Photo Essay and Video – The Dolomites, Italy – by Donovan Chock. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at and

Photo Essay and Video – The Dolomites, Italy – by Donovan Chock. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at and



If you go far enough north in Italy, you won’t find the rolling vineyards, wineries, and olive trees like you would in Tuscany. There isn’t a colorful Amalfi coast for you to cruise along in your swim suit or ancient grounds that have been run over by tourists. Instead, you will find a harsher landscape, mountains, Italians who speak better German than they do Italian, and a unique culture. In northern Italy you will find The Dolomites.


One weekend, some friends and I got an Airbnb in a village called Völs am Schlern in the Dolomites. Schlern is a region in the Dolomites with a very heavy German influence. Few people spoke English so it was fun being able use my German skills to get a round and out of some sticky situations. Völs has an elevation of 880 m (2890 ft) and we hiked from there to a refuge at the top of the mountain which is at about 2457 m (8061 ft). The hike took about 5 hours to go about 10 miles and it got colder and colder as we ascended. Along the way up we came across some cows and alpine shepherds. They were taking the herd down for the winter when one of the cows strayed off away from the pack.


It was green all the way up. At the top, we came across a refugee called Schlernhaus, but didn’t have a reservation. The refuge we booked was about another two-hour hike away on another peak and we were tired and two group members had altitude sickness. Thus, we put on our puppy dog faces and knocked on the door. To our luck, they had one bed left open that fit seven people (the size of our group) and dinner was on from six to nine. At Schlernhaus, we enjoyed warm goulash soup, bratwursts, German beer, Italian grappa, and a bed to sleep in. It was nice to change into dry clothes too.


The next morning, we were all frozen to the bed and we could see our breaths. However, when we looked out the window, it felt like Christmas morning. There was a fresh 2-inch blanket of snow on the mountain. I peaked (literally and figuratively). We started our trek down the mountain after filling up on breakfast (mainly prosciutto and coffee) and witnessed an even more picturesque sight as we transitioned from white to green. We found ourselves in a town called Kompatsch and then made our way to Seis, then back to Völs. After careful consideration, we decided to unofficially declare the region as GermItaly because that’s exactly what it felt like.


For a brief video clip, see

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17 responses to “Photo Essay and Video – The Dolomites, Italy – by Donovan Chock. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at and

    • Nicholas Gangi

      This was an interesting article for me in particular because I take a strong interest in the history of Italy. It shows the effect of the germanic tribes on northern Italy during the fall of Rome as well a the lingering culture of Italy with the food. The photos you took were gorgeous and it is nice to see the varied landscape of northern Italy. It really brings me more excitement as I plan to travel to Italy. Thank you for showing us a different side of a beautiful country.

  1. McKenna Holman

    It really is neat that there are parts of Italy that are more German than Italian. I suppose you can see that in a lot of nations, though. Like Northern Minnesota/Wisconsin/ and Michigan can all be considered to be pretty “Canadian” (I would know… I’ve been accused of this!). How far would these people have to travel if they needed to go to the store, or anything along those lines? Would they have to hike, as you did, to get there or are there other means of transportation? I love the pictures you’ve added, they truly are beautiful!

  2. Thomas Landgren

    Its is always interesting to see two cultures collide and just reading about your experience this seems to be a perfect example of that. Like you said you can see it in the meals and in the language. I really like the idea of a photo essay. I think you can write about something and people don’t always understand it but the way you combine the writing and the pictures really allow the audience to take part in something that you did days ago. Thank you for sharing your experience the article was great!

  3. Megan Gonrowski

    It’s wonderful that you got away from the picturesque views of Italy. Most tourists/travelers usually experience the Italy that seen in movies. When I think of Italy I think of the Vatican in Rome or coastal cities like Venice or Nice. It is interesting that they are influenced so much by German culture. I would like to know when that influence occurred and why it stuck. Wonderful photos and the Alps look beautiful!

  4. Mary Tran

    I think it’s interesting how in The Dolomites has Italians who speak better German than they do Italian. I would have never thought a region in Italy has such a strong German influence. Do you happen to know the origins of how this mix of these two cultures came to be in the Dolomites? Do tourists often travel there? Are there other ways instead of hiking to get to the top of the mountain? The pictures you have attached to this article are wonderful! Thank you for sharing, Donovan!

