As a native of the Pacific Northwest, I often miss the wide open spaces of the West while on this side of the pond. In my work as a foreign correspondent and documentary maker in Italy, I’m often bustling around by train, plane and metro in and out of Europe’s hub cities. Munich. Milan. Rome. Exciting and captivating, but also, sometimes simply exhausting. So many people, so close. The acrid air of the underground. Those whining, two-stroke scooters swarming around like ubiquitous urban mosquitos, oh how I sometimes wish could swat them away at the end of the day! When Friday rolls around, I often head for the hills – the Apennines, the Dolomites, the Alps – a balm for soothing urban fatigue and a phenomenon I’ve come to refer to as “density stress.”
I bought a sweet little Starlight tent this summer that weighs a mere 2.4 kilograms, and plan to break it in this fall near my home in central Italian Apennines, where the howl of native grey wolves is a reminder that Europe still has many wild places.
I discovered another wonderful wild place this summer while exploring the breathtaking Eggental region near Bolzano, a lovely mountain town that is the gateway to the Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Eggental region has the densest network of hiking trails – over 530 kilometers – in the Dolomites. Though you’re bound to find a few tourists taking selfies or time lapses at stunning Lake Carezza, it was easy to find a hiking path with nobody on it (I was on the HIrzensteig path) which meandered uphill through forests and meadows until reaching the morain at the base of the westernmost spires of the Catinaccio / Rosengarten range. In less than a half hour’s drive from Bolzano, my boots hit the trail and a healthy dose of mountain medicine had begun working its magic: freedom, silence, peace – the sweet solace of open space.
DAY HIKE / WHAT I CARRIED: North Face daypack with 1 liter of water, chocolate bar (with hazelnuts!), sandwich with speck, windbreaker, fleece vest, binoculars, multi-tool pocket knife, band-aids and Neosporin antibiotic ointment, sunscreen, bandana, notebook & pen, iphone & extra battery pack.