Do you ever feel the need to escape the hustle of a large metropolis, run away from the honking cars and polluted atmosphere, to experience nature without compromise? I’m not talking about going to Hyde Park for your lunch break, that’s just like passive smoking: it reminds you of what a cigarette smells like, but you’re not actually smoking it. I’m talking about raw nature, where there is no phone signal, where if you manage to silence your thoughts for just a few seconds you can actually hear Earth’s voice.
I’ve lived in huge cities almost non-stop for the past 8 years. Places like London and Rome certainly have a lot to offer, but nobody ever talks about what they slowly steal from you. Probably because we are moving too fast to feel what’s missing, and we just call it “depression” or “overworking”. Except in Rome. Nobody is overworking in Rome.
After several weeks of misery at my flat in the Italian capital (poor me) I decided to go on a little adventure. I found an awesome trekking website with lots of guides and advice on locations to visit, and decided to hike up to the “Tre Cime di Lavaredo” (Three Pikes of Lavaredo).
This is one of the best-known locations in the Dolomites, in the north of Italy. They are only a few kilometres away from the Austrian border, and at an altitude of almost 3000m they are definitely exciting.
I booked a train ticket, and headed north. I stayed near Padova (Padua) for the night, and the following morning took a car and drove for about 3 hours towards the town of Auronzo, which is somehow the gate to the three pikes of Lavaredo.
I passed by a lake at the feet of a mountain, and decided to stop the car, pull out my camera and tripod and take a photo of that beautiful location.
The sun was almost at its highest, definitely not the best light for photography, but when travelling that’s just something you get used to and you learn to deal with.
I kept driving for a good 40 minutes, the car was really struggling with the climb, and I started to feel a bit concerned about whether I would actually manage to reach the top. With only 5km left, I reached the toll road, paid an outrageous 30€ fee, put my car into first gear and drove all the way up to “Rifugio Auronzo”, which is the best place to start your hike if you plan on visiting the Three Pikes.
After taking in the stunning views for a few minutes, I headed up to the rifugio for some lunch. I ate as quickly as possible, I didn’t want to waste any time, and soon enough I was heading for the trail.
I decided I wasn’t going to follow a specific route, but I would just follow my instincts, which are usually really good when it comes to directions. Plus, you can’t really get lost, everything is very well sign-posted.
The path is entirely made of gravel, in fact there is very little grass at all, which is probably why there’s an almost complete lack of wildlife other than a few common crows.
I hiked for a good 6 hours and a total of 12km, with an elevation gain of about 500m. I met plenty of nature enthusiasts along the way, and the whole experience was a beautiful assault to all my senses.
If you love hiking for hours and are planning to visit the Dolomites, the Three Pikes of Lavaredo is definitely a trip worth doing. The views are absolutely stunning, and the mountains have so much history that you can’t help but feel humbled by them.
At that altitude the wind is constant, making the clouds move really fast. This means the light is always changing, and you have to be really quick to get the shot. I had my tripod with me, but never actually got to use it. I was easily shooting the whole day between f8 and f11, ISO 100 and a shutter speed way faster than I actually needed. Would I have got sharped images if I had used a tripod? I doubt it. It definitely wasn’t worth the hassle and the chance I might miss the perfect light.
I found myself switching between the 24-70 and the 70-200 quite a lot, and actually often preferred the longer focal length. Beginner photographers might assume that a wide angle lens is the best choice for landscapes, but I often find this isn’t the case. With telephoto lenses you can be a lot more creative, and make way more images by focusing more on the details rather than the whole scenery.
Here is the gallery of my favourite images from the trip. I hope you enjoy it.