I have come to realize over the last couple of years that Italy has a special place in my heart. There’s an energy there that draws me back time and time again. The landscape, the culture, the people, the food, the villages, the cities, the ancient feeling that’s always surrounding you; I love it. And you know, sometimes I hate it too. Like when I try to go to the Bakery in the middle of the day and it’s closed, the entire village is closed until 4. Sometimes I just had to laugh at my hungry self, who was sooo excited for some fresh Italian bread and cheese after a late night of shooting, as I wandered down to the village from my flat in the forest at 1pm only to find everything had closed from 12:30 until 4. Thus is life in other countries and other cultures. Even the things that can be so different or difficult while you’re traveling can often be quite endearing when you look back upon them smiling fondly.
Over the last 2 years I’ve traveled to Italy 3 times. There’s an energy there that makes me feel so at home. This summer I spent nearly a month traveling in the mountains of northern Italy, photographing, shooting time-lapse, hiking, exploring new places, visiting friends and making new ones, eating good food, and enjoying the fruits of a spontaneous trip. I started the trip off by staying with really good friends in the Cesana area of northwestern Italy. They have a 4×4 and drove us up into some really beautiful areas of the Italian Alps.
The peaks off in the distance under the Milky Way are in France.
The road leading into the mountains and the stars feels like the road home.
Seeing the Milky Way come to life over the Alps was spectacular. It’s easy to forget how much farther north Europe is than California, especially southern Europe like Italy, until it’s not dark enough to see the stars until after 11pm!
The village of Cesana is a gorgeous Italian mountain village close to the border with France.
My freinds Max and Antonella live in Rollieres, a small village near Cesana. They are some of my favorite people, and were incredibly generous hosts. We all share a passion for the mountains, nature, and personal growth, which made it no surprise that we shared rich stimulating conversation and some great mountain adventures during our time together. I love them so much, and I love their book We Are Human Angels, it’s one of my favorite books. I stayed with Max and Antonella last winter, so it was really nice to come back in the summer and see the mountains in a whole new light.
We went up into an area called Sommelier which had peaks over 3000 meters soaring over us. It was breathtaking.
The turquiose blue in the glacial tarns down below was incredible. The Alps are spectacular.
This valley leading up to the high pass and its waterfall were particularly beautiful.
Another day we explored Val Argentara which was absolutely stunning. We got some cheese from a local cheese cellar that was literally built into the side of the mountain. I’ve never experienced anything like that before. It was amazing to feel the history and tradition here, and the cheese was to die for, a true experience.
There’s something incredibly rewarding as a traveler getting to experience real authentic every day life in different cultures. This is one of my favorite aspects of traveling. One thing I love about Italy was how much they hold onto some of their ancient traditions around food. Even though I eat predominately organic at home, bread and pasta always leave me feeling heavy and weighed down. In Italy I noticed when I ate bread and pasta, that it didn’t make me feel nearly as heavy as I do when I eat them here at home, even the most expensive organic breads. I have no idea why, but I noticed a huge difference. In Italy I would get bread from the local bakery and cheese and eggs from the local cheese shop, and have pasta in local restauraunts and trattorias and I loved how fresh everything was, and how I felt after eating.
For years I have dreamed of exploring the Dolomites of northeastern Italy. Those majestic peaks and spires have called to me for as long as I have been drawn to the mountains. The time had finally come. After enjoying time with my friends and the mountains of northwestern Italy I made my way to the Dolomiti. I started off by staying in St Anton in the Castelrotto area for a few days, a gorgeous area of green pastures set against majestic peaks. It stormed most of my time there which wasn’t the best for hiking and shooting, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it. I have always loved thunderstorms, they have such an energy to them, it’s incredible to experience. And even though I wasn’t shooting as much as I’d like because they really poured and the mountains disappeared into the clouds, I loved the energy of the storm days and tried to get some lightning shots when I could.
On my last night in St Anton, around midnight I was sitting in the lobby of the hotel where I was staying and one of the servers who I had talked with quite a bit came up to me to let me know that the sky had cleared up and the stars were out. Every night so far had been fully cloudy, so I jumped in my car and headed up to Alpe di Siusi, the largest high altitude alpine meadow in Europe. It was stunning to see those gorgeous alpine meadows with a sky full of stars.
