Today we stumbled into culinary heaven in a small hamlet in the Dolomites, the finest finish to a day of hiking one could ask for, but I’m getting ahead of myself. We start the day at Rifugio Passo Fedaia with a surprisingly good breakfast buffet, the highlight of which would be gigantic fresh coronetti marmolada, fittingly since we will walk around the famous Marmolada glacier today.
There is a little self-questioning this morning: it’s day 6 of the AV2, “humpday” as we have planned it, and we are in the final week of a glorious summer of European hiking. There is always the temptation to compare and rate. The Dolomites, visually, are stunning, but the trail the last few days has been flooded with dayhikers and tourists, which inevitably detracts from the “wilderness” experience that we also crave.
On top of that, Alison’s boots are worn thin to the point of being slippery and dangerous, and it is clearly taking away from her enjoyment of this steep trail. So, we resolve to take it day by day and reexamine and reroute if necessary. After all, the point of the journey is not to arrive. It’s an important point to remember as we head into the home stretch of the AV2.
So we set off downhill following the road and walking beneath a ski lift down a long, grassy slope to the hamlet of Malga Ciapella. It’s quiet and peaceful and still relatively cool, though the weather is supposed to be quite hot with the threat of afternoon thunder showers later today.
We reach Malga Ciapella quickly, shortly after the cable cars up to the glacier start running. This is supposed to be a worthy side trip, but we opt out of the chance to see the glaciers up close in favor of tackling the trail and arriving at our end-destination, Rifugio Fuchiade, at a reasonable hour.
We head to the village. There is a small, well-stocked supermarket here, and we stop in and resupply on cheese, bread and fruit, probably for the final time. We grab a cappuccino and chat with four Germans who are on the Munich to Venice trail for 30 days or so. I notice a sport store with boots on display, and Alison comes over for a look. The solution is obvious: it’s time for a new pair of boots for her.
This is the perfect (and only convenient) opportunity on the trail. So after trying a few pairs on, she settles on a comfy pair of Meindls and, leaving her trusty pair behind, off we go! Saying goodbye to a pair of good boots is like closing a chapter of a good book. She has so many wonderful memories made while hiking in them. Those boots took her on the JMT, a trip to New Zealand, Peaks of the Balkans, TMB and HR and half of the AV2. That’s a lot of quality hiking, but it is definitely time for a new pair.
We hike through a campground and start heading uphill through a forest toward the pass at Forca Rossa. It’s hot, but our mood has improved with the opportunity for new and different terrain. Best of all, after the campground, we encounter virtually no one for the rest of the day. The trail proves a little difficult to find in places, but we eventually find the trail and make our way up to the pass.
After the pass, it’s a relatively easy downhill to green pastures where we see a large herd of horses grazing and frolicking. The mountain views are amazing in all directions, and we even spy some marmots in the meadow and hawks flying high above. We have one final steep descent to Rifugio Fuchiade, but then we are there.
Set in a tranquil verdant spot at the end of a valley, we have lucked our way into a cute, private room with a pleasant view and an amazing 5-star restaurant. We wash up then rinse out and hang our clothes to dry. We join the other hikers who are here for the night on the deck outside for a Radler (beer and lemonade, similar to a shandy). There are six Germans in all (the family of four: Marcus and Cristina, the twin siblings Anna and Paul, plus two amiable women named Janke and Julia who were at the rifugio/pizzeria last night).
We join them and another German couple (Sebastian and Miriam) for dinner, and this is where the fun really starts. It turns out that our booking for a room plus mezza pensione (half board) includes a 4-course dinner. So, there we are all seated in our evening finest (t-shirts and shorts, what Alison call’s her trail “nightgown”) and being served by our friendly waiter Roberto.
Carafes of red and white wine and water along with an amuse d’bouche of crostini with lemon/orange butter are brought out. Everything here is homemade and done with a flare. For antipasti we choose a selection of cheeses and a tomino (local cheese) encrusted in pistachio on a bed of radicchio with a tomato confite. For primi we have orzatto in a sweet, cheese sauce with berries and a ravioli with figs and wild pears.
For secondi we have spaghetti patate with shaved truffle and mushrooms and polenta with mushrooms and cheese. Dessert includes a chocolate sphere that collapses when a warm raspberry jam is poured on top and a collection of different flavors of flan in lemon cream with sliced green apples.
The conversation is lively, jovial and free flowing despite the language barrier. At the end of the evening, we gather outside and toast a fine evening together with a sort of homemade grappa with myrtillo (blueberry). Truly the gods were on our side when we randomly chose this place. We never want to leave, but eating all of this decadent food has given us plenty of motivation to keep hiking tomorrow!