(Continued from back our “Arrival in Venice” post back HERE.)

Ok I’ve been trying to figure out how in the world to try to capture even portions of this.

I mean how can you narrow down stuff like this?

I don’t know.

But here goes a try.

Let’s go back to the end of Venice:

Just as the sun was starting to slant in the sky as we left the beauty of that city in the wake of our water taxi, we headed North toward the Dolomites. (The Italian Alps….only a few hours from Venice.)

I had been dreaming of those mountains for a long time.

We drove through all kinds of mountain-lined towns, buildings spilling out with flower boxes and jagged mountains jutting out behind.

Always with a beautiful church tucked in the middle of town.

There was a lot of driving on this trip, but every drive was jaw-droppingly beautiful.

Overnight in Cortina d’ Ampezzo

Our first stop was Cortina d’ Ampezzo (a little incredibly picturesque little ski town) to find our little apartment we were renting. We had a tough time finding our little airbnb, and by the fourth time we passed this little “Cortina” sign it didn’t seem quite as magical as it did the first time, ha!

But we found our way and got situated just in time to be able to go enjoy golden hour walking around town to find dinner.

I am in love with Italy!

That was one LONG day, from the time we left home in the desert, met up with these kids in NYC, and explored Venice, and arrived in this beautiful city, (all the same day!!), they all melded into each other and we were ready for bed in our little airbnb right down the street from the gorgeous church with it’s bells chiming into the scene on the hour.

Of course, we were jet lagged so despite that long day, none of us slept too much.

But ready or not, our alarms rang the next morning and we packed up and headed out on our next adventure:

Tre Cime di Lavaredo

We were up before sunrise to make the 45-minute drive to the Tre Cime hike.

Tre Cime means “three chimneys:” these monstrous, rugged mountains jutting out of the earth.

We had an incredible view before we even started, right there intermixed with all the campers in the parking lot. I stood there by myself basking, it took my breath away.

And then we began, bathed in all that slanted sun glory.

How to hike the Tre Cime Circuit Hike:

This is what I learned from various websites before we went, and I was so grateful for the directions:

  • 10 km in distance
  • 4-5 hours (it really did take us that long since we didn’t bring enough water and we had to hike to an extra hut to buy some.)
  • easy/moderate (only one sort of steep spot)
  • start at Rifugio Auronzo (toll road)
  • Hike counter-clockwise
  • Takes 20-30 minutes to get to Rifugio Lavaredo (the first little hut)

Those were my notes, just in case they help anyone out. They sure helped us!

According to the weather forecast it was supposed to be pouring, but it was an incredibly beautiful morning lighting up the glistening mountains all around and my heart was so heavy with gratitude.

First stop:

We had a little hiccup with not bringing enough water (dumb), but that was a happy accident because it got us to hike to that next little hut in the distance down below:

Here we are up closer:

With these views over these tiny reflecting ponds, cowbells ringing in the distance:

Oh boy.

It was a long hike but I loved every minute of all that beauty and time for talking. And getting to know these in-laws even better.

Luckiest cows ever.

Next we made the drive to a the lake I had read about when I researched the area (after some serious negotiation with one of the nicest policemen in the whole wide world trying to figure out how to still get a parking spot reservation even when they were dwindling quickly and all of our credit cards got declined):

But we made it.

And boy, were we lucky we did.

Lago di Braies

…in all its glory, glacier-carved mountains as a backdrop:

We took a dip in that ice-cold water and basked in all that beauty.

And then we took the long road to our next stop since I had read that this pass through the mountains was not to be missed:

Gardena Pass

The beginning of the windiest roads ever. Tough to tell on the right below, but that road curved and curved.

Too pretty to hold.

As we drove, I wondered what the best way was to handle all this beauty. How can we show gratitude enough for this world?

Silent gratitude to God for it all, every inch.

We drove up and down so many tiny Italian streets, every single window spilling over with brilliant flowerpots.

Crystals in the air.

