Where Are the Dolomites?
The Dolomites are a large group of mountain ranges of the Alps in Italy, covering an area of 15,942 km² (6,155 sq miles), in the Italian Eastern Alps.
Considered by many to be the most magnificent and dramatic area of the whole Alps and to contain some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in Europe and indeed in the world, the Dolomites extend over 3 regions of Italy: Veneto, Trentino-Alto Adige and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, all in the north-east of the country.
In 2009 UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, declared the Dolomites a World Heritage Site, and describes it with the words: “It features some of the most beautiful mountain landscapes anywhere” (emphasis added).
Crags, Ski Slopes and Passes
The natural scenery of the Dolomites is highly varied, and includes pastures, lakes, craggy heights, majestic mountains, glaciers, pine woods, rock faces, tarns, meadows.
The Dolomites’ highest mountain is Marmolada, at 3,343 m (10,968 ft), called “Queen of the Dolomites”.
Marmolada, a mountain with impressive vertical walls, on its northern slope contains the Dolomites’ largest glacier, the Marmolada Glacier, and some poetic mind said that this forms a white mantle for the Queen of the Dolomites.
At an altitude of 3,343 m above sea level, Punta Penia is the highest peak of Marmolada and of all the Dolomites. It is located on the border between the province of Belluno, in Veneto, and the province of Trento, in Trentino-Alto Adige.
Still on Marmolada, Punta Rocca mountain station, on the other hand, at 3,265 m is the highest panoramic terrace in the Dolomites.
Mount Marmolada towers over the tourist resort of Canazei, part of the Dolomiti Superski skiing area which, with as many as 1,200 km of slopes, is one of the largest mountain resorts in the world.
The Dolomiti Superski is a complex of 16 ski areas and more than 450 ski lifts of the latest generation, open to visitors from summer to winter. The choice of ski pistes is large and tailored to everyone, from the simplest downhill ski runs, dedicated to beginners, who are followed by teachers, up to various degrees of advanced skills pistes.
Sunny slopes, stunning views, extraordinary scenery, exciting routes are part of the activities.
The village of Canazei is at northern end of Val di Fassa, a valley in the heart of the Dolomites surrounded by the most astonishing and breath-taking titans of the Dolomites: not just Marmolada but also the Sella Group, Sassolungo, Langkofel.
From Canazei, one of the most beautiful villages of Val di Fassa, a cable car with a view goes up to the panoramic terrace at Punta Rocca on Mount Marmolada. Punta Rocca, at 3,265m, is near the highest peak of the Marmolada, Punta Penia, and therefore a strategic point offering a 360 degrees view on the Dolomites.
Not far from Canazei is the Sass Pordoi (or Sasso Pordoi), a flat summit or plateau in the Sella mountain group which is called “the terrace of the Dolomites” because of its high, panoramic, characteristic flat shape on the top that descends cliff-like to the side walls. On the southern side it has an overhang of 800 m, with a slope as steep as over 80%. On the northern side, on the other hand, it descends gradually.
The view from Sasso Pordoi is extraordinary: Marmolada and other mountains like Catinaccio and Sassolungo appear incredibly close, then a bit further the Conca d’Ampezzo (Ampezzo Valley), and even further the Austrian and Swiss Alps. These are only some of the things you can see. The spectacular panorama, at almost 3,000 m, is above all peaks.
Sasso Pordoi, which has three vertiginous slopes with sheer drops, is easy to reach in just 4 minutes by cable car from the Passo Pordoi, a beautiful mountain pass that is 12 km from Canazei.
From Canazei it is also possible to reach the Val Gardena valley through the Sella Pass.
Dolomites Resorts: Selva di Val Gardena
The Dolomites, both in winter and in summer, attract many holidaymakers and people interested in activities, like walking, hiking, skiing, cycling, mountaineering (Alpinism).
One of the Italian regions where the Dolomites are located, Trentino-Alto Adige, is made up of two parts, one of which, Alto Adige, is bilingual, speaking Italian and German, and its name in German is Südtirol, South Tyrol in English, as most of the Tyrol is across the northern border, in Austria.
Alto Adige is covered with vineyards.
Below the colossal Marmolada you may cross the Sella Pass into lovely Val Gardena, which is part of Alto Adige (South Tyrol) and is famous for mountain sports.
In Val Gardena a renowned summer and winter resort is Selva di Val Gardena, which is part of the Sellaronda circuit, a ski area within the wider, very large Dolomiti Superski complex that we described above.
The picturesque Selva is the highest village in Val Gardena, located in the heart of the Dolomites directly below the plateau-shaped Sella massif, which looks like it’s holding up the sky. Amidst meadows and landscaped paths, surrounded by high-peaked mountains and circled by massifs, Selva di Val Gardena lies in an enchanting valley and is home to many hotels, guesthouses, restaurants and ski schools.
Being one of the access points to the Sellaronda, Selva di Val Gardena is also visited by tourists who stay only one day and ski on the slopes of the Sella massif in winter.
Besides Italian and German, Ladin (not Latin, mind you) it is the third official language of Val Gardena.
Dolomites Resorts: Cortina D’Ampezzo
Cortina D’Ampezzo is a world-famous tourist center, the largest and most popular of skiing resorts in the Dolomites.
But Cortina D’Ampezzo is not just a skiing resort, a sports center: it’s much more than that. Cortina is not only a beautiful town in a highly scenic setting, even by Dolomites’ standard.
The Conca d’Ampezzo, the basin, wide bowl at the center of which is Cortina, excels the glorious landscape of the Dolomites area.
Cortina itself has a fine historic center, with aarchitecture to be admired.
The town has a long history, and its first documented mention goes as far back as 1156.
The heart of Cortina is Corso Italia, the main street, where you’ll find the Basilica dei Santi Filippo e Giacomo, completed in 1775 on the site of two previous churches from the 13th and 16th centuries.
The church has, among other treasures, ceiling painting cycles by Giuseppe Ghedina, wall paintings by the Tyrolean painter Franz Anton Zeiller, a majestic bell tower.
Many more churches, as well as civil buildings, adorn Cortina D’Ampezzo.