‘Culturonda Dolomythos’: Twelve Ways to Explore Culture in the Dolomites
In the old times, mountain people did not generally consider going up into the mountains as a ‘fun’ activity – and this was the attitude also in the Dolomites. Mountain climbing was once seen as the height of impudence: was there air to breathe, up there, at all? It was actually the city dwellers that incited “mountain madness”, and all too soon there were rather strange ‘rope teams’ hanging from the rock cliffs. The tourists gaped at the peaks in awe while the guides looked for crystals and chamois: the former made the Dolomites world famous; the latter made a living from them.
People got over their fear of the mountains only about two hundred years ago, and the upper elevations evolved into much-loved recreational spaces; even the higher Dolomite valleys were explored and developed. Grand Hotels offered “comfort with a view”, and conquering one summit after the other became a sport. Gradually, the Monti Pallidi – ‘Pale Mountains’; a moniker that has been used in reference to the Dolomites ever since – revealed their secrets, and a multifaceted story and cultural history unfolded. Reinhold Messner, who was born amidst these mountains, called them “the most beautiful in the world” – and it is hard to disagree with him. The UNESCO declared the Dolomites a World Natural Heritage Site in 2009: they are indeed a natural wonder in the truest sense of the phrase, which evolved out of coral reefs over the course of 250 million years of long and complex geological history.
The Dolomites have been populated since the Iron Age; afterwards, the Rhaetians, Romans and Lombards all left their mark. During WW1, Austria and Italy drew their battlefront right through these mountains. The Ladin people, who are among the oldest inhabitants of the region, now divided between the province of Belluno, Trentino and South Tyrol (and who constitute South Tyrol’s third language group today), however, are really the permanent settlers of the Dolomites’ heartland – sometimes also referred to as Ladinia: for millennia, these mountains have been their world, as God’s creation and the Devil’s handiwork. Hundreds of legends peopled by witches, wild men and magic kingdoms provided a key to everyday life, which here was always dominated by the forces of Nature.
‘Culturonda Dolomythos’ has been devised as a way to deepen the unique cultural experience that the ‘Pale Mountains’ can offer; for this reason, twelve thematic areas have been chosen. ‘Culturonda Dolomythos’ is for those visitors who not only wish to enjoy the spectacular landscapes of the Dolomites, but also want to understand its people and its myths. It represents a concise way to access South Tyrol’s multifaceted cultural landscape.
1. ‘Dolomythos’: Fossilised Coral Reefs.
Le Corbusier called these mountains the “most beautiful architectural works on earth”: the Dolomites, well known for their unique rock spires and towers, are a geological legacy left by a primordial sea. At the foot of the Tre Cime (Drei Zinnen) peaks (2,999 m), a hiker found a fossilized footprint of a Prosauropoda dinosaur that just happened to walk there 220 million years ago. The sensational discovery of Megachirella wachtleri – an ancestor of modern-day snakes and lizards – near the village of Braies (Prags) and other fossils of ferns, cycads and conifers represent further vestiges of Prehistoric times. The Frötscher stream, on the Alpe di Siusi (Seiseralm) Alpine pastures (average altitude 1,850 m), is another place where remnants of the fascinating geological history of the Dolomites can be found.
Points of interest include:
– At the ‘Dolomythos Geological and Etnographic Museum’ in San Candido (Innichen) the exhibitions trace the genesis of the Dolomites, the world of dinosaurs, the mysterious evolution of plants and crystal treasures. Duration of visit to ‘Dolomythos’: 2 hours. Website: www.dolomythos.com
– The Grand Canyon of Bletterbach Gorge (Aldino/Aldein): the Bletterbach Gorge, situated at the foot of Corno Bianco (Weisshorn; 2,316 m), in the vicinity of Monte Corno-Trudnerhorn Nature Park, is South Tyrol’s largest canyon. Duration of visit: short route, 2.5 hours; long route, 3.5 hours. Website: www.bletterbach.info
– The Geological Trail on the Alpe di Siusi (Seiseralm) Alpine pastures, in the Sciliar-Catinaccio (Schlern-Rosengarten) Nature Park, is one of the most interesting trails in the Dolomites from a geological point of view. Information points will assist you to spotlight the genesis of this famous and impressive mountain group; duration of visit (trail from Bad Radzes to Seiseralm): 2.5 hours. Website: www.provinz.bz.it/nature-parks
2. ‘Enrosadira’: Catinaccio (Rosengarten), Latemar and Sas dla Crusc.
