4 Day Trips in the Friulian Dolomites
Aviano’s favorite mountain range leaves little to be desired when it comes to adventuring al fresco. As temperatures climb at sea level, an escape to the Friulian Dolomites – and from cell service – may be just what the doctor ordered. Below are four day trips that will find you enjoying cooler climates and incredible views in an hour or less.
Pian del Cansiglio & Monte Pizzoc
An ideal itinerary for trail hikers with a penchant for farm-fresh dining starts in Pian del Cansiglio.
Getting there is a bit daunting; it’s a steep uphill drive, and the incessant switchbacks don’t usually pair well with hurried Italian drivers. But the moment you spill out onto the picturesque plain of Pian del Cansiglio, your sweaty palms will be a thing of the past.
The belle of this little mountain oasis is Bar Bianco, a simple restaurant that serves hot lunches, handmade desserts and organic, biodynamic dairy products from the working farm just a few yards away. Outdoor seating is plentiful, and on weekends it’s always crowded with cyclists, bikers and families alike. The atmosphere is unbeatable, and temperatures trend ten to fifteen degrees cooler than at Aviano at any given time.
After you’ve downed your post-pranzo caffe and are ready to stretch your legs, a series of low-impact trails wind their way in and out of the forests surrounding Bar Bianco. Or, for a more rigorous and rewarding excursion (at least as far as views are concerned) tackle nearby Monte Pizzoc. A cold beer at an agriturismo once you reach the top will take your mind off your burning glutes in no time!
There are many lakes to love in Northern Italy, but many people have a soft spot for cooling off at this one.
Nestled in the Dolomites just north of Piancavallo, it’s a beautiful place for a hike or a picnic, not to mention a multitude of water sports. Kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddle-boards are all available for rent in town, and there are docks and rocky beaches for swimming at regular intervals along the shore.
Walkers can enjoy a stroller-friendly 3 mile road that loops around the lake, and countless mountain hikes originate from the area. For those looking to capture a postcard-perfect photo, a lookout point on the southeastern corner of the lake can be reached after a short 10-minute uphill trek.
After working up an appetite, Osteria Ponte Antoi is a sure thing for simple Italian fare (and delicious pie!), or try popping into one of the little rifugios (mountain huts serving rustic cuisine) dotted along the lake’s perimeter.
Man-made though it may be, Lake Barcis is a true show-stopper. One glimpse of its impossibly emerald water, backed by snow-topped mountains and miles of sky, is all it takes. I don’t know anyone at Aviano who has only been to Barcis once!
Canyon Brent de L’Art
The famous quote that says life is about the journey, not the destination, does not apply to this canyon.
Getting to Brent de L’Arte is unremarkable. It takes about an hour, half on the Autostrada, half on smaller country roads. The parking lot is small and tucked behind a nondescript village east of Vittorio Veneto. The hike to the canyon is easy, all downhill and then you see it…
Layers upon layers of rosé-pink and cool grey stone rising up around a river in a small ravine. A bridge traverses the water, and upon crossing one can catch a glimpse of how deep the gorge actually goes. The canyon walls are wide enough to walk on comfortably, so venturing as far in as you dare is feasible and fun. It’s easily ten degrees cooler inside, and once you find a place to stop and drop your feet in, the memory of summer heat will instantly fade away.
Optional: Additional hiking trails continue on past the main attraction, but if you've seen enough, lunch in Belluno is just a 20-minute drive away. Visit Ristorante Taverna for classic, tasty Italian served in a traditionally-cozy atmosphere, or pop by Bistro Bembo for a more modern, quirky vibe with salads & coffees.
The unmistakable peak of Monte Cavallo, standing tall above the rest of the range, is an iconic fixture of the Aviano landscape. The plateau that sits just beneath it, Piancavallo, is an excellent starting point for open-air adventurers of all ages and experience levels.
Families can take advantage of the park, mini-golf course and miniature roller coaster in the ski town’s little center. Cyclists in it for the long-haul can tackle staggering uphill climbs in exchange for the reward of cruising back down at the speed of a car, and on clear weekends paragliders launch from the side of the mountain in droves.
Perhaps what Piancavallo is best for in summer is hiking. The Tobacco Map 012 is an excellent resource for finding a trail, footpath or road that meets your needs. It covers both Piancavallo and the aforementioned Cansiglio areas and can be purchased for 10 euros at sporting goods stores like Decathlon or Sportler.
Beyond simply being close to home, the Friulian Dolomites are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a stunning natural resource. Be sure to take advantage of their cool alpine climates as the summer season commences.