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About The Dolomites: Italy’s Towering Mountain Range


The Dolomites are a mountain range that runs from the River Adige in the West to Piave Valley in the East. Located in northeastern Italy, this mountain range forms part of the Southern Limestone Alps and is bordered on the north and south by Puster Valley and Sugana Valley. Equally distributed amongst the provinces of Belluno, South Tyrol and Trentino, there are also similar mountain groups which are known as Western Dolomites (Dolomiti di Brenta) and Little Dolomites (Piccole Dolomiti). It was declared to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009 and has many regional parks as well as a national park located within the range.


The mountains are named after Déodat Gratet de Dolomieu who was an 18th century French mineralogist who first described the mineral carbonate rock dolomite. The mountains are also known as the ‘Pale Mountains’. The Dolomites have a large number of long distance footpaths that run across the mountain range and these require a week to be covered. These protected paths or vie ferrate were created during the First World War when the line between the Austro-Hungarian and Italian forces ran through the mountain range. For tourists who are visiting the Dolomites, can also view the open air war museums at Mount Lagazuoi and Cinque Torri.

The nearest city to the Dolomites is Venice and the Dolomites are divided into the Western and Eastern Dolomites by a line that follows the Val Badia – Campolongo Pass – Cordevole Valley axis. Being a mountain range, the Dolomites are famous for their skiing opportunities in winter with the summer and late spring/ early autumn season bringing in sports like hiking, cycling, Para gliding, hand gliding and base jumping.

The Dolomites are a major attraction for many tourists and hikers with many trails laid out like the Alta Via 1 which is also known as the Dolomite High Route 1 and runs for a length of 150 kms and can take hikers a week to two weeks to complete. There is also a tradition of free climbing in this area since 1887 when the ascent of the pinnacle of Die Vajolettürme was soloed by 17 year old Georg Winkler.


There are many events that also take place in this region like the Maratona dles Dolomites which is a bicycle racing race which occurs over the span of a single day. This race is very famous and popular as it covers seven spectacular mountain passes in the Dolomites. It attracts over 9000 riders from 40 different countries from all over the world and is open to all expertise levels of cyclists. In fact, it was described by National Geographic as being “one of the biggest, most passionate, and most chaotic bike races on Earth.

There are many major parks which also are big tourist attractions like Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park, Naturpark Schlern-Rosengarten, Naturpark Sextener Dolomiten, Parco natural provincial dell’ Adamello-Brenta and more. All these parks vary in size with the largest being 620.5 square kilometers and the smallest being 68 square kilometers.

People who are interested can go down the Mount Pasubio and Strada delle 52 Gallerie which is a military mule road that was constructed during the First World War and has 52 tunnels. The world’s longest staircase is also located here, having 4444 steps and can be found at Altopiano di Asiago and Calà del Sasso. For the adventurous travelers, there are many peaks in the region that attempt climbers like Marmolada, Tofana di Mezzo, Antelao, Sorapiss and many more. With so much to do and see, the Dolomites continue to be a major draw for many people.



Art and Architecture in The Dolomites of Italy



There are many hidden treasures within the Dolomites and many towns have a rich heritage. A visitor who is looking to get exposure to great art gems within the region is in for a good surprise. Firstly, as an introduction, the three main cities of Belluno, Trento and Bolzano offer their fair share of historical artifacts of some significance. But not only are these big towns the places where most tourists go, they are also hubs for many sightseeing tours. If you want to head away from the large crowds that accompany these cities, you should try visiting a variety of smaller towns that are scattered all over the Dolomites.


Towns like Rovereto, Brunico, Bressanone and Feltre have a well preserved heritage which is in the form of museums, churches and also the scenic views that come part and parcel as a feature of the towns’ attractions. Think of castles in the mountains and you would be describing the castles at Trentino and South Tyrol. Although these are also great draws, you could try and deviate from the well trodden path and view some of the old monuments that lay forgotten here and there such as isolated churches that are beautiful in build and design, but do not lie on the pathways of the mainstream tourists.

There are Venetian Villas to be seen in the province of Belluno, examples of which are the Palazzo Crotta in Agordo or the Villa Poli-De Pol located in San Pietro di Cadore. The town of Pieve di Cadore also holds some significance as the birthplace of the master painter Titian and you will see influences of his work as well as buildings infused with his presence like the Main Square, The Church which has one of his paintings hanging there and last but not least, his House. A historical café is also dedicated to him which is a nice place to live life the Italian way and to watch life as it passes you by while you sip your coffee.


