La Dolce Vita - Page 2
Let's see ... if we drop down here, we can grab a cappuccino, then it's only a 3000-foot climb back to the Alta Via 1. Let's go! Photo by PatitucciPhoto.
Arriving at the Malga mid-day, we squeezed into seats at an outdoor table next to an Italian couple and their poodle, and snatched a menu. We ordered a local cheese platter, a porcini mushroom pasta and a bottle of red wine.
“This will be the first running trip I’ll gain weight on,” Amy joked. “It takes more than a 13-mile mountain run to burn a cream sauce and cheese assortment. ”
After lunch we hit the trail, which meandered through green grass beneath the 3500-foot, eerily vertical wall of the Civetta. In the distance loomed the 11,000-foot Marmolada, the range’s tallest peak with the Dolomites’ largest glacier gracing its north side.
Soon, early evening was upon us and we were still about four miles from the Coldai Hut, which presented a problem unique to the European hut system—dinner was set for 7 p.m. sharp. Miss it and you go hungry.
We quickly calculated how much time we would need to take photographs in the golden light and still make dinner. It was going to be tight, and I was anxious.
When I lived in Italy in 1997, my Italian friends would often implore, “Tranquillo, tranquillo, Patitucci.” Italians prefer a slower pace, and now those words echoed but there was simply no way I could miss dinner.
“Dan, we came here to work and enjoy the mountains, not to be inside a hut for sunset,” said Janine.
“Yes, but maybe we can work quickly and keep moving,” I said, employing waving hand gestures for emphasis.
Luckily, reasoning and Euro travel savvy won out. This being Italy, one thing was certain: dinner would be late.
So we moved on, photographing occasionally, carving through switchbacks, winding alongside a small creek, leaping from foot-worn rock to foot-worn rock. We were like kids at Disneyland, hooting and hollering as we descended to a bench with two tiny azure lakes. From the lakes we climbed a small pass to a saddle where a small group had gathered to watch the sun dropping behind the mountains. We knew we were nearly home; Italians don’t stray far from dinner.
Upon arrival, we discovered that dinner was indeed late, found our seat and were handed menus. We were accustomed to the French and Swiss huts with their fixed menus and a love-it-or-leave-it policy. Pizza or pasta? Salad or soup? I began considering pizza and pasta. During our four-course meal, we enjoyed watching a birthday celebration in the adjoining room. Twenty drunk Italians on a Via Ferrata (see sidebar) tour sang and danced on tables as platters of grappa, a deadly alcohol made from the second pressing of wine grapes, were passed around.
“A little different than life in a tent with dehydrated chili and iodine-flavored water, eh, Rasic?” I commented.
“Sorry, did you say something,” said Amy, looking up from her menu. “I was trying to figure out what to have for dessert.”
After escaping the dining room we found we were the last to make bed selections. As a result, we were guaranteed the top story on three-tiered bunk beds. I climbed up the teetering bunk and crawled into bed trying not to think about the 10-foot drop to the floor. With fears of having to climb down through two tiers of snoring hikers if nature called, I faded off to sleep.