Hidden science of the Dolomite Mountains: Italy
8 days for £2,895 6 September 2021
A gentle outdoors tour through the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Dolomite Mountains that investigates several scientific phenomena including what glacial recession reveals about our history. From Otzi the Neolithic caveman to the World War 1 high altitude trench remains at Marmolada with writer and journalist Laura Spinney. Plus, the tour reveals the Dolomites fascinating geological and ecological stories including the Geoparc Bletterbach and the Ritten earth pyramids. The tour covers several museums, stays in four-star hotels throughout and starts with an exploration of Venice.
In partnership with Intrepid Travel.
DAY 1: ARRIVE IN TO VENICE. MEET YOUR FELLOW GUESTS AND TOUR LEADER
Ciao. Welcome to Venice. This watery wonderland of bridges, towers, piazzas, canals, churches and gondolas, practically unchanged for 600 years, is literally sinking under the weight of its iconic sights. There are no activities planned before tonight’s group welcome meeting, so if you arrive early there are plenty of things to keep you busy. Take a walk around the maze of streets behind San Marco square and begin to understand the complex canal system of Venice.
Your first night will be in the centrally located four-star Hotel Santa Chiara which overlooks the Grand Canal.
After the welcome meeting, enjoy dinner with your fellow travel companions at a local restaurant.
DAY 2: WALKING TOUR OF VENICE THEN TRAVEL THROUGH THE MOUNTAINS TO BRUNICO
After breakfast, venture out and explore Venice. On a guided walking tour, you will discover the magic history of Venice in Saint Mark’s square and hear stories about the medieval Doge’s Palace and the Bridge of Sighs. You will visit Saint Mark’s Basilica inside to admire its breathtaking gilded mosaics and other shining treasures. You will also experience a quieter atmosphere as you make your way off the beaten path in Castello neighborhood where you will see the ‘real’ Venice.
In the afternoon, you will travel into the heart of the Dolomites to the town of Brunico and check into the
Hotel Post. Brunico is a stylish alpine town that in 2009 was voted the best small town in Italy to live in. From your hotel room, you can view the surrounding peaks that you will explore over the following days.
DAY 3: THE MESSNER MOUNTAIN MUSEUM AND THE HELMUT ULLRICH ASTRONIMICAL OBSERVATORY
Today you will travel to the small town of Ripa where you will visit Juval Castle which can be traced back to 1278. It is the home of part of the Messner Mountain Museum. The staff here will give you a talk on human’s fascination with mountains around the world, the history of the Dolomites and mountain culture. Then you can explore this unique and quirky museum dedicated to the religious dimension of mountains.
In the afternoon you will travel further into the Dolomites to the village of Cortina. This is overlooked by the mountain peak Col Drusciè where you will visit the Helmut Ullrich Astronomical Observatory at 1770 meters above sea-level for a private viewing
Later in the evening you will continue to Canazei and check into the Hotel Astoria where Laura Spinney will hold a talk as an introduction to Marmaloda and how its glacier was central to the ‘White War’.
DAY 4: THE MUSEO MARMALODA GRANDE GUERRA
Today you will travel to Marmolada, Queen of the Dolomites, so called as it is the highest peak in the range. A cable car will take you up to the Serauta cable car station for the Museum of the Great War (Museo Marmolada Grande Guerra). The museum, with fascinating remains of high-altitude trenches within the glacier, is Europe’s highest museum at an altitude of 3000 meters above sea level. Here you will learn how war was conducted between the Italian Alpini and the Austro-Hungarian Kaiserjaeger in this deadly environment. Laura will accompany the entire day and will be able to deliver further insight on how they created a city within the glacier and how it has preserved artifacts and soldiers from the war. Your admission ticket includes access to the museum, plus the stunning panorama terrace, the cave of the Holy Mary with the statue consecrated by Pope John Paul II and various outdoor exhibitions.
Later today you will check into the Parkhotel Laurin in Bolzano, for the next three evenings, where you will enjoy another talk from Laura on how glacial recession is revealing history around the world.
DAY 5: ÖTZI THE CAVEMAN IN THE SOUTH TYROL MUSEUM OF ARCHAEOLOGY, THE MUSEUM OF NATURE AND THE RITTEN EARTH PYRAMIDS
This morning you will visit the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology with Laura, where Ötzi the caveman and his artefacts have been exhibited since 1998. Ötzi is Europe’s oldest known natural human mummy. He lived about 5300 years ago during the Copper Age and was discovered in 1991 frozen in ice from the waist down. The Ötzi exhibition is housed on three floors of the Museum and displays everything of interest about the world’s most famous glacier mummy.
Later in the day you visit the South Tyrol Museum of Nature housed in the administrative building of former emperor Maximilian I. It features detailed exhibits on the geology of the Dolomites and the emergence and developments of its habitats after its early beginnings as a tropical ocean with coral reefs and volcanoes. Learn how continental plates pushed together to lift this seabed and mountains were formed as rock masses slid on top of each other.
Your final visit of the day is to the nearby Renon mountain to witness first-hand the unique natural monuments of the Ritten Earth Pyramids. These are Europe’s tallest and most perfectly formed examples and are created by a fascinating process of erosion over thousands of years.
DAY 6: GEOLOGICAL MUSEUM OF THE DOLOMITES AND GEOPARC BLETTERBACH
After breakfast, you will drive to the small village of Predazzo to continue studying the deep-time history of the region at the Geological Museum of the Dolomites. It first opened to the public in 1899 and its geological collections consists of more than 11,000 specimens, including the richest collection of invertebrate fossils of the middle-Triassic period in Italy.
You will then drive through the Fiemme Valley where a storm in 2018 destroyed a centuries-old forest of over 14 million pine trees and red spruces.
You will continue to the Geoparc Bletterbach where you will undertake a journey back in time and explore the Ice Age in the Dolomites in this impressive gorge. Learn about important finds including carbonised plants and trees, fossilised micro-organisms, shellfish and cephalopods, and the many traces of very different types of prehistoric reptiles. Helmets will be provided.
Tonight, you will check into the quiet Satori’s Hotel near Trento.
DAY 7: WHITE WAR MUSEUM AND VINEYARD
This morning you will head west to the small village of Peio where the White War Museum houses a collection of objects that were made, worn, and used by soldiers fighting the First World War in the Alps of Northern Italy. Although next to the Dolomites, the mountains to the northwest of the region are considered part of the Alps.
On the way back, you will stop at a winery where you will visit the farm, the cellar and learn how grapes are collected from the surrounding farms before producing the wine. Then you will enjoy a variety of different wines during a tasting session with the winery’s expert staff.
For your final evening, you will return to the Parkhotel Laurin in Bolzano.
DAY 8: RETURN TO VENICE
There are no activities planned for the final day. A group transfer back to Venice Airport has been arranged, however, you can also make your own way to Innsbruck should you want to fly out their airport. Our tour operating partner Intrepid Travel will be able to help you with your international travel and should you wish to spend more time in Venice before or after the tour, they can book additional rooms for you at the Hotel Santa Chiara for £260 per room per night.