As we drove we talked about “Think Again” which Dave had challenged all the kids to read before the trip (talked about that book back HERE and HERE).

Loved that discussion about listening and how we have “thought again” this past year.

And then we arrived in our destination for the night:

Stay in Ortisei

Yikes on that beauty, right?

Dinner on a little outdoor patio in the shadow of a giant yellow church as the sunset turned the sky all pink:

The next morning the clouds broke and the rain started pouring in…the ominous weather forecast finally caught up with us.

But we weren’t deterred, and headed out to our first stop, up a big mountain on the tiniest of roads trying to find the right gondola.

We were headed to a place called Seceda, but we took the wrong gondola.

An accidental serendipity stop at Mont Seuc

We rode up through the clouds and rain:

And when we got out of that thing (the rain stopped as we got higher and higher), we realized we weren’t where we thought we were going.

But man alive, we were pretty glad about that…so much beauty with clouds opening up to show those rugged mountains.

The kids took all kinds of funny pictures to soak it in…

(love that last one!)

Dave was in tears he loved that place so much.

A new “thin place,” cowbells ringing, light infused.

It overlooked this valley that I had wanted to visit as well:

Alpe di Siuse

We took the gondola back down after Dave had had his fill of that place (we all loved it but Dave was purely smitten)

…and took a walk through town to see if we could really get up to Seceda.

Even flowers on street gates:

We finally found the right spot and headed to what I had been anxious for:


You see, my brother Eli had sent me this video a while back (drone footage he had taken when he was there), and I had waited in great anticipation to be standing in that spot:

Is that incredible or what?

As we took that gondola up I wondered if it would live up to the hype I had in my mind.

And guess what?

It did.

We got out of that gondola to witness the most gorgeous wonderland with those jagged cliffs jutting up.

We ran through the grass (they actually mow that stuff…and you can’t tell as much in these pictures, but it is a STEEP hill!):

After exploring and glorying in all of that beauty, we walked up to the very top of that green hill to sit (see were those teeny people are up there in the middle of the picture below?):

(I”m sure glad they had that little orange tape to help keep you from falling off the cliff…:)

Don’t you think it’s so cool how the clouds get “caught” on the other side of the rugged cliffs up there?

So much to take in.

In awe and reverence for the beauty.

We sat on that steep, grass hill for FOUR HOURS talking deep and watching the sky change the horizon over and over again:

We watched the sky chance the scene over and over again.

Sometimes filled up with plump clouds:

Sometimes the clouds came and swallowed us completely:

…Creating a different scene each time they gracefully moved across the vast horizon.

It was like we had a humongous movie screen in front of us showing us different pictures of the same vista in so many different moods.

As we sat there, we had one of my very favorite conversations about gospel and “gifts” and life. Deep spirit and deep beauty melding together.

For sure a new “thin place” for all of us.

After basking in that view as much as possible we took a little walk to get in and around those mountains as close as we could.

This view (behind these two) is looking back at where we had been sitting:

I loved watching the clouds pile up trying to get over those rugged rocks:

And of course, wild flowers everywhere:

Carson and I walked to the very top of the second ledge, looking over into clouds (that’s the third one behind him):

And came back to find Dave in this perfect meditation spot:

We were overflowing with gratitude for this gorgeous world where we get to live.

Dave tried his best to bring back “Grumpy Tourist,” (a favorite from the last time we were in Europe) but it didn’t work too well.

Ha! (too pretty)

We had to tear ourselves away…back down the mountain.

Found lunch and our last Italian gelato in town:

Then headed to one of the most famous vistas to photograph in the Dolomites:

Val di Funes church (San Giovanni)

Just check out that pretty thing!

(Dave was pretty happy about it…or was that smile just because he knew he was going to be done driving for the day soon??)

It was too cloudy to see the Dolomites behind, (just imagine those mountains jutting out above that church like these pictures show):

But I wasn’t about to complain since the weather had held up so incredibly for us. It was so lusciously green it almost made your eyes and heart hurt (it really was that green!).

