The Dolomiti Friulane and of Oltrepiave ("d'Oltrepiave" in Italian) is quite a vast system that includes one of the wildest and most unspoiled areas of the Dolomites, where Nature dominates unrivalled with its magnificent sceneries.
The mountain ranges which form this system are compact, being enclosed between the Piave valley, the upper part of the Tagliamento valley, and the minor, beautifully rugged val Tramontina, val Settimana and val Cimoliana.
Gilbert and Churchill (two Englishmen among the first 'tourists' to travel in the area), in their accounts of explorations within the Dolomites ("The Dolomite mountains", published in 1864), thus spoke of the area:
«Southwards the valley falls through abrupt gorges, by Perarolo and Longarone, into the rich Belluno country. An abrupt mountain range, peaked above, and wooded below, walls in the eastern side of the Piave valley. It conceals in its recesses a wild Dolomitic chain, which startles the sight at intervals – as from Domegge, already mentioned, and lower down, where the weird form of Monte Duraino (sic), its loftiest member, overhangs Perarolo».
By contrast, John Murray wrote in 1837: «In the character of the magnificent scenery of the Friulan mountains around Cadore, may be discovered the type of the landscapes and backgrounds of many of Titian's paintings».
The Dolomiti Friulane UNESCO Heritage Site
The Dolomiti Friulane and d'Oltrepiave UNESCO Heritage Site comprise the peaks of Cima dei Preti (2,706 m), Duranno (2,652 m), Cridola (2,581 m), Cima Monfalconi (2,548 m), Spalti di Toro (2,386 m) and the famous Campanile di val Montanaia (the 'Belltower'; 2,173 m).
This mountain system reveals itself gradually, as one straddles along the imposing ramparts that surround and protect the area around its edges.
A walk along the val Cimoliana, the minor val Poschiadea and the wild val Settimana – or following the evocative “Truoi dai Sclops” (the “Gentian’s Trail”, in the language of Friuli) – allows for the discovery of incredible, unexpected landscapes that will take one by surprise.
Particularly extraordinary is the sight of the solitary Campanile di val Montanaia – an impressive, isolated tower that rises suddenly at the centre of a glacial basin, and is surrounded by the pinnacles and needles of the Monfalconi range, and which is one of the symbols of these wonderful mountains.
The geology of the area is dominated by Dolomite rocks from the Upper Triassic and by the processes that caused the large tidal plain made of Main Dolomite (‘Dolomia principale’) to break up and split open during the Jurassic period.
This area subsequently became a deep sea, evidence of which can be observed in the small Val di Suola.
The peculiarities of the relief are particularly spectacular, especially as the whole territory is still almost completely wild and uninhabited, with a morphology that shows very little influence of the presence of man – when any at all.
Remains of ancient glacial modeling such as scree slopes and cones made out of detritus, as well as landslide phenomena – and so forth – are carved into the landscape almost to form an educational tool, a real geo-morphological open air museum .
At the edge of the system, the large, dramatic Vajont landslide is observable in all of its imposing appearance and dramatic grandeur – a surviving monument to the undomitable powers of Nature and, by contrast, to the greed and recklessness of man.
The famous Campanile di val Montanaia
The area of the Dolomiti Friulane and d'Oltrepiave straddles, as the name partly suggests, the two regions of Friuli and Cadore. To access one of its absolute highlights (the famous Campanile di val Montanaia) one has to either reach by car the village of Cimolais and then ascend along the val Cimoliana via a tarred road (by toll during the summer months), which leads in the vicinity of Rifugio Pordenone (1,249 m), from where there are viewing platforms about 15 minutes away from the actual mountain hut.
Alternatively, if you are up for more demanding treks, the area of the Campanile can also be accessed via longer paths from the Piave valley (especially from Domegge or Perarolo), across the Spalti di Toro-Monfalconi (2,386 m/2,548 m) mountain range.
And now, to finish off, another quote on how this marvelous natural feature was seen and described by another pioneer traveler – this time the German K. G. von Saar:
«It is a vision I will never forget! Mists and dark storm clouds moving slowly from the north, bypassing the fork and rolling down the ridge; with them come life and movement on the rocky ramparts, indistinct in the first glare of the sun, and one sees peaks and profiles. Suddenly a tower of stone appears, as no other we have ever seen. From the center of a lonely circle suddenly a giant obelisk stands about 200 metres high, and its shape, tapering upwards, is interrupted about two thirds of the way up by a swelling. This is the widest point of the tower. There is no possible doubt; it can only be 'him'! The bearers confirm our supposition. They call it "the bell tower" so that it cannot be confused with any other! At the sight of it all weariness disappears from our team, we shoulder our packs and start walking once again. Everybody chasing his own thoughts, and these are all focused on what we have just seen».
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