In terms of architecture, a visitor is again spoilt for choice. You can head to the cities of Cortina, Costalta in Comelico, Sappada, Gosaldo, Zoldo, Fornesighe and Falcade to see vernacular houses built of wood. Sauris is another location that will enchant you with the beautifully preserved wooden houses. The best thing is that you can have the opportunity to live in one of these restored houses to get an idea of how the people live and share the life of the whole community. The preserved wooden houses have been transformed into an ‘Albergo Diffuso’ which means a spread out hotel and this will give you an authentic chance to experience life in the mountains.

South Tyrol has a unique history and its German cultural roots come to the forefront with the large number of wooden houses which are known locally as ‘masi’ or ‘Höfe’ in German. There are many hamlets and villages where you can see these wooden houses and even though many are located in isolated spots, most of them are still inhabited by people. Each valley has its own style depending upon the gradient of the slope. If you would like to know more about the architecture of the region and also get to know more about the history behind the construction and architecture, you should head to the provincial Ethnographic Museum located at Theodore near Bronco which has a number of reconstructed wooden buildings that you can explore for yourself. This is also great for people who don’t have the time to go exploring all over the region.


Discovering Beautiful Alpine Villages of Italy’s Dolomites

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Get ready to discover this side of Italy and lose yourself in the wonderful expanse of nature at its finest which is the Dolomites. This is one of the 49 Heritage Sites as listed by UNESCO and although this is a place that deserves to be seen, many holiday makers cannot spare the time it would take to actually explore the whole region. This is why we have compiled a list of the most charming towns you could visit in this part of Italy.


  • Vipiteno/ Sterzing

This beautiful town is filled with pastel colored buildings that date back to different eras and the long main road is divided into two parts – The Old Town and the New, which is divided also by the tall clock tower named Zwolferturm. Those pastel colored buildings have now been converted into shops, restaurants and hotels.


  • Chiusa/ Klausen

Get transported back in time after entering through Chiusa’s ancient main doors. Stroll on the cobblestoned alleys as you take in the sights of the pastel colored buildings that now house shops, restaurants and hotels. It stands across what is locally known as the ‘Holy Mountain’ upon which the Säben Abbey/ Monastero di Sabiona stands. Benedictine nuns have been living within the monastery walls since the 16th century which should give you an idea of the age and history of the place.

  • Merano/ Meran

This large town graces the entrance of the Passeier Valley and the river Passer flows through it. Surrounded by mountains, this location is famous for its spa resorts and summer concerts that are held frequently as well as the production of Forst beer.

  • Renon/ Ritten

This town faces a cooler climate and is a popular summer holiday spot for the residents of Bolzano, the city that lies underneath it. Renon is located on a high plateau at an altitude between 3,608 – 4,593 feet. This is a small town that offers picturesque views and this can be accessed by a cable car which runs from Bolzano or visitors can simply drive up in their respective cars. This town is known for something quite unique – its earth pyramids and fairy chimneys. Sounds like something out of a story book, doesn’t it?


  • Tirolo/ Tirol

Famous for the Tirolo castle that was the ancestral seat of the counts of Tyrol, the name stuck on due to the castle and also due to the importance of the castle throughout its history. Presently, the castle houses the Museum of Culture and Local History and is located in this lovely alpine town that has an amazing climate which enjoys 300 sunny days in the entire year. For visitors who wish to explore the area, there are many walking trails that have been made amidst the vegetation.

  • Varna/ Vahrn

The most noteworthy building in this town is the Monastery of Neustift which was founded in 1142. It has steadily and constantly been run by the Augustinian Orders Regular who also owns the structure. The upkeep of the monastery is maintained by the monks who also see to the running of the boys’ boarding school for middle school boys. Various products from the monastery are sold in a ship; visitors can sample South Tyrolean food at a tavern and also imbibe a little wine at the winery where world class wines are produced. This is the largest monastery in Tyrol and has been very well preserved over the years. Certain styles of art have left their imprints on the long span of the monastery’s history – in particular Baroque, Rococo and Gothic architectures.


Hotspots in the Dolomites of Italy That Will Leave You Spellbound

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The Dolomites are the mountain range that runs in the northeastern part of Italy and these are a stunning towering range that offers a lot of places to see and visit. The range covers 350,000 acres and there are 18 peaks to discover, but if you’re on a deadline and your holiday is limited to a certain time frame, here are a few hot spots that you could visit. This list should help your decision making on deciding what to do in your holiday.


  • Sass Pordoi

This pass is located between the Sella and Marmolada groups of the Dolomites and offers a spectacular view of the Dolomites. This pass is the highest surfaced road in the mountain range and stands at 7,346 feet. If you have the time and are willing to go further, you can even opt to take the cable car which connects the pass to the summit. There are many hiking trails to take the adventurous hikers and travelers around the pass.