The enchanted ‘Rose Garden’ of the Dolomites shows itself only at sunset: that is when the tops of the mountains turn pink, creating an atmosphere worthy of a fairy tale. The enrosadira – as the Ladin people call this phenomenon – is the result of glittering light that intensifies the already luminous colours of sunset, giving these mountains an extraordinary eerie glow. There is a legend about the origin of these colours: the Dwarf King Laurin fell in love with the beautiful Similde; however, because she gave him the cold shoulder, he kidnapped her and took her to his Kingdom. Similde’s brother looked for her for seven years – and found her only as a result of seeing King Laurin’s Rose Garden. Having lost the love of his life, the king cast a spell on his beloved Garden: the Roses should never blossom again, neither by day nor by night. In his curse, though, he forgot to mention the short period of time between night and day, as the sun sets: King Laurin’s Rose Garden thus ‘blooms’ every summer, between the hours of 7 and 8.30pm, with a spectacular colour display that bathes the Sciliar (Schlern), Catinaccio (Rosengarten), Latemar and other surrounding peaks in hues of pink and purple.
Points of interest include:
– The enrosadira can be seen at its best from four villages: Nova Levante (Welschnofen), Nova Ponente (Deutschnofen), Tires (Tiers) and Collepietra (Steinegg). One of the best spots in absolute for viewing this phenomenon is Wuhnleger Pond in Tires; duration of route: from the Sciliar-Catinaccio (Schlern-Rosengarten) Nature Park House to Wuhnleger Pond, 1 hour. Website: www.rosengarten-latemar.com
– The Laerchensteig Nature Trail in San Cassiano (St. Kassian), Alta Badia, leads from Rue Farm to Rudiferia Farm. Hikers will find a recently restored and functioning water mill as well. This area is contained within the Fanes-Sennes-Braies (Fanes-Sennes-Prags) Nature Park; duration of Laerchensteig Nature Trail, 1 hour. Website: www.altabadia.org
– Sas dla Crusc (3,026 m): this mountain, with its unique atmosphere, can be seen very well from the village of Badia (Abtei) in the bright summer evenings. At the foot of this majestic peak you will find the La Crusc pilgrimage church, also known as Heiligenkreuz. This area is also contained within the Fanes-Sennes-Braies (Fanes-Sennes-Prags) Nature Park. Duration of route: from San Leonardo (St. Leonhard) to the pastures of Armentara and La Crusc, full day (6-8 hours). Website: www.suedtirol.info/dolomites
3. Trade Routes: Goods, Armies and Travelers.
Way back in Prehistoric times, there were big caravan roads crossing the Alps; the Romans used them to travel between the Mediterranean and the Germanic world. They set up important custom stations along the Imperial roads: the Via Claudia Augusta, the Pustrissa and the Alemagna. Situated between the via Pustrissa, which carried the old Roman name for the Val Pusteria (Pustertal), and the Via Alemagna lays the old market town of San Candido (Innichen), which features an important Collegiate church in the Romanesque style (Ss. Candido e Corbiniano) and the oldest weekly market in the valley, dating to 1303. Pilgrims, merchants and shoppers came here from all over; as a consequence, inns, guesthouses, and workshops of blacksmiths, wagon-makers and carters sprang up. The market flourished thanks to traders from both Venice and Germany, being the town at an ideal crossroads between the Latin and Germanic worlds.
