dolomites elopement photographer

After having to cancel/postpone three international trips (and many domestic ones) due to COVID/Pregnancy, it was a true delight to travel overseas again.

Brendan and I spent two weeks roadtripping through Europe about eight years ago, and we happened to drive through the Dolomites on our route between Munich and Tuscany. It was one of the most spectacularly stunning places I had ever seen, and we vowed to return someday.

The Dolomites are not necessarily the easiest destination to get to, as it is at least a three hour drive from most international airports. You also need a car to get around the mountains, as most travelers opt to trek by train through Europe. 

Brendan used to travel with me to most destination weddings, but that changed significantly when Kitt turned two, and even more so when we added another baby to our family. When I booked a wedding in Zermatt, Switzerland, Brendan was adamant that he went on this trip. We knew we could spend more time in Europe if we brought the kids along, but it also meant a very different experience for us. After taking them to St. Lucia, it became pretty obvious that we’d rather have quality time over a week vs. balancing naptimes/sleep deprivation/jetlag with two littles in a two week span. Because we had a little less than a week to travel, we decided to choose a location nearby Zermatt, and the Dolomites became the obvious choice.


Our first stop was in Lake Como, which was a destination that had always been on my list but never a place that I would intentionally bookmark a lot of time. We’re not the types to spend a week by the pool, and Lake Como is definitely more that vibe. It was the perfect spot to rest and recharge before our five hour drive to South Tyrol. 

There are hundreds of hotels are in Lake Como, which made the decision overwhelming. But, we were pleasantly surprised with how wonderful our pick was! Villa Mojana Di Limonta was absolutely splendid. The resort is made up of 7-10 villas with a shared pool. Our room overlooked the lake, and the design was Italian chic. 

After taking a very short nap, we ventured into Bellagio for dinner. We ended up with a manual car because the automatic options were double in price. I was a little leery because my experience with manual cars is limited to driving my mom’s car once a summer in Michigan where the land is flat.

We had to park on a hill, and the reverse gear was not responding as it normally should. Once we were parked, we remarked that it was going to be interesting trying to get out of the spot because we were quite close to the car in front of us. Coincidentally, our restaurant overlooked the parking area, and we later noticed that the person in front of us had left. We breathed a sigh of relief…only to be replaced with anxiety after someone replaced the empty spot and parked much closer to our car.

On one hour of sleep, Brendan attempted to reverse out of the parallel parking spot. The car rolled forward because the reverse gear was not responding. We gasped. He pulled the parking brake and stepped out to see if we could try again. He attempted to reverse again, and this time our car lightly hit the car in front of us. 


I can vividly put myself back in this situation of sheer panic. Do we need to call the police and report this? Wait, there isn’t any damage. But, how are we going to get our car out of here? We couldn’t try again, or we would definitely damage the car in front of us (or our rental). Do we need to call a tow? How late do tow companies run? Should we wait for the family to return and move their car? What if they don’t return for days?

I thankfully had watched the family park in front of us and somewhat remembered what they looked like. I figured I could try to find them to see if they could move their car so that we could pull forward. We’d also have to profusely apologize for hitting their car.

I walked around narrow alleyways uphill and downhill. The bottom of my dress was soaked after traipsing through puddles after the recent thunderstorm. I was peeking in restaurants, shops. I was praying, hard. I wasn’t even sure I completely remembered what they looked like.

After about 20 minutes, I gave up and started walking back to the car. I texted Brendan, “we’re going to have to call a tow.” Then, I saw a guy that looked vaguely familiar. I walked up to him and asked if he had a German Audi. He said yes. I showed him a picture of the license plate, and he acknowledged his vehicle. I remorsefully told him that our car was lightly touching his and begged him to move his car for us so that we could leave. He was incredibly kind and gracious and moved his car for us. It truly was an answered prayer.

In this moment, we just wanted to go to bed.


We didn’t spend much time in Lake Como because we were more interested in exploring the Dolomites. Having celiac disease always makes traveling a little more complicated. I have to research restaurants before I leave and make a game plan. Sometimes in certain places there might only be one restaurant that is safe for me to eat in, so we will plan our trip around their opening and closing hours. I’ve been to places were I had to prepare my own food to make it through the weekend.

Thankfully, Italy is one of the best countries in the world for people with celiac disease. In Italy, if a dish is gluten free, it is almost always celiac safe. The dining experience is incredibly important in Italian culture, so they make sure that everyone is able to enjoy their food safely.

