Topographic Tabacco hiking maps of the Dolomites are the best source of information about routes in the region and navigation (orientation). From this article based on my personal 7 years experience of using such a maps you will learn how to buy, read and use it carefully, so you plan you hike well, don’t get lost on the way and return home safely.
Which Topographic Hiking Maps Are in the Dolomites
— Topographic hiking maps of the Dolomites are classic paper maps people used before pre-digital era and still use for navigation and orientation on the routes in the mountains.
The best such a maps in Italy are issued and sold by publisher Casa Editrice Tabacco srl (or simply Tabacco). It is an Italian company located in Tavagnacco commune in Udine region, near its capital of the same name. It has been making maps of the Dolomites and some surrounding regions since long time ago. And no others. In fact, Tobacco equals the Dolomites.
There is, however, a second major publisher, Kompass, which is located in Bolzano. But I like the first one better: it was the first maps I bought, I like the way they look inside and out, they’re easier to find…
Tabacco maps are easy to recognize by their all blue cover. The Kompass covers are usually also light blue, blue or green, but the logo is also on a blue background.
Where to Find and Buy Dolomites Maps
Paper maps of the Dolomites are sold in northern Italy in a newspaper, magazines and other press kiosks (in Italian: tabacci — this is from where the name of Tabacco maps came from), bookstores, railway and bus stations, which are usually combined, or in shops selling tourist, outdoor and sports equipment. But not everywhere.
For example, in the towns of Feltre and Belluno, as well as in other towns and villages of the Italian Alps, you can find them at almost any station or in a bookstore.
The further you are from the Dolomites, the harder it is to find maps. In Venice, Verona and other cities they are hardly for sale, not to mention Rome or Naples. For example, in Bologna, on the border of northern and central Italy, I could only find them in a small outdoor store.
Which Maps of the Dolomites For Hiking to Choose
The Tabacco produces individual maps for absolutely all mountain ranges in the Dolomites and some other close regions, for example, Trieste.
The scale reduction of each map is 1:25.000. The scale of the map is the ratio of the length of a segment on the map (1 cm) to its actual length on the ground (1 m).
1 cm on the map corresponds to a distance of 250 m in the terrain in such a map. So these are very detailed maps of the Dolomites.
The total number of regions (maps) in the publisher’s catalogue of 2020 is 76. It is better to buy them than the maps with smaller scale reduction of 1:50.000 (twice smaller), as well as map sets and panoramic maps. You can walk in the mountains on them, too, but it’s better to choose the first ones.
Important: Usually one map is slightly overlapping the other, so there are no “black spots” (places, which are not on the map). That is, parts of the mountains are repeated on different maps and for travel, and somewhere they just break off. Pay close attention to this when you buy maps. It’s better to buy a separate map for hiking in each region.
I also very recommend to buy a paper map before you go hiking in the Dolomites. Buying a map in advance will make it very easy for you to plan your itinerary and the whole trip. Together with other information from the Internet about what will be on the route and its features, you can easily calculate it literally on days, if you have already had experience hiking and you know what it is by climbing 1500 meters a day and walk 10—15 km. If not, all when it happens for the first time!
You can easily order Tabacco maps online before your trip on the official website Tabaccoeditrice.it, which will redirect you to Italian sports store Sportler.com, in Amazon.com, or some local online book store in your country.
The cost of 1:25.000 map in the Dolomites in 2020 is 9,20 euros. Before it was 8,50 euros. Other maps may cost 10-12 euros. And they are more expensive in places outside the Dolomites.
And, if you are going to the south of the Dolomites, you can order maps in our Creative Dolomites Bookstore. We have eight maps of our home region (from south to north as you enter the Dolomites):
- Il Montello — Colli Asolani — Montebelluna — Valdobbiadene (070),
- Massiccio del Grappa — Bassono — Feltre (051),
- Prealpi Trevigiane e Bellunesi — M. Cesen — Col Visentin (068),
- Alte Feltrine — Le Vette — Cimonega (023),
- Valsugana — Tesino — Lagorai — Cima d’Asta (058),
- Pale di San Martino (022),
- Prealpi e Dolomiti Bellunesi (024),
- Val di Fiemme — Lagorai — Latemar (014).