  5. Personally I love photo essays. I feel that the best way to capture a trip and share it with others is through photography. It brings the world that you write about to live for readers, and these are all fantastic pictures. It was really interesting learning from your article about this place in Italy, high in the snowy mountains, where German culture seems to prevail. Sometimes we see all the European countries are completely different only defined within their borders, but due to proximity this is actually a fairly inaccurate statement. To have Italian and German culture mix it simply shows how each region of the world values certain aspects of society to thrive. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Michaela Campbell

    It’s always an interesting thing to see two cultures ‘clash’ or interweave each other in their languages, customs, etc. When I picture Italy, I imagine what you described in the beginning of the article, such as wineries, beautiful sceneries, ancient ruins, etc. But as you mentioned, as you and your colleagues made your hike up the mountains, the scenery became less ‘Italian-esque’ and began to resemble a more German-like culture. I am curious as to how large this bed was at the refuge since it was able to fit seven people, and what exactly a refuge is like inside? And how difficult it is to navigate through an area where the primary language is German, especially if one is not very fluent? Great article and pictures. Hope to hear more soon!

  7. Isabella Restrepo-Toro

    It is really interesting to see how much geographical differences can influence those living in it. Not only does the geography of these place offer a clash between two countries and cultures, Germany and Italy, but it also offers a huge amount of diversity in its land, causing people adapt to their environment and show many differences as altitude changes. I would love to be able to see this place and for sure get to see that amazing change from snow and white to green and shades of emerald. I was wondering if these people would consider themselves Italian, German or maybe even something else. I would also like to know if these people see similarities in some traditions from both Germany and Italy, and to learn more about their own customs, as due to the isolation of the mountains they might have traditions that they have created due to their surroundings and past circumstances.
    I really like the imagery, and the description shown in the text , as well as the amount of diversity shown in the pictures. I hope I someday can make my own long trip up that mountain.

  8. The pictures look stunning, but I doubt they capture the raw beauty that was seen throughout the trip. In my mind, a trip like the one your group embarked on is enlightening. We need to see different parts of the world to gain different perspectives on life. Hiking as a way of transportation and fitting seven people in a cold bed certainly adds to the overall experience as well. It was probably very intriguing to see such a mixed culture in a very unexpected Italy setting. I want to take more of these types of a adventures as I get older.

  9. Paige Perreira

    This was so cool to read. I never would’ve expected that there were areas of Italy that were not die-hard Italian. For some reason I was under the impression that Italian culture was rich and vibrant in every part of the country, and that they were their own little world. Based off of your writing here and pictures, this is absolutely not the case. It looks like an absolutely beautiful area, and it seems secluded so that there are no outside distractions from the unique culture that presides there. That seems like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

  10. Avnish Miyangar

    Wow! The pictures are amazing and Italy has always been a place I would love to visit. The scenery and mountains are incredible, I never knew there were parts of Italy like this. It is interesting how quickly the environment changes once you are out of a city. How did you deal with the language barrier? If you were to return what would you do differently? It was look that you found that last minute room!

  11. I had never considered travelling to Italy, but this sounds like such a unique region! I love cultural exchange and would love to see this unique blending of Italian and German influences. I used to hike quite a bit in northern Minnesota and my favorite was being near jagged cliff sides, the landscape of the Schlern region is breath taking! Thank you for sharing your experience with us!

  12. Katie Peterson

    Visiting Italy one day has recently become something I really want to do–of course I want to travel in general, but it seems that there are so many things to see and do in Italy, including visiting the Dolomite region, which I had never heard of before! It looks beautiful, but so different than the Italy that is typically pictured. How lucky there was enough room for your group to have a place to stay without having to hike further! I really liked that you were able to include a video-although I think I would have been intimidated with cows coming down that narrow pathway! Thank you for sharing!

  13. Angela Pecarina

    Visiting Italy is my dream, so I love your article! Seeing the pictures of the mountains reminded me of skiing and made me want to be there! Also the photo essay was a great idea because who doesn’t like looking at pictures? I enjoyed seeing and reading about the different types of Italy in contrast to what I see in movies! Thanks for sharing.

  14. Shelby Olson

    Wow the landscape looks breathtaking from the photos! I can’t imagine what it would be like to have actually been there in person but it sounds like an amazing experience. I’m not very familiar with Italy or the city Dolomites for that matter, but it’s interesting to see how much culture can vary within the different regions or cities of a country. Did you run into any issues communicating in german? Also did you notice if the people in Dolomites spoke solely german or if it was a combination of both german and italian? Thanks for sharing!

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