Points of interest include:
– The Roman word for ‘rest station’ was mansio. The mansio settlement of Sebatum (present-day San Lorenzo di Sebato/Sankt Lorenzen) was a typical one-street village along the arterial road between Aquileia and Valdidena (today’s Wilten, a district of Innsbruck). The Mansio Sebatum Museum (MSM) exhibits archaeological finds that shed light on everyday life along the Roman road in a very engaging way. Duration of visit to MSM: 1.5 hours. Website: www.mansio-sebatum.it
– The Troi Paian is the oldest pathway leading from the Valle Isarco (Eisacktal) to the Val Gardena (Gröden); archaeological finds testify to its use by hunters and gatherers all the way back to the Mesolithic period (9000 BC). Duration of route: 2 hours. Website: www.valgardena.it
– The wooden sculptures of the Val Gardena (Grödnertal), which are now known throughout the world, represent a real sector of the local economy; local tourist bureaus even organize woodcarving courses. Website: www.valgardena.it
4. Oswald von Wolkenstein: Singer, Poet, Composer and Diplomat.
Oswald von Wolkenstein, a Medieval Minnesänger (minstrel), did everything possible to preserve his place in posterity. He left his ancestral home at Trostburg Castle at the age of ten, toured Europe, North Africa and the Middle East as a squire, knight, courier and diplomat to Emperor Sigismund; he mastered ten languages, and published two manuscripts of his songs, with which he earned himself a place in the world literature of the Middle Ages. Less inspired by minstrel ideals than by life itself, Oswald sang of wine, travel, love – and of himself. He also wrote the first nature poem in German: an ode to spring and to the Alpine pastures of the Alpe di Siusi (Seiseralm). Oswald, who suffered from a congenital paralysis of his right eyelid, died in Merano (Meran) in 1445 and was buried at Novacella (Neustift) Abbey. On the east wall of the Cathedral at Bressanone (Brixen) there is a benefactor stone that Oswald had made for himself in advance of his trip to Jerusalem; in it, he is depicted as a crusader with a beard.
Points of interest:
– The Renaissance hall at Trostburg
Castle, above Ponte Gardena (Waidbruck),
houses a statue in tribute to Oswald von Wolkenstein. Attractions include a
great hall with coffered ceiling, which is adorned with coats of arms, and a
triple-vaulted Gothic Stube parlour.
Duration of visit: 2 hours. Website: www.burgeninstitut.com
– The Oswald von Wolkenstein Trail
leads from Siusi (Seis) to the ruins
of Castelvecchio (Hauenstein), which
Oswald acquired in 1427 after a long inheritance dispute. This area is contained within the Sciliar-Catinaccio (Schlern-Rosengarten) Nature Park. Duration of route: 50
minutes. Website: www.alpedisiusi.info
– From 1422 to 1426, Oswald was the
administrator of Neuhaus castle in the Val Pusteria (Pustertal). A cultural trail runs from Gais to the castle, and elucidates
Oswald’s life and work. Duration of route: 1 hour. Website: www.bruneck.com
5. Myths and Legends: The Magical World of the Dolomites.
A very long time ago, before humans arrived in the Dolomites, there were creatures (gnomes, dwarfs and elves) inhabiting these mountains that were able to take on different appearances. Other mysterious beings – such as undines, water spirits and nymphs – once lived among the glittering and polychromatic rocks at the bottom of lakes and rivers. Their doings, which take place within a parallel fantastical world of myths and legends as old as man’s imagination, testify to the cultural richness of the Dolomites and to the magic that forms an integral part of mountain life. This veritable treasure of myths is still waiting to be fully discovered; in fact, no-one can really be sure that witches, dwarfs – and those creatures known here as salvans and ganes – no longer exist ….
Points of interest:
– Atop the Sciliar (Schlern) massif (2,563 m) and at the lookout point by the Bullaccia (Puflatsch) there are some stone formations called the ‘Witches’ Chairs’ or ‘Witches’ Benches’, where it is said that witches once gathered for their dances and revels. Duration of route around the Bullaccia, starting at Compaccio (Kompatsch): 2 hours. Website: www.alpedisiusi.info
– The ‘Legend of the Fanes’ themed trail starts in San Vigilio (St. Vigil): eleven stations narrate the ‘national’ epic of the Ladin people. The Fanes people allied themselves with the marmots for all eternity; a terraced natural amphitheatre at Pices Fanes (‘Small Fanes’) is still known as the ‘Parliament of the Marmots’. This area is contained within the the Fanes-Sennes-Braies (Fanes-Sennes-Prags) Nature Park. Duration of the ‘Legend of the Fanes’ themed trail: 1 hour; duration of hike to the ‘Parliament of the Marmots’: full day. Website: www.sanvigilio.com
– The waters of Lake Carezza (Karersee) shimmer – the result of magic and unrequited love: a warlock tried to woo a mermaid into the lake by using a rainbow; however, the beauty disappeared underwater forever, and the sorcerer smashed the arc of colours into the lake. Duration of walk around Lake Carezza: 30 minutes. Website: www.rosengarten-latemar.com
