a few day trips work for us.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 10 months ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Shannon. It's a beautiful area and certainly manageable from Venice. I'm sure it's even more scenic in December with more snow in the mountains. Have a great trip if you go, thanks for stopping by.

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      Shannon Kircher 10 months ago

      Thank you for sharing! We're brainstorming a quickie European escape in December before Christmas and I've been toying with the idea of Venice + the Dolomites. Looks awesome!

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you LuxeTravelFamily. We've been fortunate to have visited the Dolomites on a couple of ocassions and it's always spectacular. One of my favorite regions.

    • profile image

      LuxeTravelFamily 2 years ago

      Great article. We love visiting the Dolomites!

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Komang. Thank you. You will love Italy. Hopefully you get there soon. Thanks for the visit.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks Kristen. We had a great trip to the Dolomites. What a contrast from Venice. I love the mountains so this was right up my alley. Thanks so much for stopping by and the vote.

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      Komang Setiabudi 2 years ago from Jakarta Selatan

      Fantastic article. I would like to go to Italy with my family.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Bill, this was another great travelogue from you in Italy on your day trip. It was so visual with your descriptions and your photos. Voted up for interesting!

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Deborah. Thank you. You would love Venice, really unlike any other place. And with the Dolomites not too far away a day trip to the mountains is certainly doable. Thanks for stopping by, have a great day.

    • deborahmorrison1 profile image

      Deborah Morrison 2 years ago from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

      Would love to go to Venice, Italy, now that I've read your article.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi jesus_man. I would plan on spending a night somewhere in the Dolomites. You can get from Innsbruck to the heart of the Dolomites in an hour or so but you will want to spend some time exploring, hiking, maybe taking a lift, etc.. From the Dolomites to Milan will take longer and my take on these trips is why rush. Depending on where you visit in the Dolomite region you may also want to stop at a few of the alpine towns. Enjoy this region, it's absolutely breathtaking.

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      jesus_man 2 years ago

      Mr. DeGiulio. My family and my parents are looking to make a big whirlwind Alp tour out of Austria, Italy, Switzerland, & France. I am trying to decide how much time we need in the Dolomite region to see the highlights. The trip will take place in the first part of April. We will be renting a 7-9 passenger van, which I am quite confident about driving and have a lot of mountain pass driving experience. We'd likely be traveling from Innsbruck and then headed to either Milan or Lake Como afterwards. I am trying to decide if we can see the sites in one day, or do we need to plan a nights stay in the area and then leave for our next destination sometime during the following day.

      Thanks!

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Nicole. Glad you enjoyed the visit. Like you I drooled at the prospect of touring the Dolomites while we were visiting Venice. It really is beautiful and it can be done in a day. Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment, have a great weekend.

    • Nicole Pellegrini profile image

      Nicole Pellegrini 3 years ago from New Jersey, USA

      I am drooling and adding this to my wish list for my next visit to Venice and the Veneto! While I've done day trips to Padova and Vicenza before, spending some time in the Dolomites sounds wonderful. Thank you for this fantastic guide.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Jevina. Thanks for stopping by. I would not say that driving in the Dolomites is treacherous. Certainly there are some areas where you are going up and there are switchbacks as you climb but overall the roads there are in good condition. We took a full size mini van on this trip as we were a group of six and I actually enjoyed driving in the mountains. There may be a few spots here and there that some might consider hair-raising but as long as you are driving responsibly you will be okay. Many people make the drive through the Dolomites and I would not consider the drive dangerous although I have a tendency to look at the scenery and not the road, which I don't recommend. :)

      If you do decide to go make sure you get an early start. I will say that it was a long day for us but that was mostly due to the fact that we just didn't want to leave. I would highly recommend the Lagazuoi Cable-car ride and Cortina is just a short ride east of here. The views from the top of Lagazuoi are something to behold and the history here is fascinating.

      Good luck with your trip. You will love Vencie and if you do make the trip to the Dolomites I don't think you will be disappointed.

