I remember saying several times before we left, “We’re going to Cinque Torri”. Invariably, the reply would be, “Oh, Cinque Terre, that’s nice, we’ve been there.” It’s perhaps a reflection on how tourism works. Some place gets a name, the busloads start coming and, presto, everybody has either been or is going to go there.
The thing about the Dolomites however, is that it’s more oriented towards Italians, Austrians and Germans. The English speaking fraternity and the Asians haven’t yet really arrived and, if they did, I’m not sure it could handle them. There’s a smattering of the discerning ones but they’re not thick on the ground.
We had a list of possibles and Cinque Torri was probably number 2 or 3 but this day we chose it because the drifting misty clouds were obscuring the higher peaks but we would be able to view the Torre, and so it transpired. We reached the lift and had already passed the snowline so excitement reigned as we unpacked the cameras from the car. You can’t see the towers from the base so we had no idea how far and got slugged around 50 dollars for the lift tickets but the ride wasn’t even as far as Thredbo. So much for cheap European lift tickets.
As we rolled over the last stanchion the tips of the rocks came into view. In terms of overall height they aren’t as significant as most of the other outcrops around Cortina, but they more than make up for it with shape and the fact that you can get up close and personal, even touch them. From the chairlift exit, Torre Grande’s (2,361 metres) large presence is the one that immediately grabs your attention and the trail leads straight to it.
Stepping out onto snow is something I haven’t done for a couple of years, but this time there will be no skiing. The line of the path has already been exposed by those before us and Lorraine’s frantic almost, trying to avoid the puddles but it’s useless. Your shoes, socks and feet will all get wet, whether you like it or not. The vision before proves to be such a distraction that you almost forget about it anyway.
Across the road far below, to the right of the Passo Falzarego rises the Tofane massif where the mist is clinging to the exposed buttresses, flailing like coat tails in the wind before eventually being wrenched from the cliffs to make way for the next errant cloud. Other bits plunge into crevices as if searching for something, sending shafts of moisture from the sky driven by a sudden downdraft. It’s all so moving, literally and metaphorically, and it inspires awe in us both but it’s hard to say just why.
We’re getting closer to the towers and a British male climber, laden with ropes, and his partner are looking for a route up one of the peaks. It’s a popular area for such pastimes and I can but shake my head at such folly yet I have read many a climbing book and find them fascinating yet the death toll is high. Optimism springs eternal.
Up close, the one that grabs my attention more than any other is the outcrop shaped like an upturned surfboard fin. It’s narrower, smaller and sits at the extreme left, slightly apart and looking like it wants to depart the scene which, in geological terms, I expect it is.
Scattered around the trails here are the leftover bunkers and lookouts from WWI and their stories are told on instructive signs relating the historical record. Today people from those same countries share the mountains, again highlighting the folly of conflict.
Our feet are now well and truly saturated, at times in puddles, at times in ankle deep snow. We console ourselves with the fact that the snow makes for better photography as we wend our way around the at-times awkward path that turns now back to the Refugio adjacent to the chairlift. Here we decide to have lunch and the place is packed but some pleading gets us a table and we are seated, without expectations of anything special but, when my tagliatelle turns up and is coloured dark grey, I’m taken aback. Even more surprisingly, it tastes delicious, flavoured by fungi and other stuff, and Lorraine’s soup is jam packed with goodies. This is so unlike the basic fare you can expect beside chairlifts in Oz and better than many restaurants we’ve eaten at this trip.
It seems almost everyone is inside the restaurant because there are few now outside as we finally depart, thoroughly sated after such an impressively scenic walk and satisfying meal. We suspect this will be one of the highlights of the trip.