6. Postcard Greetings: Grand Hotels and Health Spas.
Tourism has a long tradition in the Dolomites. The first tourist resorts were the old baths, which were already being frequented way back in Medieval times: Maistatt, Altprags, Bad Moos, Bad Solomonsbrunn and Bad Bergfall, all in the Val Pusteria (Pustertal). The Southern Railway, which began running in November 1871, opened the door to predominantly elite tourism. A train line connected Vienna to Lake Garda; Grand Hotels sprang up along its route, some of which still do exist today. The pioneering spirit of the time is embodied in the figure of legendary hostess Emma Hellenstainer, who first built the Schwarzer Adler Hotel and then a second hotel on the shores of Lake Braies (Prags). Theodor Christomannos was another illustrious figure: not only was he the brainchild of the panoramic route which runs from Bolzano/Bozen to Cortina through the Val d’Ega (Eggental) and the Dolomites’ highest passes – the so-called “Great Dolomite Road” (‘Grande Strada delle Dolomiti’) – but he also built the Grand Hotel Carezza.
Points of interest:
– The Dobbiaco (Toblach) Grand Hotel, which today is a culture center and hosts a Nature Park House for the Sesto Dolomites (Sextnerdolomiten) Nature Park, was built in 1878. The Grand Hotel Carezza, built along the lake shores at the foot of the Catinaccio (Rosengarten) massif (3,002 m), was the first Alpine Hotel in the Catinaccio (Rosengarten)/Latemar area. Both were luxurious structures that hosted several European monarchs and other celebrities of the day. Duration of visit to the Nature Park House in Dobbiaco (Toblach): 2 hours. Website: www.grandhotel-dobbiaco.com
– The Tourism Museum in Villabassa (Niederdorf) highlights the fundamentals of the local tourist industry: ancient inns, therapeutic baths, the building of a railway line through the Val Pusteria (Pustertal) and the early history of Alpine mountaineering are all well documented there. Duration of visit to Tourism Museum: 1 hour.
– The Touriseum at Trauttmannsdorf Castle in Merano/Meran (home also to the magnificent Botanical Gardens) pilots visitors through an entertaining display of 200 years of Alpine tourism and a roller-coaster of emotions: mountains were viewed as menacing until some city dwellers conquered the first Dolomite peaks; after that, the heights became an ideal of high society, who enjoyed the mountain backdrop from the safety of their hotel balconies. Duration of visit to the Touriseum: 2 hours. Website: www.touriseum.com
7. The Call of the Mountains: Wings of Freedom.
Up until the 18th century, the Dolomites were regarded as ‘horrible mountains’: mountaineers discovered them out of the blue, and thus the ‘Pale Mountains’ began their conquest of Europe; then, famous climbers like John Ball and Paul Grohmann made them stars. The latter described his climbs and the spectacular valleys of Ampezzo (now Cortina) and Alta Pusteria (Hochpustertal) in his book Wanderungen in den Dolomiten, the publication of which brought droves of tourists to the area. Likewise, in the second half of the 19th century, the first pioneers of Alpine tourism discovered the Alta Badia. The legendary mountaineer Sepp Innerkofler brought momentum into the Sesto (Sexten) valley, and a whole generation of climbers learnt from him.
