LA SERENISSIMA – October 11th

Evidently, there IS a route called The Great Dolomite Road, but all the roads through the Dolomites are great. I have never seen the likes of these mountains or these forests, for that matter. The peaks have incredible personality and the forests are infused with light, not like, say, the Maine Woods which can be a dark, forbidding wall. The road zigzags by way of endless switchbacks through the green and gold forest which will break suddenly to reveal soaring limestone crags. The road is well-engineered; there’s a rhythm to the twists and turns, which mitigates the sensation of imminent peril. Then we make a turn like any other and behold open meadows folding over each other and a chalet perched where no dwelling should possibly be.

I’ve been trying to follow the directions the helpful women at the Hotel Grief’s front desk gave us along with Joss’ best, yet, to the best of my understanding, we’re headed in the general direction of Cortina. A most beautiful lake had been mentioned but I don’t remember the name and proceed with little hope of actually finding it. I need a pit stop and we pull off at what I take to be a rest area. The restrooms are down a bunker-style concrete tunnel. Surprise. At the end of the tunnel is Lake Carezza, a crystalline, blue-green pool that mirrors jagged peaks and clouds. I’ve only seen these colors in the mineral springs of Yellowstone, but this one is not thermal. I have the photo.

Switchbacks become second nature. Joss relaxes. We sail along on awe, each vista more enthralling than the one before. The descent into Cortina reactivates the agita, perhaps because civilization now begins to accumulate. Everywhere evidence of the epic winter season. Cortina d’Ampezza – host of the 1956 Winter Olympics. Ski lifts to nowhere and vast empty parking lots. And, yes, in Cortina, our nemesis – the ‘restricted traffic’ zone.

We find only confusion when attempting to contact our rental agent. I can never remember to bring my fucking passport along when we book into our lodgings. This results in a blip or two of self-loathing and its aftermath, the dreary schlep back to the car to get it. Speaking of dreary, recounting in full this rondelay of pathos would no doubt stall any interest anyone might have in this travelogue. Then, the keys are ours.

Our glycemics have taken a potentially disastrous dip into ‘hypo’, so almost automatically we step into the nearest pasticceria. It’s called Panificio Alverà and it is the gluten equivalent of the Dolomites. We gobble one croissant with prosciutto e lattuga e pomodoro and another, then submit to strudel and espresso. On our way out, I buy pastries for the morning and a half kilo of assorted cookies for the road.

We have rented Heidi’s House, though without Grandfather or the lass herself.

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