    • profile image

      Jevina 3 years ago

      Hi Bill,

      Wow, your post is so interesting and informative. Most people don't normally give so much information which is exactly what a person needs! We're visiting Venice in a couple of months and originally we were going to do a day trip to the Dolomites, but we have now decided to cut it out. But seeing your pictures makes me want to put it back in again. We cut it out because we were very worried about driving to the Dolomites. Are the mountainous roads very treacherous or hair-raising, or would you say it's okay to drive to the Dolomites?

      Thanks again for your post! :-)

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Thelma. You're not too far away there in Germany. This is a great region of Italy, just beautiful scenery and a lot less tourists. We've ventured into the Dolomites on two occasions and both trips were just breathtaking. Glad you enjoyed the trip. Ciao!

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 3 years ago from Germany

      What a beautiful place to visit! I would love to go there but I can´t do that alone. I have seen a lot of travel videos about this place. Certainly, worth a visit. Thanks for the awesome tour. Ciao bello!

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi tasso. We started in Venice and went as far as Cortina before heading back to Venice, so Venice was the half way point. The map above shows our stops from Venice to Belluno to Falzarego Pass to Cortina. From Cortina we head back to Venice vis the Giau Pass. This can be done in a day if you get an early start. Thanks for stopping by.

    • profile image

      tasso2611 3 years ago

      So is Cortina halfway through this route you talk about? I am having a hard time finding a map of it so I can get my bearings.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi tasso2611. Yes, we actually stopped in Cortina, which is only 15 minutes from the Lagazuoi Cable Car. Alta badia, is close by also, about 20 minutes to the northwest. Either place would make for a great overnight. Good luck and let me know how it goes. This is a stunning area of Italy.

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      tasso2611 3 years ago

      Wow! thank you so much for all this wonderful information! I plan to do this in late Aug. when I go, but I am thinking of not returnig to Venice and rather staying somewhere near Cortina o Alta Badia, are these areas near this route you explain? Thanks

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Mike. Thanks for stopping by. I can tell you that our day trip from Venice was a long day. We stopped in Alleghe on our way to the Falzarego Pass where we took the Lagazuoi cable car, which I highly recommend. From there we headed east and spent a few hours in Cortina d'Ampezzo before heading to Passo Giau to watch the sunset. We did not get back to Venice until about 10pm. I would recommend that you rent a car for the day so you can set your own schedule. Because we were a group of six we could not rent a van from Piazzale Roma and had to go to the airport to get a van. This cost us about an hour of time.

      The route that I originally wanted to take was to drive the Sella Ronda. This is the circuit that takes you over 4 high mountain passes as you circle the Sella Dolomite group. This is farther west from where we were and could probably be done in a day if you get a really early start.

      As far as Austria we did not get there although we sure were close. There are a few towns/villages that are close, namely Lienz and Assling but I have not been there and don't know much about them. I will do a little research and get back here with what I find. Just be prepared for a long day. Once you get off the A27 the roads are winding and slow.

      This is a beautiful region of Italy and if you like mountains you will not be disappointed. Give me a couple of days and check back, I'll see what I can come up with.

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      Mike 3 years ago

      Hi Bill: Loved your trip description. I am planning a family trip to Venice next July, 2014. I am struggling debating taking the 1 day tour from Venice or renting a car on the island and driving myself and not having time constraints at each stop. Being so close to Austria, is there a village you would recommend that would only add 2 extra hours to the day trip? Thanks.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Yoleen. They are beautiful anytime of year. Great skiing in the winter and great hiking in the summer. Thanks for stopping by, have a great day.

    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 4 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      I would LOVE to take a skiing / snowboarding vacation in the Dolomites! I'd love to visit them any time of year!

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Winsome. It is a beautiful region of Italy. We enjoyed all of it. Thank you for stopping by to read and comment. I really enjoyed your tour of northern Italy also. Ciao

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      Winsome 4 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Now I know what I was looking at in my favorite picture of Santa Maddelena. Thanks for the tour--my favorites, based on your beautiful pictures, are Alleghe and Cortina. Ciao Bella! =: )

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      The more the merrier. Thanks for coming along for the ride. It's a beautiful part of Italy.

      Many thanks for the read and vote. Have a great day.

