The Lunga Via delle Dolomiti (Long Way of the Dolomites) cycleway is one of the most thrilling cycling routes in the Alps. You will cycle through unique and evocative sceneries, surrounded by the UNESCO World Heritage peaks.
THE STORY OF THE WHITE AND BLUE TRAIN
The current cycleway, inaugurated in 2003, follows the path of the Dolomites' little train. An extraordinary train, which had only a brief history.
The idea of building a railway connection between Venice and the Tyrol had existed since the middle of the nineteenth century. It was only officially opened after the First World War, and was particularly important during the 1956 Winter Olympics, when the road was closed to the private traffic, and tourists and athletes used it to reach Cortina d'Ampezzo.
Cortina owes much of its touristic fame to the spectacular white and blue train, which Alberto Sordi showed in a famous scene of the picture "Vacanze d'inverno" in 1960.
In the 1960s began its slow decline, both for the expensive maintenance cost, and the competition by automotive means of transportation which also reached the fashionable tourist destination.
On March 11, 1960, part of the train derailed near Acquabona (just outside Cortina) down a deep cliff, causing two deaths and about thirty severely wounded. That was the last straw. A car- and bus traffic route was planned and the railway was officially dismissed in 1964.
The abandoned track was kept intact, which is the reason why today we have a path, although devoid of rails, with the original stations, tunnels and bridges built over spectacular deep gorges.
Is a cycling and hiking itinerary which follows the path of the old railway from Calalzo to Toblach through the Cadore and Cortina d'Ampezzo.
Exactly 62 kilometerslong, with a total climb of 700 meters, the first section of the way is entirely paved and mostly artificially lit during the night. The second section, however, is beaten track with gravel with a constant, light climb.
The landscapes it crosses are extremely evocative, and the view of the Dolomites is a unique spectacle in the world. The cycleway crosses through 7 towns and along the path you will be able to admire naturalistic beauties and architectural gems, through woods, lakes, bridges, galleries and old train stations , some renovated and turned into rest stops.
We suggest two different itineraries: from San Vito to the Landro lake, and from San Vito the little lakes of Lagole.
FROM SAN VITO TO THE LANDRO LAKE
Leaving the hotel, you will have to cross the playground and take the route going northwards. Once you pass a small part of the town, with the backdrop of the Rocchette and farther away, the Tofane, there a pleasant up- and downhill stretch through the woods begins, keeping close the flow of the Boite river all the way to Cortina's trampoline.
From here, the cycleway slowly enters in the Ampezzo valley, with its majestic 360° landscape. Without crossing the town's center, the path keeps at altitude and continues through exclusive hotels and elegant mansions.
Then, the route enters the dense coniferous forest of the Parco Naturale delle Dolomiti and continues through fresh tunnels and bridges suspended over staggering canyons, all the way to Ospitale's little church, dedicated to St. Nicholas, patron of wayfarers.
Here, a poetic stretch begins, in which you'll encounter one after the other the White and Black lakesthe evocative Cimabanche pass, which delimits the natural border between Veneto and South Tyrol, to finish at the spectacular Landro lake.
From this turquoise body of water, the view on the Cristallo group of mountains is amazing. The lake is not too deep, and its waters' mild temperature entices people to take a reinvigorating swim.
DISTANCE: 30 km – CLIMB: ↑ 400 m
FROM SAN VITO TO LAGOLE'S LITTLE LAKES
After having crossed the playground in front of the hotel, the Lunga Via delle Dolomiti cycleway is directly accessible. The cycleway crosses the entire town, where the massive of theAntelao and the group of the Sorapiss (Marcora, Scotter and Cima Belpà) face the unmistakable mount Pelmo.
In the small characteristic station of San Vito, you'll find the Popular Tradition Museum, which hosts about a thousand artefacts from the worlds of craftsmanship and agriculture, and a model of the Dolomites' little train. Outside, there is an interesting vegetable garden with traditional local products from the valley.
From here, the descent leads to Borca and the cycleway continues in the valley. The new bridges and old galleries allow you to cycle in absolute safety through the picturesque Cadore towns of Vodo, Venas, Valle and Tai.
In Pieve di Cadore we advise you to arrive in time to take a brief artistic stop. Other than the house in which Tiziano Vecellio was born, a famous Renaissance painter, the town has several buildings of historical and artistic value, among which the seat of the Magnifica Comunità di Cadore, and the original Museum of Glasses.
Once you have reached Calalzo, the excursion ends close to the train station, but we suggest you continue to the chalet close by on the lake's shore, and visit Lagole, an archeological and naturalistic area of rare beauty.
Here several sources of water form trickles and little lakes which pour into the Tose lake. The importance of this area mostly comes from the presence of some archeological finds, traced back to 2500 years ago, which show how this place was considered by ancient Venetians a sanctuary with magical healing properties. The bravest can try to dive in the icy waters of the lake: a purification rite appreciated by the locals.
DISTANCE: 31 km – CLIMB: ↓ 200 m