Points of interest:
– Messner Mountain Museum (MMM): founded by Reinhold Messner, this network of museums addresses mountain-related themes at five locations scattered throughout South Tyrol and in the Belluno province. MMM Firmian, located inside the Castel Firmiano castle (Schloss Firmian), just south of Bolzano/Bozen, forms the nucleus of the museums’ network, while MMM Ripa at the Brunico/Bruneck castle focuses on the everyday culture of mountain people in different parts of the world. All of the exhibits are from Messner’s private collections. Duration of visit: 1 to 3 hours for each museum; count 2 to 3 days (plus traveling time) to see all five museums. Website: www.messner-mountain-museum.it
– Luis Trenker, who was an actor, director and mountaineer, is considered to be a pioneer of mountain films: in the 1920s and 1930s the Dolomites played a leading role in his films. The whole of Trenker’s estate is now housed at the Gherdeina Museum, and at selected locations throughout the Val Gardena (Grödnertal) you will find wooden columns with little holes pierced in them through which you can view the same settings that Trenker’s camera once captured. Duration of visit to Gherdeina Museum: 1.5 hours. Website: www.valgardena.it
– The Innerkofler brothers, who were
born in Sesto (Sexten), were both
indefatigable mountaineers, mountain guides and Alpine refuge proprietors; they opened many climbing routes on the Tre Cime (Drei
Zinnen) peaks (2,999 m). Duration of circular hike
around the Tre Cime: full day. Website: www.altapusteria.info
8. Mountain Front: the Great War.
On 23rd May, 1915, the Kingdom of Italy declared war on the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Italian army occupied Cortina (then Austrian), and the Austro-Hungarian troops fell back to the Lagazuoi mountain in order to defend the Val Badia (Gadertal) and the Val Pusteria (Pustertal). The two opposing armies dug in, building trenches along the crest of the Lagazuoi – in fact, through much of the Dolomites: the mountains thus became an inconceivable theatre of war fought at high altitude, where the soldiers had to build trails and tunnels for the transportation of food, artillery and ammunition to the front lines. Today, these pathways have been transformed into peaceful hiking trails; one of the most fascinating routes is the tunnel leading through Monte Paterno (Paternkofel; 2,746 m), in the Tre Cime area.
Points of interest:
– At the Open-air War Museum on Monte
Piana (2,324 m; Belluno province) experienced hikers can walk along trenches and tunnels
from WW1. In Sesto (Sexten) the Bellum Aquilarum Association offers
guided hikes to the WW1 Museum at the Croda Rossa (Rotwand; 3,146 m). An exhibition titled ‘Unforgotten: the Great War in the
Sesto Dolomites (Sextnerdolomiten),
1915-18’ is on display at the old elementary school in Sesto (Sexten). Duration of visit to WW1
Open-air Museum on Monte Piana, Croda Rossa and Lagazuoi: full day. Websites: www.montepiana.com; www.bellumaquilarum.com; www.sesto.it
– On the Lagazuoi (2,835 m), the ski runs cross what was once the front line. Restored tunnels and trenches can be seen at the extensive Open-air War Museum straddling the Lagazuoi, Sass de Stria (2,477 m) and the Cinque Torri mountains. Website: www.lagazuoi5torri.dolomiti.org
– The soldiers of the Imperial and Royal Army (k.u.k.) whose mother tongue was not German were laid to rest at the war cemetery in the Val di Landro (Hölensteintal), near Dobbiaco (Toblach). Graves of fallen soldiers from foreign nations were also located in the forest cemetery at Brunico (Bruneck). Visit of Nasswand War Cemetery (Val di Landro, near Dobbiaco): 30 minutes; Brunico War Cemetery: 30 minutes. Website: www.dobbiaco.it; www.bruneck.com
9. Wild Water : Lakes, Springs, Waterfalls and Mills.
Melting snow and heavy rainfall feed the wellsprings that, in turn, give rise to rivers, lakes and waterfalls. The Lago di Braies (Pragser Wildsee) and the Lago di Carezza (Karersee) sparkle like little pieces of blue sky: their water is sometimes of a deep turquoise colour; at other times light green, and it always reflects the clouds and rocks around. Man also built mills along the course of streams and rivers in order to harness the immense power of water: when rivers must negotiate a vertical drop, a waterfall comes into being, and where water crashes down through a narrow gorge, a cloud of tiny droplets forms a canvas onto which the sun conjures a rainbow.