  • Parco Naturale Adamello-Brenta

The Brenta grouping of the Dolomites offers some of the most breathtaking views as well as offers a great scenic hiking opportunities, especially in northwest of Trento. Serious mountaineers can try their hand at one of the most famous trails of this region which is the Via Bocchetta di Tuckett – this is not for the faint hearted or for novices, ropes and harnesses are an absolute must. However, if you are not at the same level of expertise as the serious mountaineers, you can always head off onto the easier walking paths or even go mountain biking here.


Lake Garda

It can get tiring being with the tourist crowd and getting only tourists in your pictures instead of the landscape. You can leave the tourist crowd behind and drive to the northern half of Lake Garda where you’ll enter the Dolomites. You don’t even need to be mountaineer to discover or explore this region – you can drive to scenic points, explore the small towns that dot the lake and relax.

  • National Park of the Belluno Dolomites and Belluno

Belluno is considered to be one of the most important towns in the Eastern Dolomites and has a population of 37,000. It is an ancient town that dates back more than two millennia. Belluno is also a great place as a central point to plan all your travels within the Dolomite region as it is an easy drive to the National Park of the Belluno Dolomites from this area. This National Park is a reserve that has a number of waterfalls, lush green forests and glaciers while also having a number of archaeology, art and history museums.


  • Monte Cristallo

The Cristallo groups of the Dolomites have peaks that reach almost 11,000 feet. This means great skiing opportunities for the avid skier while also offering groups the chance to go mountaineering as well. The four highest peaks of the Cristallo include Monte Cristallo which stands at 3221 mts, Piz Popena , Cima di Mezzo and Cristallino d’ Ampezzo with the first two peaks requiring serious climbing skills. The remaining two peaks can be accessed through via ferratas which are protected climbing routes.

  • Cortina d’Ampezzo

This resort is located in the dolomites and is known to be one of the most fashionable resorts for the winter season. It offers fantastic skiing opportunities and also has a rich heritage that caters to people who love winter sports as well as the jet set and European aristocratic crowd. The Winter Olympics of 1956 was held here and this is the location where many celebrities holidayed like Aubrey Hepburn and Ernest Hemingway. Interestingly, scenes from the Roger Moore ‘For Your Eyes Only’ were shot here.



The Birth of the Dolomites

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Each mountain range has it s own rich history that can date back millions of years and many of these remained a mystery until recent years when science gave a helping hand in uncovering the origins and secrets of the mountains. Back in the 17th century, mineralogist Diedonn-Silvain-Guy-Tancrede de Gvalet de Dolomieu observed a peculiar looking limestone he discovered on a voyage through the Alps and published a paper about it.

What made it different was the color and properties which seemed very similar to limestone, but intrinsically was very different. The mineral grains that made up the rock did not react to acids, unlike the crystals found in limestone which have a violent reaction to acid. Three years after the paper was published, a new mineral was named and the Dolomite was introduced to the world, in honor of the person who founded it. This rock also gave the mountain range its name which was earlier only referred to as the ‘Pale Mountains’.

The dolomites proved to be quite a puzzle for many in the early 19th century when the genesis of the mountains could not be determined. Fossils were unearthed that revealed that the rocks which made up the mountains once were formed in the sea by living organisms, but at that early stage in time, there was not enough knowledge about the sea bottom and also the sedimentation that occurs in oceans.

After the Great Barrier Reef was ‘discovered’ by the explorer James Cook, questions began to be raised as the limestone found in the mountains resembled the formations found below the surface of the sea. How did these big mountains form one of the most intriguing landscapes and rise from the sea? Charles Darwin made observations on volcanic activity in the sea and atolls which cause corals to reach the surface where otherwise they wouldn’t and surmised that the mountains were formed due to volcanic or tectonic activity.


In 1860, Baron Ferdinand F. von Richtofen who was an Austrian geologist, visited the Dolomites for further study and observation and noted that the isolate peaks of dolostone were surrounded by sandstone and tuff deposits. Some of these contained identifiable coral fossils and this observation confirmed Darwin’s proposal that that the mountains were once part of an ancient reef which was still surrounded by an ancient ocean basin.

