High above the Livinnalongo Valley an ancient castle guards a high mountain pass.
It is a commanding position for surveillance and for communication. Signal fires could inform people below. It lies along one of the mountain routes to and from Venice.
But only a perimeter wall and a tower remain of the Castle of Andraz. It stood guard of the Passo Falzarego in the Dolomite Mountains in northern Italy.
It is in a valley north of SR48 between Cortina d’Ampezzo and the valley’s main village, Livinallongo del Col di Lana.
This 31 km (~19 mi) section of narrow, winding, hairpin Dolomitic highway is packed with powerful views. Cortina valley itself is a postcard scene with chalets and ski lifts ascending mountains in all directions.
Climbing out of Cortina the entire horizon is crowded with the stunning rock behemoth called La Tofana di Rozes. Clouds swirl around the summit constantly changing the view as you wind around the base for miles. High mountain pastures fill the narrow valleys. On the other side of the road in the distance is Cinque Torri, a famous group of five rock towers.
Passo Falzarego has the typical summit tourist developments-parking, snacks, souvenirs. And views across the Dolomites.
As you descend into the Livvinalongo Valley on the other side of the pass, after a few intimidating switchback corners near the summit, there is a beautiful, well-tended stone chapel next to the road. And in a short distance you begin to see through the trees to the valley where this castle stands on top of a rock outcrop.
In the distance, above the forest is the dramatic Gruppo Settsas. On the day when I drove this section of road, clouds built up in the middle of the day. The mountains that make up the Gruppo Settsas had darkening clouds behind them, but the fronts were highlighted by the afternoon sun. On an autumn day like this with continuously changing lighting you could take thousands of photos and most of them would be interesting. The terrain is so dramatic that it is always photogenic.
Driving is hazardous because the views are so enticing that it is hard to keep your eyes on the road. This short section of road could take all day if you stopped to appreciate all the world-class views. Or you could continue on to Passo Pordoi and an even bigger rock monster called Monte Sella, or take a turn to the north and climb over Passo Campolongo and enter the stunning valley of Alta Badia.
Personally I think that dealing with the intensity of this scenery is exhausting. I was only in the Dolomite Mountains for a week. At the end of a day of photography I was emotionally drained and physically exhausted. My senses were overloaded. It was almost impossible to stop making pictures.
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