Points of interest:
– Lago di Braies (Pragser Wildsee), the largest lake in
the Alta Pusteria (Hochpustertal), is
situated in the Valle di Braies (Pragser
Tal). This lake is a jewel set into the surrounding rock faces; its emerald
waters reflect the Croda del Becco (Seekofel; 2,810 m) mountain. This area is contained within the the Fanes-Sennes-Braies (Fanes-Sennes-Prags) Nature Park. Duration of walk around Lago di Braies: 1 hour. Website: www.valledibraies.info
– The history of the therapeutic
baths in San Candido (Innichen) goes
back all the way to Roman times, but they were first documented in 1586; in 1856 a spa hotel was built, but only the ruins of it are left today. Nearby there
are also five mineral water springs; the water from three of these springs – Imperatore, Lavaredo and Candida – is
collected and bottled. Duration of walk from San Candido (Innichen) to the ruins of the spa hotel: 1.5 hours. Website: www.sancandido.info
– If you start off from Longiarù and follow the signs for the Val di Morins, you will reach a place along the Seres stream known as ‘Valle dei Molini’ (Mühlental or Valley of the Mills). Nine watermills, which have been restored, are currently functioning and show how people used water in the olden days. Duration of hike to the ‘Valle dei Molini’: 2.5 hours. Website: www.sanmartin.it
10. ‘Gens Ladina’: Mutual Differences.
The peoples of the Dolomites have common roots with their neighbours in Ampezzo (Cortina), Cadore (Belluno) and Carnia (Friuli), as it can be seen by shared traditions and in the German and Rhaeto-Romanic (Ladin) dialects. The heart of the Dolomites is in fact Ladin: in South Tyrol, the Rhaeto-Romanic language is still very much alive and well both in the Val Gardena (Gröden) and the Val Badia (Gadertal), as well as in the valleys of Ampezzo (Cortina), Livinallongo, Cadore, Comelico (province of Belluno) and Fassa (Trentino). Down the centuries, the inhabitants of each of these valleys have maintained friendly social interactions with those of the other nearby valleys. Many pilgrim trails and old ‘smuggling paths’ are today panoramic cross-border hiking routes.
Points of interest:
– The ‘Ciastel de Tor’ Ladin Museum presents intriguing information about
the history, language and culture of the Ladin valleys. Duration of visit to ‘Ciastel de Tor’: 1.5 hours.
– The ‘viles’ of the Val Badia (Gadertal) are situated on steep slopes: these rustic hamlets comprise a group of closely built pairs of residential and farming buildings with a communal oven and fountain on the village square. The Tru dles Viles circuit trail through the farms of La Villa leads to the hamlets of Cianins, Sotrù, Oies, Freinademez, Rainé and Anvì. Duration of hike to the Viles of La Villa: 2.5 hours. Website: www.altabadia.org
– Ladin is South Tyrol’s original language. It is a Neo-Latin language that originated when the Romans introduced vulgar Latin into the region. Introductory courses in the Ladin language and culture take place at the Micurà de Ru institute in San Martino in Badia (St. Martin in Thurn). Guided tours on the Ladin culture are also offered in Selva (Wolkenstein) and in the Val Gardena (Grödnertal) in general. Duration of Ladin culture hikes in Selva (Wolkenstein)/Val Gardena: 3 hours. Website: www.micura.it; www.valgardena-active.com
11. Masterpieces of Nature: the Voices of Silence.
The Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Drei Zinnen) consist of layered Main Dolomite (Dolomia Prinicipale) rock formations and were created, through erosion, out of a single huge boulder. They are witnesses to the shallows that once existed here, with extensive algal mats. Large bivalves – called Megalodon – lived in slightly deeper water and can be observed today as fossils in the rock. The Sella massif (3,151 m), on the other hand, is a stone castle with spectacular forms that look different when viewed from every angle: people say that this is like a huge, majestic island that rises towards the sky. Around 230 million years ago, in fact, a small part of this mountain rose from the primordial Tethys sea: the original atoll had two volcanoes annexed to it – the Predazzo and the Monzoni – that spat out lava, which then solidified into tufa rock.