The mineral Dolomite has been used a number of products like:

  • In Dinnerware and glazed China as it is used as a source of calcia and magnesia
  • Magnesium and Calcium supplements for humans and animals
  • Glass
  • Dental plates
  • A base for many creams and powders like face creams, baby powders and even toothpaste
  • Antacids for neutralizing stomach acids
  • Mortar and cement
  • Many adhesives, rubber and plastic products
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The mystery of the Dolomite has been answered by many geologists over the centuries as more information gets uncovered with passing years. What may be a theory becomes reality and what started off as conjecture becomes fact. While it is possible to enjoy and appreciate the beauty and splendor of the Dolomites without knowing more about its turbulent past and rich background, it makes it that much more interesting to delve into the mountain’s secrets. There are many fossils that have been discovered in the Dolomites which are displayed in many Museums all over. In fact, some of these fossils may be one of the best conserved fossil reef examples along with the organisms that formed them. All these give us great insight into how the world evolved, how the landscapes eventually changed and the evolution of the planet with all its history mapped out on the rocks for us to understand millennia later.




The Colorful Hues of the Dolomites and the Popular Dolomite Dishes


The rock gives the Dolomites their unique character. But why is it so different from other types of rock and mountainous area found in the Alps? The answer lies in its color. It is white and let’s not just dwell n its white color, it also changes colors. Now didn’t that get your attention? The changing hues of the various stages of daylight affect the way the Dolomites are viewed. In a way, it is almost chameleon like.

Dawn brings with the power of the rising sun and Dolomites can be painted a vivid orange when the sunlight hits the mountain range. But come the dusk, you’ll see the mountains tinged purple and finally pink as it bids farewell to the setting sun. The Dolomites prove to be equally colorful in other weather too. Stormy skies can see the Dolomites illuminated in shafts of sunlight as if blessed by a divine power and the moonlight can render them pale gold as if the mountains are illuminated gently from within.

This surreal color palette displayed at the mountains has a unique name given by the people of Ladinia which is the heartland of the region. The word is in the Ladin language, still spoken by the people there and it is ‘enrosadira’ which has no Italian nor German equivalent and simply means ‘becoming pink’.



Food is a staple no matter where you go and each area will have its own specialty or twist to a popular Italian meal. Remember you are in Italy, in the land of passionate people who are passionate about the food they make and being nearly on the Austrian borders gives rise to new dishes which are very popular in this region. You are in Italy, and the food here is like an extension of the beautiful landscape, rich in taste and flavors.

With that being said, an integral part of any tour should be sampling the local dishes and cuisine. This is one way of really getting to know a region and appreciating all aspects of its identity. The ‘casunzei’ is a big favorite in the Dolomites region and it is a pasta dish that is reminiscent of ravioli. It is small folded pasta with a choice of either white filing that is made of potatoes and herbs or a red beetroot as the filling with melted butter and sprinkled poppy seeds on the top. This sounds mouthwatering as it is when you read about it, but when you are travelling in the high reaches of the Dolomites, this hot dish will feel like a slice of heaven.


Another staple which has different variants depending where you have this dish in the Dolomites are the ‘canederli’ in Trentino which is also known as ‘Knödel’ in South Tyrol which is basically dumplings. These dumplings of bread are big and round in size and have a lot of Speck in them which is a local dried ham which is smoked, with a few herbs accompanied with a broth.

If you are hiking in the mountains, you may find this food in a mountain hut which will feel like the perfect reward for your strenuous activity and help fuel your hunger. It is a hearty meal that is found in eastern Cadore and in the Dolomiti Friulane and it is the ‘frico’. Feast on a rich omelet with ham or mushrooms and cheese whipped up with polenta and you’ll find you have renewed vigor to tackle the next trail.

There are many local delicacies that are too numerous to mention, but the cheeses and the dry cured meats are a specialty of the whole region even though there are variants, so you can buy some samples along the way to chomp as you journey through the Dolomites.


The Dolomites: Fun in Summer and Winter


The Dolomites can be imposing winter Gods in the cold season but the now can invitingly beckon with her sirens call, attracting the skiers and snowboarders – people who love winter sports – and they respond to the call with a vengeance. You may think that you, as a tourist can only visit the Dolomites within a small time window of a month or two, but if you are willing to move off the beaten path, you may find that there are many things to do and see no matter which time of the year you decide to plan your holiday.


Let’s start with summer. The locals know this place inside out. The highest peaks, the best trails offering the most scenic views if you are open to the idea of not sticking with the conventional tour groups that cater to people who are strapped for time and no creativity in making their own itineraries. Summer is a great time to visit because there will be life anew in the Dolomites and everything will be bursting with color. Summer brings pure magic with it and Mother Nature rules like the queen that she is.