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      Shinkicker 4 years ago from Scotland

      Glad to have come aboard and be a passenger on your drive. Great photos of tremendous scenery too.

      Voted up

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Mel. Thank you, it was a great day traveling through the Dolomites and the scenery was amazing. If you ever get the chance to visit the Dolomites please take it.

      Many thanks for the visit and comments. Have a great weekend.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      What a beautiful place! now I have somewhere else to visit! brilliant! love your article and the photos were amazing!

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you speedakias. It is a beautiful region of Italy. That's the problem with visiting Italy, there are just so many wonderful places to visit.

      Glad you enjoyed the Hub and welcome to HubPages.

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      speedy gonzales 4 years ago from Greece

      Magnificent Article! Italy has so many beautiful places to see! I still remember my own journey in Dolomites in 2008.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Alicia. It is a beautiful part of italy and one that is often overlooked by travelers. Hopefully you get there someday. Thank you for the taking the time to read and comment. Have a great day.

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      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This area looks very impressive, Bill! I would love to visit it myself. I don't know if I'll ever be able to, but if I do your travel advice will be very useful. Thanks for the lovely photos and the information.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi mizjo. Thank you, glad you enjoyed the Hub. We had a wonderful time and really enjoyed this area of Italy. Have a great day.

    • mizjo profile image

      mizjo 4 years ago from New York City, NY

      Stunning photos, wonderfully descriptive hub. Taken together, they make an enviable trip. Another great job, Bill.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Glimmer Twin Fan. You are correct, the farther north one goes the more Swiss and Austrian influence you get. Cortina really had that Swiss alpine look with the colorful flower boxes on every window. Very beautiful area. Hopefully you get to check it ot someday soon. Thank you as always for the read, comment and vote, very much appreciated.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Another beautiful one! Italy starts looking more and more like Austria and Switzerland the more north one travels. I need a vacation! Voted up!

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Nadine. Thank you for stopping by to read and comment. It is a beautiful part of Italy and hopefully you'll get a chance to visit there someday.

    • Nadene Seiters profile image

      Nadene Seiters 4 years ago from Elverson, PA

      I found your hub informative and the pictures are breathtaking! I will definitely add this to my wish list of places to go.

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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you mecheshier. Glad you enjoyed the Hub. It was a great road trip in a beautiful part of the world. Thank you for the vote.

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      mecheshier 4 years ago

      Wow, stunning pics and very informative info. Love your Hub. Thank you for sharing. Voted up for interesting, useful and awesome.

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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you Suzette. I've had a great time putting these Italy Hubs together. It's therapeutic and it brings back some great memories. It's not hard to make Italy look gorgeous! Thanks again and have a great day.

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      Suzette Walker 4 years ago from Taos, NM

      Beautiful, beautiful! I've skied the Dolomites at Monte Bondone! What an exhilerating experience. This really brings back the memories. Your series of Italian places and vacation spots are terrific. Your photos are outstanding! You are like Rick Steves! LOL Seriously, I love these articles. You are making Italy look gorgeous!

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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bill. It sure is. I know you love those beautiful mountains you have out there in Washington so I think you'd love the Dolomites. Lots of hiking and beautiful scenery. Thanks, have a great weekend.

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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks Suzie. It's a great area for winter skiing or summer hiking and touring. If you love the mountains you'll love the Dolomites. We really packed a lot into our 4 days in Venice but it was all worth it. Who knows when we'll ever get back to this area.

      Thank you for the VU and share. Have a great weekend.

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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      That is some seriously beautiful scenery! Thank you for a fantastic tour; if I ever get over there I am definitely looking this area up. Great hub Bill!

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      Suzanne Ridgeway 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi Bill,

      What a fantastic journey you have described here into the beautiful Dolomites. Your first hand detail and tips are so important for all travelers, in order to get the very best out of this great day trip!

      It really does look stunning and what breathtaking scenery - wow!!

      Congrats on a mega interesting trip we will definitely have to add to our Venice trip!! I would love to do skiing there, my brother has been a few times and loved it. voted up more and sharing Bill - excellent article yet again :-)