The country has an app (AIC), which is a list of restaurants that are vetted by the government. These restaurants go through extra steps to be celiac safe and are certified. It is AMAZING. There is a similar app in the US, but it’s more like Yelp where reviews/posts are made by users. 

We left in the morning and started our drive. We made a quick stop in a small town and had the best GF pizza. The town was quaint and charming. We drove through Funes to see a famous overlook and then ended up taking the back roads to our hotel. It was a tad dizzying to travel on a very narrow road through the mountains without a guardrail and jet-lagged.


We arrived at AMA Stay and were blown away with the modern design. We discovered that many European hotels have a spa/relaxation area that is open to guests. AMA has a rooftop pool that overlooks the town, as well as chaise lounges, multiple sauna options, and beverages/snacks. We truly loved our stay here.

Because of the terrain, there are many different mountain ranges and towns that are scattered across the Dolomites. It would take weeks to visit all of them. We settled on San Vigilio as our home base. It was the perfect small Italian village that wasn’t touristy. There were a few shops, restaurants, and it was relatively central to the other areas that we traveled to.


grand cir hike

After spending many hours on All Trails and Google trying to narrow down our hiking options, I fell in love with Gran Cir; however, part of the trail required hiking via ferrata, which we had never done before. The reviews said that hikers had made it to the top with their kids, so we figured it couldn’t be that hard.

We rented helmets and a kit from a local shop. Once we saw where we would be hiking, we became a tad scared. It’s hard to tell from photos, but the mountains in the background are enormous, especially looking at them from the parking lot. We figured we would hike as much as we could, and if it became too difficult, we would return back.

Surprisingly, the ferrata part of the trail was our favorite. It’s similar to climbing/scrambling where you clip in, but you’re on a permanent cable instead of a line. The steel lines were installed during WWI to help soldiers cross the Dolomites. They were restored after the war and are used by hikers today.

tre cime

The altitude was dizzying, but the views were spectacular. I was proud to make it to the top and sign my name in the guest book. It was a tough hike, but it was one of my favorites I’ve ever done.


My past intern, Julie, happened to be in Italy at the same time we were, so we planned to meet up at sunrise and trade photos. We settled on Cadini Di Misurina, as it seemed to be a more moderate hike with a huge pay off of views.

dolomites wedding photographer

It was a freezing morning. The wind was brutal. It must have been around 40º with 20-30 mph winds. We had a blast photographing and making it to the cliffy end where it looks like you’re on the edge of the world. (All photos of us were taken by Julie, edited by me).

cadini d masurina engagement session

After our photo shoot, we drove down to Cortina d’Ampezzo. We had originally considered a hotel in this area, but we were glad that we ended up in San Vigilio instead because CDA was incredibly touristy. We loved the hourly chime of the clock tower and wandered around a little bit before finding lunch at a local place. We had planned on visiting SanBrite, a Michelin star restaurant, but we were so tired from the hike that we decided to head back early and visit Drumlerhof instead. Drumlerhof was truly special, as they were able to make anything on the menu gluten free. This was one of the best meals on our trip.


We spent our last day in San Vigilio perusing the shops and dining at the hotel (the food at AMA is incredible). We hit traffic on the way back to Milan. Originally, we were going to visit the city, but we discovered that you cannot drive into Milan with a car unless you have an EV car or a special permit. Instead, we explored Lake Maggiore, grabbed some GF treats, and walked around the lake.


matterhorn at sunset

Brendan had to head back earlier to relieve our parents of our kids. I dropped him off at the airport and headed north to Zermatt. I was very nervous to drive in the Alps in a stick shift by myself. Thankfully, I only stalled once, and I was rewarded with stunning views.

Zermatt does not allow cars in town, so you have to park at the train station and take the train into the city. Once you arrive, you can either walk or take one of the shuttles to your hotel.

CERVO was a dream hotel. The design, the food, the decor, and the hospitality were outstanding. After the elopement, I had an extra day to relax. I took advantage of the spa (highly recommend), as well as the relaxation room that was full of comfortable lounges, window light, sauna options, and pools. I would return to Zermatt just to revisit this hotel.

I don’t think I had a bad meal on this entire trip. Besides eating at Cervo, I also enjoyed my meal at Stockhorn by the Rex.

We loved the Dolomites so much that we want to return again soon!


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