Dolomite Alps: a region of many cultures

The Many Sides of the Dolomite Alps

original murals in Cortina d’Ampezzo

This coming year an adventurous group of hikers will join me for 14 days of hiking & exploring the culture & history of the Dolomiti Alps.
Nestled in the top of Italy’s boot, one can still witness the interweaving of cultures between Italy and Austria and as far back as Rome.  One obvious difference appears on the rifugios with both the Italian and German name inscribed (see below).
The Dolomite Alps are a unique region of officially four languages at this point in time: Italian, German, Ladin and English.  Sometimes Friulan is included.
German – The northern part of the Dolomites, Südtirol  (in German) or Alto Adige (in Italian), were part of the Austro-Hungarian empire until the early 20th century.  The battles fought in these mountains are still exhibited by the war tunnels and via ferrata, or iron paths.
Italian is the national language
of Italy. While other languages are
legally recognized in the Dolomites,
Italian is the language of the country.
    Some areas of the Dolomites,
Cortina d’Ampezzo for example, are      
 principally Italian in culture and in language.
An ancient Rhaeto-Roman or Romance language, Ladin was spoken by the first inhabitants of the valleys of the Dolomites, and was later influenced by the Latin-speaking Romans. About 30,000 people in the Dolomites still speak Ladin today.
The Ladin culture today is self-confident culture which has grown for centuries and has its roots in mountain farming and craft work.
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Messner Mountain Museums

  Tucked into the Tyrol of NW Italy, living legend, Reinhold Messner has created six Messner Mountain Museums.  Created from historic structures such as castles and forts, each unique museum tells it’s own story:

  • CORONES:  devoted to the supreme discipline of mountaineering: the Trad Adventure Alpinism
  • FIRMIAN:   in Sigmundskron Castle near Bozen addresses the subject of man’s encounter with the mountains, showcasing Himalayan art and culture
  • DOLOMITES:  a spacious gallery housing a collection of unique paintings of the Dolomites
  • JUVAL:  in Juval Castle is dedicated to the Magic of the Mountain and houses several fine art collections
  • RIPA:  Bruneck Castle in the Puster Valley is devoted to the subject of mountain peoples
  • ORTLES: near Ortler, an underground structure at 1.900 m above sea-level, is devoted to the world of ice

 “I have dedicated to the mountains and the mountain culture a unique project, a network of museums located in six extraordinary places in South Tyrol and Belluno. The Messner Mountain Museum is a place of encounter with the mountains, with mountain people and ultimately with ourselves. Every visit is like a mountain tour, especially recommended when the weather is good, and an MMM round trip is a unique experience!”

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PARC DU QUEYRAS, FRANCE ~ 2019 June 21 – July 1


June 21 – July 1, 2019

taking reservations now ~ tour limited to 8 hikers

Imagine yourself hiking through stunning fields of wildflowers, enjoying a French picnic at a high lake, wandering through an untouched French mountain village, savoring a 5 course French dinner & regional wine, only to end the day by retiring to your private room feeling fit & relaxed!

This amazing tour ventures through five untouched high mountain villages where one can immerse deeply into nature and culture.  Get off the beaten path and create an experience of a lifetime. A photographers and hill-walkers dream!

The Queyras is a dramatic, unspoiled region of the French Alps, between the Durance Valley and the Italian border. Due to being sheltered to the west by the Écrins, it is one of the sunniest areas of the Alps and the absence of glaciers makes the Queyras ideal hillwalking country as it has several high mountain summits accessible to the intermediate hiker.

There is plenty of variety on the trail, from woodland glades to rocky, high-level cols, from Alpine pastures to airy summits. The Tour may include excursions into the Italian Alps, and there are opportunities to shorten or lengthen the route as time and conditions dictate. The route is ideal for fit, intermediate hikers, while also providing optional challenges for the more experienced.

Ten Reasons why this will be your favorite Vacation:

  • small groups
  • light packs
  • close to nature
  • unique regions
  • regional cuisine
  • culturally rich villages
  • visually stunning
  • increase fitness
  • private rooms/baths
  • daily choices
  • 3.5 hiking difficulty (1 = easy, 5 = very difficult


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Valle d’Aosta ~ Vallée d’Aoste ~ Aosta Valley

Aosta Valley-Valle d’Aosta-Vallée d’Aoste

Coat of arms of Aosta Valley

Tucked away in the NW corner of Italy is a magical valley that fairy tales are made of. Filled with fortressed castles from days past and vineyards to delight today’s palate, the Val d’Aoste (modern French name) can easily fill days of exploration.

