While I was in Vittorio Veneto on business (~1 hr NW of Venice) I made some time to drive an additional 1.5 hrs into the heart of the Dolomites. The Dolomites really are a special area in the Italian Alps. Dolomite is a white, grey to pink limestone that compose most of the mountains.
It had been raining for the last several weeks in the lowlands, but had turned to snow in the mountains, which get almost to 10,000 ft.
I got great views almost immediately on the drive up, but was aiming for Passo Falzarego.
The town of Cortina is in the heart of the Dolomites, and is a big ski town.
I headed NW and really started to gain some altitude with plenty of switchbacks. I quickly hit snow and the roads got a little icy in spots. Not much traffic since it was between the summer and ski seasons.
I got to Passo Falzarego at 2100 m (6,900 ft), and parked at a closed restaraunt/ski area. There were a few cars parked, and I spotted a handful of people that worked their way up the slopes and then skied down since the gondola wasn't running yet. A non-english speaking guy pulled into the parking lot. I decided to follow him since I didn't know what the local rules were. Unfortunately, he pulled on his snowshoes. I hadn't brought mine, so it was hard going post-holing up to my knees and midthigh. That got old quickly!
After ~1hr of postholing, I decided to retreat and head for lower elevations. I got down below the treeline and parked at a trailhead that I stumbled across. A older German speaking gentleman was coming out just as I was getting ready to go in. He was carrying a rifle, but after some humorous attempts at communicating with him and some trepidation, I decided to head in.
The clouds rolled in after a while, and some flakes started floating down. Since I was a bit out of my element and didn't want to get stuck in a snowstorm, I decided I could see more views on the drive back to the hotel.
It was a nice (long) drive as I cut across country through more scenic areas and villages.
These beehives were nestled above teh village, where there must be lots of wildflowers in the spring.
Although it wasn't the 10-20 mile hiking trip across rugged peaks that I was hoping for, it was a nice time and gave me a glimpse of the Dolomites. Next time I hope to hit the area earlier in the season or bring my snowshoes.
Many thanks to Jonathan, Jens, Arno, and Katharina for helpful tips.