Winter hike from Cima Sappada to Sorgenti del Piave

Rifugio Sorgenti del Piave, Sappada, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italiy

What I like about snow is that it has the power to make us time-travel to the past. When roads are covered in snow one’s only option is often to walk. As if cars did not exist, by walking we get to experience a new world that moves at a slower pace.

A hike that will take you back in time

Take this Italian hike, for instance. In the summer, it takes no more than 20 minutes to drive from Cima Sappada, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy, to Sorgenti del Piave. But in winter, there’s no other alternative but to walk all the way up. 9km and almost three hours to go up and almost the same to come down.
If you’re not into hiking, this may sound like hell on earth. But I can assure you that this long walk may be just what you need after lockdown.

Starting from Cima Sappada and approach to Val Sesis

The hamlet of Sappada (Plodn in the local language) is an enchanted village surrounded by the Dolomites. It stretches right on the border between the Italian regions of Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Veneto and Austria, of course. Sappada is divided into suburbs named after local families and still maintains its unique and lovely German folklore and heritage.

We arrive in Cima Sappada, one of the suburbs, around 9.30 am. The sky is clear as it can only be when it’s extremely cold. We don’t mind though; we know the hike ahead of us is long and we’ll have enough time to heat. Our hike starts right next to the little white church located on the main road. We follow directions toward “Sorgenti del Piave” and “Monte Peralba”.

Cima Sappada, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy

It has been a white Christmas for Sappada and snow still forms a thick layer on roofs and on the sides of the roads. As we walk through the hamlet’s wooden homes and barns, it does feel like going back in time. Finally, we arrive in the outskirts of the village and we enter Val Sesis, the valley that will lead us to the Piave’s springs.

Da Cima Sappada a Sorgenti del Piave, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italiy

Me and Stefano know these places like the back of our hands. Every summer, we spend a couple of days in this valley in an isolated mountain hut with no electricity or connection. Snow has altered everything and as we hike, we’re mesmerized by how much the place has changed since August. This valley is quite popular among hikers of Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Veneto, but, nature has not been spoiled by human hands. There are just a handful of huts and one paved road here. But now even these few man-made works have disappeared, buried in snow.

Rifugio Piani del Cristo, Sappada, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy

If you want to make your hike short stop at Rifugio Piani del Cristo and Baita Rododendro

The first mountain hut on our way, Rifugio Piani del Cristo, is closed. It appears like a sleepy bear who waits for the spring to come again. It only takes a few more minutes to reach the second mountain hut on our path, Baita Al Rododendro. If you’re already tired, you can stop here for a hot drink or lunch. Bear in mind that this is the only open hut in winter, so if you count on this place to eat or drink plan your hike well.

Baita Al Rododendro, Sappada, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy

We proceed as there is still three km to hike to reach “our” mountain hut. From Baita Al Rododendro on, nature gets even wilder. The only reminder of humanity is the snowshoe-wide path in front of us. As we gain elevation, the snow increases on the ground and on treetops. By the time we reach the mountain hut, we can barely see it. It pops out like a mushroom from the white. We make sure that everything is ok, and we take on the last two kilometers to reach the Piave’s springs and the refuge. From the mountain hut on, we wear our snowshoes as we hike higher surrounded by the Dolomites.

Arrival to Sorgenti del Piave

Da Cima Sappada a Sorgenti del Piave, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italiy

There are no more than ten people to Sorgenti del Piave. We keep our distance as we seek refuge near the wooden building. As we eat our lunch, I look around.
We’re distanced enough not to need a mask and it almost feels like a normal Saturday with no pandemic problems. I breathe clean air and I wonder when I’ll be able to hike again.
We stay there enough time to eat until the cold wind is too much to bear and then we head back to Cima Sappada.

Da Cima Sappada a Sorgenti del Piave, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italiy

Why you should visit Sappada

I feel like Sappada is the Cinderella of the Dolomites. It is a beautiful and strategic village to spend incredible winter and summer holidays. It’s the kind of place where you can relax, hike, trek, ski, eat very well (Laite restaurant has one Michelin Stars!), and most importantly, enjoy nature.
Whenever I venture to Cortina, which is only 60kms away, I find it hard to understand how someone could prefer it to Sappada. It certainly has more fancy shops but aside from it, Cortina looks like a normal Italian town that doesn’t even feel surrounded by mountains at all.

Da Cima Sappada a Sorgenti del Piave, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italiy

On the other hand, I associate Sappada with beautifully wild landscapes, warmth, and coziness. When walking in the village center, you can breathe the best of Italy and Austria. Sappada feels like a wool blanket between people and mountains. And that’s why you should visit.

Hike recap

  • Starting Point: Cima Sappada
  • Length: 18 km back and forth (11,18miles)
  • Difference in altitude: 600 mt (1968 feet)
  • Timing: 5 hours (with snow)
  • Directions to Sappada:From A4 Venezia-Trieste, take A23 and head towards Tarvisio. The highway exit is Carnia. From there follow directions to Sappada.

Where to sleep in Sappada:

Where to eat in sappada:

My favorite restaurant in Friuli-Venezia Giulia: Mondschein

Mondschein, Sappada, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy

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