The route northeast of Bolzano along the Isarco (Eisacktal) Valley is one of the main routes between Italy and northern Europe, crossing the border into Austria at the famous Brenner Pass (1375m), the lowest in the Alps. Protestant reformer Martin Luther was one of many travellers to have walked over the Brenner Pass on his epic journey to Rome in 1510. A motorway and high-speed train line to Innsbruck now make light work of the distance, and the ancient towns of Bressanone (Brixen) and Vipiteno (Sterzing) are engaging places on the way to stretch the legs. Nearby is the wild protected area called the Parco Naturale Fanes-Sennes-Braies accessible via the Val Pusteria (Pustertal), a side valley off the Isarco. If you are planning to walk any of the long-distance walking trails known as alte vie (literally “high ways”) you will almost certainly visit the Val Pusteria, as most of the trails launch from there. Train is the best way to reach it, with a line branching off the main Bolzano–Innsbruck tracks at Fortezza (Franzenfeste) and serving the drowsy settlements of the Val Pusteria, the market town of Brunico (Bruneck) and Dobbiaco (Toblach), from where there are buses to Cortina d’Ampezzo.

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