Points of interest:
– The majestic peaks of the Sesto Dolomites (Sextnerdolomiten; max alt. 3,145 m) frame the landscape of the Val Fiscalina (Fischleintal). Above the verdant valley floor – starting point for the hike to the famous Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Drei Zinnen) – the rock walls of this World Heritage Site almost form a bulwark for the pristine nature of the valley. Duration of hike from Sesto to the Val Fiscalina/Fischleintal and the Tre Cime di Lavaredo: 3 to 4 hours; from Dobbiaco (Toblach) to the upper Rienza valley and the Tre Cime: 3 to 4 hours. Website: www.altapusteria.info
– The pastures of the Sciliar (Schlern) high plateau (max alt. 2,563 m) are almost impossibly green for such an altitude. This is due to the presence of marl in the Raibl layers that cover the Main Dolomite in many spots. Duration of hike from the Alpe di Siusi (Seiseralm; average alt. 1,850 m) to the Sciliar (Schlern) massif: full day. Website: www.alpedisiusi.info
– The sparse vegetation – and the volcano-like appearance of the Col dla Sonê mountain at its centre (2,633 m) – make the Puez-Gardenaccia Plateau in the Alta Badia reminiscent of a lunar landscape. There is a trail to the plateau which starts at the village of La Villa/Stern that we highly recommend, but to skilled hikers only. Duration of hike from La Villa/Stern to the Puez-Gardenaccia plateau: full day. Website: www.altabadia.org
12. UNESCO World Heritage: South Tyrol’s Nature Parks.
In 2009, the UNESCO placed large parts of the Dolomites on its list of World Heritage Sites; this status goes hand in hand with a comprehensive protection order for the whole of humanity. At the same time, this title honours South Tyrol’s current conservation practices: seventeen per cent of South Tyrol’s land is protected within the province’s seven Nature Parks, four of which are located in the Dolomites (Sciliar/Schlern-Catinaccio/Rosengarten; Puez-Odle/Puez-Geisler; Fanes-Sennes-Braies/Fanes-Sennes-Prags; Tre Cime di Lavaredo/Drei Zinnen). Well-known peaks and pristine meadows characterize the Nature of these protected areas; on the other hand, extensive Alpine pasturelands and forests are part of the cultural assets and history of the individual mountain regions that compose this World Heritage Site. The value of Nature Parks lies also in their contribution to research and environmental education, as ecologically sound recreational options enhance the experience of Nature while encouraging environmentally friendly behaviours.
Points of interest:
–Sciliar (Schlern)-Catinaccio (Rosengarten) Nature Park: old cultures and new insights. The Sciliar (Schlern) massif (max alt. 2,563 m) is the emblem of this park – and of South Tyrol at large. Prehistoric finds, which were discovered in 1945 on the plateau, are evidence that this spot had already been chosen as an ancient site of worship. Duration of hike from the Alpe di Siusi (Seiseralm; average alt. 1,850 m) to the Rifugio Bolzano/Schlernhaus mountain hut (2,457 m): full day.
–Puez-Odle (Puez-Geisler) Nature Park: a history book of the earth. This park is home to a wonderful world of fossils, shells, corals, karst areas, scree deposits and eroded valleys. The Vallunga (Langental) is simply enchanting: the ‘long valley’ – as it is called – was carved by a glacier, and leads into the heart of the park from the town of Selva (Wolkenstein). Duration of hike around the Sas de Putia (Peitlerkofel; 2,875 m) mountain: full day.
–Fanes-Sennes-Braies (Fanes-Sennes-Prags) Nature Park: into the realm of animals. Here, wide plateaus and majestic massifs form the ideal habitat for deer, chamois, eagle and grouse. In 1987, the bones of a cave bear were also found in this area, in a deep cavern on the mountain group known as the Conturines (3,064 m). Duration of hike to Prato Piazza (Platzwiese) Alpine pastures from Braies (average alt. 1,993 m): half day.
–Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Drei Zinnen) Nature Park: a solitude of great stature. Legendary mountains such as the iconic peaks of the Tre Cime (2,999 m) and the so-called ‘Sesto Sundial’ (Meridiana di Sesto/Sexten Sonnenuhr) are forever linked to the pioneers of mountaineering. Duration of hike from San Candido (Innichen) to Valle Campo di Dentro (Innerfeldtal): half day.
Information about Alta Badia (Gadertal): www.altabadia.org
Information about Alpe di Siusi (Seiseralm): www.alpedisiusi.info