We ship them internationally to any place in the world with a colorful postcards with a story behind the photo and a personal message to each future guest.
How to Read Tabacco Hiking Maps of the Dolomites
Reading maps and navigating routes is a whole art! Even if you have a very detailed map, in reality the terrain looks like you can not imagine. As they say, it is better to see once. To comprehend the art of map reading and orienteering — it takes time. But the basic principles of map reading you will understand as soon as you take them in your hands and start to hike. Literally.
The Tabacco Dolomites maps are simple and intuitive. The main things you need to know and take into account when planning a route are: 1) how far you are going to go, 2) how high you are going to climb and 3) how difficult the path is. There are two other important things to consider: 4) where is the nearest place to spend the night and 5) the water source.
These five elements in the complex give an idea of what awaits you both for the day and for the whole trip, if you are going hiking multiple days.
You can calculate the distance manually, taking into account the scale of the map, look at pointers in the mountains, in applications and electronic maps or with a GPS navigator.
The altitude can be traced along the whole trail: the map shows numbers from the start point to the end point.
The type of the trail is also marked on the map. There are six types of trails on Tabacco maps:
- Mute-track or wide and easy path with sighs — on the map it is a solid red line.
- Path with signs — marked with a dotted line.
- Uncertain and/or insufficiently signed path — marked with rarer dotted line compared to the previous one.
- Difficult path with signs (for expert hikers only) — dotted dots.
- Difficult and/or insufficiently signed trace (for expert hikers only) — dotted with rarer dots compared to the previous one.
- Via ferrata (for expert hikers only) — belaid path.
Very important: via ferrata (“road from iron”) is one of the main outdoor features of the Alps — complex areas of mountain trails, for the passage of which you have to cling to metal railing, cables or stairs. They are already hung. This should be done with special equipment — fasten carbines, put on a helmet, and so on… Some via ferrata not difficult and not long — you can climb it only with your hands, at your own risk, but it is better not to do this, because in most cases the ropes hang high — there is a risk of breaking. Other cables, railings and stairs are old and have not been repaired for a long time. If you encounter via ferrata on your route (which happens frequently in the Dolomites), take your safety equipment or choose a different route from the beginning.
There are also many other different things on a map: roads, towns, valleys, passes… It is not difficult to see and understand it. For example, this is how it look:
How to Use Dolomites Hiking Maps Carefully During the Hike
The maps are pretty big in size — like the size of your body! They can be of different orientation (format): vertical, horizontal and almost square. Maps are conveniently folded several times, but over time it gives the opposite effect — they begin to tear at the bending points.
To make the map last for a long time, given the number of cards you may require — from 5 to 10—15 or more — and their not cheap cost, that’s what I can advise:
- Get the map from a backpack only when you need it on the route to check where are you going.
- To quickly fold and unroll your map, practice doing so before you go hiking in the Dolomites. Folding a map is harder than unwrapping it (of course), because of the different formats, they add up differently. Try to remember the order in which each card is folded. For example, I can’t do it!
- Fold the map so that the part of the way you are walking now is in front of your eyes — then the map does not need to be unfolded every time. (But it doesn’t always work out.)
- As soon as the map starts to tear at the bending points, use it even more carefully.
- If the map is inoperative, duct tape all the folds. Yes, the map will become less “moving”, it will be harder to fold and put in a protective case, but very durable. That way, it’ll last you a very long time.
Maps are sold in a plastic protective cover, which also has a marker to calculate the real distance in km on the map, as well as other useful tags.
Besides its obvious usefulness, the map is the main souvenir that can be brought from the mountains. You shouldn’t regret money on them, it’s better not to buy an extra cup of coffee.
This article is just the first in a small series of publications about maps and navigation in the Dolomites. Next I will tell about digital hiking maps of the Dolomites, ready-to-go GPS-tracks and route planners, and about other ways of planning and navigation before and during the hike.
Cover photo © Ivan Kuznetsov.