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The Song of the Dolomites

Sarah Rodrigues enjoys outdoor opera in the soaring Dolomites, where the dress code is hiking boots and walking gear
Image courtesy of The Sounds of the Dolomites festival

Hiking up a mountain is definitely not for everyone, but even the most reluctant of up-hillers (and there are a few of them around me, if the heavy panting and ragged gasping I can hear is anything to go by) would probably concede that the view from the top almost always makes all the exertion worthwhile.

The rewards are all that and more as we approach the end of our hike in the Pian della Nana. We are at 2,090m, in a natural amphitheatre shaped millions of years ago by receding glaciers. And, out of breath though we hikers may be, the same cannot be said of the opera singers, whose soaring voices are carried on the pure mountain air and held within our hearing by the encircling mountains.

Although today’s lowering clouds, pregnant with the threat of rain, seem better suited to a tragedy, the opera we’ve come to watch is the comic Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville), one of the performances of the Sounds of the Dolomites festival. Held annually from June until August since 1996, the festival sees the hills – quite literally – come alive with the music of open-air performances; not only of opera, but also jazz and classical, all against that spectacular backdrop of the Dolomites.

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About Italia!

We step off the tourist trail and head for the hills above the Amalfi Coast to explore the tiny town of Scala, which has all the charm of the coast but without the crowds. We pop over to Pisa, not for the Tower this time but for an intriguing tale about the origins of the Renaissance. Our cover stars, the Dolomites, are the setting for a heady mix of outdoor concerts and hiking to be found on their verdant slopes. Next stop Sicily, and the traditional Easter celebrations in Enna, and finally the extraordinary stories of trailblazing Milanese women in the arts, fashion, and more.