For the next 9 days I rented a flat in the forest in Canazei, which was a great spot to base and explore from. Passo Sella was about 20 minutes up out of town and had huge peaks jutting out of gorgeous alpine meadows. It was like a dreamscape, and I went up there several times. This high resolution panorama of the Langkofel group on the left and the Sella group on the right in alpenglow amidst a sea of swirling clouds is one of my favorite images from the Dolomites. What an evening.
The Vajolet group of peaks was just down valley from Canazei. The constant storms brought the occasional blessing of amazing light rays with them.
Most nights the clouds hid the stars, but when the stars did come out to play they sure were beautiful.
The village of Canazei casts its glow upon the mountains and clouds while the Milky Way blazes over the tallest peak in the Dolomites, Marmolada.
The Langkofel group of peaks above Passo Sella were some of my favorite of the entire trip, and the clouds and light seemed to swirl around them in an ever changing show of colors, texture, and mood. Here the flowers in full summer spendor and the light beam brought this scene to life.
Mammatus clouds have a special beauty to them. It’s always a treat when they come around. The sky put on an everchanging show this night for almost 2 hours, it was incredible.
The area was so expansive that it called to be shot in panoramic format. I love shooting high res panos.
The clouds and the light were changing so fast, and then all of the sudden a rainbow appeared off in the distance down in the valley below.
The moon setting over Canazei while lightning illuminated the clouds above Marmolada was quite a sight. I remember just standing there in pure awe watching the scene unfold around me while the camera shot away.
Ahh, the majestic Lago di Sorapis. One of the most beautiful lakes I’ve ever seen, and yes it really is that color. After staying in Canazei for a while, I headed to Cortina where I stayed for my last few days in the Dolomiti. I had heard that the hike to Lago di Sorapis was phenomenal, and it was even more beautiful in person than in pictures. It’s quite a popular spot, so I hiked up on a Monday, and there wasn’t so many people. I had a friend who hiked up the day before on Sunday, and I heard there was people everywhere. I can imagine, it’s a beautiful lake with outrageous color, in a stunning alpine cirque with towering prominent peaks, and it’s only a few miles hike to get there. A true gem of the Dolomites.
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I made this really cool timelapse over Lago di Sorapis and it shows just how fast the clouds and light shift and change, a lot like life. This summer has brought a tidal wave of change in my own life, and deep insight has come from realizations and remembrances that have come up from my childhood. It’s amazing how much from our childhood really does affect us in our adult life. And it’s even more amazing how much freedom we can gain to truly stand in our own light when we deal with our unresolved childhood issues. I still have much to work through myself, but I have already had such a huge release and feel so much lighter not being weighed down by ideas about myself that didn’t even come from me, but from habits and patterns I developed from my relationships with my parents. Powerful insights, wow.
After 2 weeks in the Dolomites I got on a train in Verona and made my way to Lake Como. I thought it would be a perfect way to finish out my time in Italy, and it really was.
Staying in Varenna was truly breathtaking. I splurged and got a room with one of the most incredible views I’ve ever see. You take a funicular quite a ways up the mountainside to a terrace over Lago di Como. The location took my breath away, and my room was right above the terrace. It was for sure one of the most amazing places I’ve ever stayed. The room was basic, but nice, which helped keep the room rate somewhat reasonable since if you had a luxury suite in this location it would probably be $500 a night. I know this is a place I’ll return to, maybe many times.
The view down over the idyllic village of Varenna during the blue hour was majestic, it felt like a fairy tale or some kind of fantasy. And the blue hour seemed to go on forever.
The churches in Italy have so much character to them. This tiny chapel in Varenna wasn’t the main church of the village, but I loved the feel in here much more than in the main chapel.
I love watching lightning, and it was especially beautiful over the lake from the city of Como.
The mountains above Lecco at the southeastern tip of Lake Como rise into a dramtic skyline. I loved standing out on this point.
On my last night in Italy I had a fabulous dinner with a friend at a beautiful restaurant high above the lake, and then spent time watching the blue moon rise over the lake during the blue hour. It was the perfect finish to a wonderful few days enjoying Lago di Como, and an incredible month exploring the mountains of Italy. Grazie, grazie, grazie il mio amore Italia, I will return.