A travel writer called the Dolomite Mountains The Scotland of Italy “because of its character and that of its people, and the legendary and historic romance that surrounds them.”
It’s an unexpected connection between places. Alexander Robertson wrote his travel book in 1896. We could try and put ourselves in his shoes.
What sort of whiskey would you take to the Scotland of Italy to have on the night before an ascent of a famous pass?
I chose Laphroaig, not least because there were two bottles available. Laphroaig Select and Laphroaig 10 year-old. They were both peaty. The 10 year-old had a darker colour. I didn’t want to spend very much time getting to know them better on the evening before the ascent.
It’s safe to say that Laphroaig’s Select and 10 year-old are closer to each other than Scotland is in style to Italy’s Dolomite Mountains.
I had enough comparisons in mind to make my nervous system jittery and to give me trouble sleeping the night before the first climb. A bird was singing for most of the night. What for? Was it confused by the street lighting? Or, sensing bad weather, did it prefer to get its songs in early?
It’s the first ascent so I don’t feel obliged to do a lot of research. The pass is said to be around the old boundary between Venice and the Austrian Empire.
I thought I’d keep a look out for a border marker said to be visible on route but I never saw it.
I started at about 1500 m above sea level. The first part was flat. Pine forests, not much of a view. There were road works, big men in orange jackets. The snow started at about 1900 m, over half way in.
Riding runs deep here. The ancient people of the region, the Paleoveneti, were known for horse breeding. I try getting out of the saddle when the gradient reaches 15%. Not efficient, but the variety helps.
I don’t remember when it happened, but suddenly the pine forest had cleared. Views of sheer rock faces on the left, like half-drawn curtains.
Wikipedia notes that the root of the word Veneti is said to relate to the root wen – to strive, or wish for. The old German Winida or Wende might also have something to do with it. Wende means turn and the Passo Giau is full of turns too. Some people dislike Wikipedia. I think it’s great for connections.
Some connections between places and times are more interesting than others. I still don’t follow Robertson’s idea of Scotland in Italy. Perhaps it’s in the pine tree forests?
Altogether the road was surprisingly empty. Then it fills up suddenly with cars at the top. Some rides are more comfortable than others. We all start and finish somewhere.