To the north it borders the Swiss Valais, the Piedmont to the south and east and the French Rhone Alps to the west.

The Aosta Valley is distinguished by being the smallest, least populous, and least densely populated region of Italy. One will hear French, Italian and the Valdotain dialect. 

History runs deep here running back to the Celts and Ligurians. Rome got in on a piece of this region and Roman ruins are common in the capital city of Aosta. The tug of war between the French and Italians throughout history ended after Mussolini and WWII when it became its own autonomous region.

This summer our Magical Corners of the Mont Blanc Massif will take a day off from hiking to visit the Aosta Valley with Italian sommelier and mountaineer, Stefano Corgnati. His knowledge of the castles of the valley and unusual vintner practices and varietals makes for a colorful day. Salut!

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Hiking in the Dolomite Alps: a Photo-journey Bend, OR May 16

dolomiti first day
Join European Alps hiking guide and photographer Hilloah Rohr for an hour photo journey
through the “White Mountains” the Dolomite Alps.
Tuesday May 16 7-8 pm at the Wine Shop and Beer Tasting Bar at 55 NW Minnesota St.
 More information at
Free to the public. 21 and over
Locatelli 2 hotel baur reflection cinque torre with alpenrose
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The People We Meet Along the Trails in the Alps

2014 Switzerland Berner Oberland 126    One of my favorite parts of traveling through the European Alps is the people along the way.  Above and  to the right are images of a great school group from Bologna, Italy hiking in the Dolomite Alps.  Many were wearing cotton sweatshirts and tennis shoes.  Look at those smiles!
2014 Switzerland Berner Oberland 129





This fellow I met in the Parc du Queyras in France.  He told me he was 80 years old and had hiked this region most of his life, returning yearly.

people 3 IMG_0782IMG_0792 My friend Christian I met near Digne, France almost 20 years ago.  He was instrumental in helping me set up my Parc du Queyras tour in France.  Below we’re hiking just over the Italian border.  He has now become an excellent photography after watching me indulge in photographing everything in sight!




This fellow had to show me his Italian/American t-shirt when he found out I was from the US!people 2Hiking through rifugios reached only by foot, dinners become more intimate and conversations around the table more animated. Various languages are shared and interpreted.  Lifelong friends are made.  Here’s Stefano from Torino, Italy who I met in a little rifugio tucked away in the Italian Alps near Mon Viso.  He has assisted me with both private and small group tours for years now and guides our Italian castle and wine tasting day.  Hilloah1-2Our family run mountain hotels or pensions offer up a glimpse into the lives of these hard working couples and families who host us year after year.  It’s almost like coming home to relatives!  Below is the lovely family who run our base hotel on the Italian side of Mont Blanc.  Notice the three generations going back to horse and buggy tours!Edoardo & buggy - Copy                     Italy & Chamonix '07 169Hotel des Glaciers hospitality 3





Tucked into the edge of the Parc du Queyras we watched an old ruined stone farm house be rebuilt upon each return to this region.  Much of the gorgeous valley along the Franco-Italian border had been bombed out during WWII.  The rest was devastated with avalanches.  After several years a beautiful new pension appeared run by Laurant and Geraldine.  They now have a three year old son who happily entertains the guests!  Le Queyras 06 022Giacomo has owned and run this very colorful Italian rifugio summers and winters (it’s located on a ski slope as well as a hiking route).  It’s know for it’s great cuisine, ambiance and fun atmosphere. giacomoOur beautiful family run hotel in Cortina Italy brings in a lively group from Calabria in southern Italy.  The guys are lots of fun and help us with our Italian and soon know everyone’s favorite happy hour drink and how they like their morning coffee!IMG_0187IMG_0185

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Guides de Chamonix

This coming year an adventurous group of hikers will join me for 11 days of hiking & exploring the culture in the grandeur of the Mont Blanc Massif.  Here’s a piece of history integral to Chamonix, climbing capital of the world.

logo of guides du Chamonix


My story begins one early morning in Chamonix, France.  I was wandering the streets looking for a cup of coffee.  One after another I saw rugged looking mountain men and women all dressed up in wool climbing clothes of the past, many with carefully braided climbing ropes slung over their shoulders and ice axes.  “Que se passe-t-il?” (What’s happening?) I inquired.  “C’est la fête des guides” (it is the festival of the guides) one of the mountain men replied.  