These mountains are not only one of the most spectacular sights in the world; they are also a UNESCO Heritage site! This means perfect outdoor moments sprinkled with starry lights in the night sky. With no light pollution or very minimal, the Dolomites will transport you to a magical place both at day and night. Get your hiking boots on and try out some of the following activities. Hiking is a popular activity with majority of the visitors trying out some trails, whether easy or hard, to experience the Dolomite pathways.


You can get those muscles working with mountain biking that will take you to breathtaking scenic vistas as well as trail running, road bicycling, rock climbing and tackling the famous via ferrata. Throw in a few authentic charming towns into the mix and you’ve got one heady summer vacation that will feel like you’ve left the city life far behind you. Stay in some luxurious mountain inns to get the whole mountain experience and partake in the mountain cuisine to have the perfect summer holiday.

Now winter is a whole new ballgame. Many of the mountain inns may be closed for the season as it can get quite snowed up. However, this is when the ski resorts come to life. It was host to the winter Olympics of 1956 which should tell you just how enticing the slopes are over here. Winter enthusiasts can find their slice of snowy heaven and the incredible peaks coupled with long valleys make good terrain for a number of winter sports.

The beauty of the Dolomites in winter is radically different from the summer splendor. The white snows blanket the landscape as far as the eyes can see and this makes it one of the most popular areas for winter sports enthusiasts in the world. There are miles of backcountry trails to allow you to see sights that are not marred with tourist traffic and also 800 miles of groomed cross country tracks – so you know that there is always a route made for you.

From the towering peaks of the Val di Fassa to the Alta Badia valley in the Sella mountain group to the charming Italian ambience of the Cortina d’Ampezzo, there is something for everyone n matter if you are a beginner or an expert. Where else would you want to get down and sporty with the snow than at the Dolomites where the winter wonderland is as enchanting as the history it holds.


Things You Must Absolutely Do When In Italy’s Dolomites


The Dolomites will give you a breath of fresh air and if you want to take a holiday off the beaten track, you may want to read this list of things to do or not to do when in the Dolomites. Perhaps you’re on a time constraint and you want to pack in as much as you can in your limited holiday schedule or you want to know the best places and also the best unknown places to see within the Dolomites. Being a true tourist is great, you get to see the world famous sites and attractions, but there are great attractions within these spectacular mountains which should be seen (along with the rest of the tourists) and also some locations that are not as well known.

Italy Dolomites Ortisei Paese aerial via Wikimedia and author L3O

  • Alpine Highways

How can you visit the Dolomites and not walk around the region in the 8 long distance trails? The highest sections of the Alpine Highways are known as ‘Alte Vie’ in Italian which are loosely translated as Alpine Highways. Although majority of these trails are easily accessible by hikers and travelers, there are certain areas that may require special equipment, especially in the vie ferrate which means iron ways. This is because you may be required to strap yourself to iron ropes to the mountain walls for safety. It goes without saying that you will need to have a background and history in climbing and mountaineering before you venture into these paths.

Interested and experienced hikers can try the Tofane itinerary which offers a splendid vista of multicolored rocks. Even though this is not technically a vie ferrata as there is rope suspended to help hikers across, it is not for novices or people faint of heart. Even the ‘Astaldi Geological Trail’ warrants extreme caution. An easier option for new hikers is the circuit around the Tre Cime di Lavaredo/ Drei Zinnen. It just needs a bit of effort and training to do it but should not be attempted on a visitor’s first day there. The long walk from Calalzo to the Pile Waterfall is an absolutely easy option that gives a spectacular view of the impressive Dolomite rock formations.


  • Go Visit Towns

There are many towns that are located within the Dolomite Range and you can be spoilt for choice depending upon your preferences. You could visit the winter resorts like Arabba, Cortina, Corvara, Ortisei or Canazei. However those are the types of resorts you may see elsewhere in the world even though they offer spectacular views and all the amenities and attractions a ski resort would hold. If you are on the lookout for something more authentic, you may want to visit some of the many little villages that are scattered high up in the altitudes where you will be witness to inventive and unique forms of transportation as well be far from the tourist madding crowd. If you are looking for the altitude experience without having the tourist rush around you, towns like Colle Santa Lucia, Coomelico, Livinallongo, Selva di Cadore and Zoppé di Cadore should be on your visit list.


  • Sightseeing

Although the above options are part of the sightseeing agenda, there are beautiful sights that cannot be missed in the Dolomites. Visit the Lakes of Braies and Misurina, preferably out of season if you want to miss out on the mad tourist rush. August being a main holiday season, every place is more or less packed in this month and even though Tre Cime di Lavaredo/ Drei Zinnen is a must-see, be prepared for the crowds. The ‘Conca di Cortina’ is another great view that can be best viewed out of season to eliminate the tourists.