Welcome to the Dolomites – a breath of fresh mountain air and the most surreal surroundings I have ever had the pleasure of immersing myself in!
With a bit of research, I stumbled upon the perfect little farm stay that is nestled in the heart of the picturesque Val di Funes. We rented the largest car that Florence had to offer (which honestly just barely fit the 6 of us) and made our way to the mountains! It was roughly a 4.5 hour drive, but inevitably, we made a few stops along the way that turned it into a day’s trip to get there. One stop was to get lunch in Verona and another stop being when Arlo decided to go all exorcist on us and vomit all over himself in the car – poor guy! I think it was his first time experiencing the sensation of “motion sickness” and “vomiting” and he didn’t know what to make of the sensation of it all. I remember just looking over and seeing Arlo who was dead silent, with a little tear running from his eye, and a fountain of puke running down the front of him! We pulled over on the highway and addressed the situation to the best of our abilities and with lots of paper towels.. onward bound!
By the time we reached the base of the mountain it was dusk and the weather began to turn on us. It was starting to get very gloomy and cloudy and we had very little daylight left which was not ideal for climbing steep, windy foreign roads.. and the final stretch was absolutely terrifying! Higher and higher in elevation we rose. The dense, cold fog had rolled in and we could hardly see more than a few feet in front of the car. To add to the stress, it started to snow HEAVILY as we held our breath around every turn because the edge of the road appeared to be straight drop down the mountainside into a foggy abyss. So we’re inching along just praying for our safety until finally, with a huge sigh of relief, we had arrived at our haven. When we woke up the following morning, we were greeted to a winter wonderland!
Walter and Helga, the hosts of our home away from home, were an absolute joy to be with and saw to it that our stay was nothing short of perfection. The farm stay is comprised of two apartments. William, the kids, and I took the bigger apartment, while Lisa and Kait took the smaller one. Both were so incredibly adorable and cozy! Each fitted with a private bathroom and kitchen, we had everything we needed. Ok, we had almost everything we needed. Oddly enough, towels (for showering and bathing) were not provided! Luckily, we managed to finagle a few from Walter. Just below the apartments, was a barn filled with a handful of fuzzy horses whom were always in the mood for visitors. The property itself sat relatively high on the mountainside and overlooked the entire town and the rocky Dolomites made for a dramatically gorgeous backdrop.
Originally, we had intended to hike while up in the mountains, but the odd fluke of a snowstorm put a halt to those plans. We also had poor timing with the shops and restaurants because we had coincidentally arrived right at the start of an Italian (or possibly German?) holiday where everyone closed shop and left town for the week! We were left to our own device in this little deserted town, but luckily it was a pretty ideal spot to be stranded.
During our stay, my mom and I were treated to a half day trail ride in the snow! The views were absolutely stunning and it was one of the most magical experiences of my life. And to share it alongside my mom was the icing on the cake. The horses were sure-footed mountaineers and welcomed the occasional spirited gallop through the fresh powdery snow. By the end of the ride, I had fallen in love with the the Italian Alps. Even Arlo got to experience the beauty of the mountains on horseback, another highlight for the trip! Now how many two year olds can check that off of their bucket list??
The following day, we happened upon a local market that was open – hooray! We splurged on fresh cheeses, breads, and meat and had ourselves a cozy little feast complete with wine and good conversation. One evening, Walter even decided to open up the homestead’s saloon for a night (which is generally only open during peak summer weeks), where we drank local beer like it was going out of style and danced to our heart’s content to Taylor Swift and nostalgic 2000’s pop/rap music. 50 Cent anyone? I have found that regardless of where I travel, whether it be in a nightclub on the shores of Rio or a little saloon in Italian Alps, everyone can bond over the top hits of America! It’s kind of awesome to hear a group of Brazilian girls belt out “California Gurls” when they spot the only blonde girl in the club – and they certainly weren’t mistaken! 😉
The rest of our stay consisted of us enjoying the fresh air and simply living in the moment. There are few places I would visit again, and I can happily say that this spot is forever on my radar for a returning trip.