Established in 1821, the Chamonix Guides Company gathers over 150 certified mountain guides and leaders. They provide mountain guiding service through the Mont Blanc massif and throughout the world. Famous, talented guides have been members of the “Compagnie”. Today, young talented guides join the organization each year during the traditionnal August 15th Guides’Festival.

Forgetting coffee, I quickly ran back to my hotel and grabbed my camera and raced back to  follow the gathering procession of guides who paraded from the Office du Guides in the Chamonix center to the cemetery on the south side of town.

fete des guides 6

Once they reached the cemetery they began to sing from somewhere deep in their hearts in honor of all the guides who have died in the service of guiding.    At the end they paraded back to the stairs of the cfete des guides singinghurch where they gathered for a group photo.  What a morning!  Much more exhilarating than any cup of coffee!  The images will stay in my memory banks forever.fete des guides 14

fete des guides grave

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Dolomiti Day Hikes Tour July 1-11, 2018

dolomiti first day



  • stay in comfortable hotels and pensiones
  • private rooms – double occupancy
  • breakfast/dinner
  • transport during tour
  • visit a new vista daily
  • cultural sites along the way

Belluno Pre Tour June 28-July 1, 2018  $450

The Dolomite Alps in Northern Italy differ from the rest of the Alps.  These limestone giants offer an array of landscapes from elegant spires to sheer walls to giant peaks.  The contrast of limestone with alpenrose, fields of wild flowers and evergreen forests makes one want to break out in a verse of “The Hills are Alive”!

Add incredible hospitality and scenic mountain hotels to the environment and it’s the best of all worlds.  On the northern side comes the Tyrolean/Austrian influences.  German is spoken here.  Travel a few miles south and all transforms to Italian.

The wartime tunnels add an entirely different dimension to this mysterious region.  Located strategically between Austria and Italy, the Dolomite Alps have been tunneled into and via ferrata (iron cables set into the walking cliffs) are found throughout.

Plan your next hiking/cultural trip to this stunning corner of the Alps!


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Planning ahead for your next adventure!

Any trip worth taking deserves the time it takes to plan.  Spontaneity is nice and can definitely be built into a weheading down to Peclet Polsetll planned trip, however the better the planning = more enjoyment.  This is true weather you are going on a guided trip or your own.

THE 4 R’s:                                              *Reading                                                *Research                                           *Rethinking                                                 *Reserving

READING  I love reading fictional stories, biographies as well as guidebooks about the region.  The more the better.  This guideline adds so much richness and takes time!

RESEARCH  This includes studying maps of the region.  Being aware of logistics of getting from one place to another with ease.  Looking into the culture, do’s and don’ts, language (including learning the language of your destination if possible, which opens so many additional doors), talking with others who have visited this region, attending photo shows, watching movies and listening to music of the region.  What is the food like? What is this area known for?  When is the best time to visit?  How to get off the tourist path?  What are the must sees.  What kind of clothing and gear will you need?  Make sure you have time to try it out before leaving!  Research takes time.  It offers structure and comfort to explore within.

RETHINKING  Give yourself time to ponder, get other opinions, bounce off the walls a bit.  For this reason I always opt to book with a no cancellation fee policy.  Many reservation sites honor this to within a fairly close proximity of your visit.  You might discover a new place that you want to fit into your itinerary!

RESERVING  Do reserve early and with no cancellation fees.  The best places are often snapped up a year in advance.  Know your logistics and parameters.  Do you want a cozier place that offers half-board or do you prefer to wander around discovering your next dinner spot?  Know what you want it to look like.  This said, it’s been my experience to reserve a year in advance.  If you are flying to your destination becomes even more important.

Here’s to great adventures!  Happy Trails, Hilloah

Laverella sign

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A Six-Day Walk Through the Alps, Inspired by Simone de Beauvoir

A lovely article on Simone de Beauvoir’s passion for hiking in the Alps.  I’ve hiked the GR5 and the areas referred to in the article.  “…. as Beauvoir put it, to think of nothing but “flowers and beasts and stony tracks and wide horizons, the pleasurable sensation of possessing legs and lungs and a stomach.”  Enjoy!
Simone de Beauvoir started hiking in 1931, when she was in her early 20s and assigned to Marseille to teach secondary school.  The feminist philosopher pursued hiking as intellectual enlightenment. In Provence, 77 years later, one writer retraces her steps.
Here’s the link to the entire article:
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