We played a funny game as we stood there just hoping the clouds would part, and finally gave up and left just as the rain started sprinkling down.

As soon as we got to the car there was a torrential downpour as we drove back through those winding streets toward our next stop: Bressanone to sleep.

We walked through the rain with the hotel umbrellas to find something to eat and found the best meal of our trip, complete with Nutella/raspberry calzone for dessert, (gotta figure out how to make something like that), and got to talk to our missionary back at the hotel.

Phew! That’s a wrap for Italy, on to Switzerland!

If you’re interested in other travel, try these links:

One day in Arches National Park

Bonjour Paris

From one desert to the next (DUBAI)

Similar Posts


  1. I have been trying to plan my family’s 2022 Italy trip and the Dolomites are on the very top of the list! I was so excited to see your post. We will be there in April though and I am a little concerned it won’t be in all its glory but your post make it all the more irresistible!

  2. Okay, we gotta go there! So happy to have an expert to show us how to get there and what to do! Kudos for these absolutely spectacularly photos!

  3. These pictures are beautiful and what an amazing opportunity! I’d also love your itinerary if you’re sharing them! I love your travel opportunities and hope to develop that culture in our family, especially as our kids get older. Do you have family goals (or couple goals) to travel to a certain amount per year? If you’re ever comfortable sharing, I’d love to learn of some ideas on how you have your kids put some skin in the game financially, or what you and Dave’s viewpoints on that are: especially with newlyweds. I want to give our kids these opportunities but not sure the best way to go about it and would love to learn different ideas or viewpoints, especially from you, if that’s not too personal. Tks so much!

    1. I love it!! I too would love your take on travel and a general idea of how you handle the finances especially when traveling with your young newlyweds. My parents were in a good position and were able to take me and my siblings on several trips when we were newlyweds or in college. They paid for most everything but left the extra things to us, such as: souvenirs, eating out, or extra excursions. We were all very grateful to our parents because we would never have had some of the wonderful experiences at that time of our lives if it weren’t for them. I also think the more important takeaways for me were the family bonding, the cultural awareness, and a huge one was that you can set a goal and achieve it, be it financial or otherwise. My parents were hard workers and I’ll always be grateful for their example. I’m sure your children will treasure these times too!! The pictures are stunning!

    2. Every family is going to come to this question from very different places and theories and backgrounds and angles, but as for this trip we paid for the majority of it and the kids bought anything extra they wanted (these kids can’t afford much at this point in their lives!). This is how my growing-up family traveled and it has worked well for us, we all appreciated it so much and grew together as a family in so many ways! Dave and I have this philosophy that we want to create experiences with our family rather than things, so travel is what we prioritize. One of the greatest gifts to Dave and me was to watch these kids appreciate and love this experience just as much as we did.

  4. i like this discussion. We had a lovely summer vacation in Colorado and rented a big house and we paid for everything. If the kids went out on their own, then they paid. I am happy i can provide this experience for us as a family. We have made family vacations a priority. Even though I can provide, I sometimes wonder if I should have them contribute. I dont feel they take advantage. and they are grateful.

    looking forward to hearing other perspectives.

    p.s. we went to Italy several years ago. A favorite country for sure. I would love to try your itinerary.

  5. This trip has been on my bucket list for so long that I’m going to need a month there when it finally happens! Thanks so much for sharing. I have a feeling we’ll be crying just like your husband when these dreams of ours finally come true. Sometimes I just can’t believe places like this really do exist!

  6. This post has been an answer to prayer. I’ve been planning out our 25th wedding anniversary trip and have been getting so discouraged. Mine is very similar but with too many extra cities and countries(Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Germany), that I’ve been having a hard time narrowing it down. It appears you travel like me…squeeze as much out of a day that is humanely possible. I would love to get a copy of your itinerary. We have done Venice, loved it, so we will probably start in Milan or possibly Switzerland first. I love the idea of traveling with your marrieds. I totally live by the philosophy, “Experiences not things” and can totally see us doing this with our sons someday. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *