“I grew up on the Dolomite’s Mountains and, after many expeditions through my land, I’ve been on top of the mountains all over the world. My conclusion is the following: no mountain can compete with the beauty of the Dolomites. The Dolomites are unique: in their variety of forms, geology and especially in the appearance of the landscape, with the contrast between pastures that stretch horizontally and rock formations that grow vertically. And as it is for me, for many other experts the rocky landscape between Brenta and Udine and between Putia and Pordenone too is the most beautiful in the world” .
These words of love were written by the famous alpinist Reinhold Messner to support the candidacy of the Dolomites as a Unesco World Heritage sites, in December of 2007.
It took almost two years to harvest the fruits of the commitment of local communities, supported by the testimony of athletes and celebrities. Only in June of 2009, and more precisely on June 26, UNESCO inscribed the Dolomites in the World Heritage List.
This is a very prestigious award for Italy, which enhances the sense of belonging of Italians to a beautiful country.
The former Minister for the Environment Stefania Prestigiacomo stressed the importance arising from the achievement of this important milestone with these words:
“The recognition of the Dolomites by Unesco was a great achievement for Italy.
Our country is an open air museum and our duty is to make it more usable, without closing the jewels in the vault, so to speak. This quality mark is not only a tribute to a winning model in the conservation policies of environmental goods, but also a precious opportunity to fully enjoy our natural heritage”.
Don’t recognize the title of World Heritage Site to the Dolomites would be a crime, because there is no doubt that these mountains are of extraordinary beauty, and it is no coincidence that this site is always able to attract millions of tourists from all over the World, especially during the winter period, when the white snow works its magic through your heart.
Why to visit Val Gardena?
The Dolomites, and the municipalities located in those areas are full of tourist attractions, especially linked to the ski resorts.
Here, in fact, are held numerous competitions of international importance, such as the Alpine Ski World Cup. These lands have given birth to numerous champions of winter sports, as Isolde Kostner, ski champion in the 90’s, cousin of the ice skater Carolina Kostner.
A symbol of the Dolomites is Val Gardena, a small jewel in the province of Bolzano, on the border with Austria. This geographical proximity with the northern European nations is very clear; here are three official languages, Ladin (spoken by nearly 90% of the population), German and Italian.
As mentioned above, to drive the local economy is the ski activity – we are talking about of miles and miles of ski slopes – which led to the birth of numerous recreational facilities, hotel complexes, resorts, restaurants, and generating an important outcome.
One should not think, however, that skiing is the only possible activity. If you want to enjoy the beautiful scenery, you can make a nice sleigh ride and long walks in the snow, or ice skating.
On the other hand, if you don’t like outdoor activities, you can still have fun in the indoor facilities, such as tennis courts, swimming pools, spa, riding stables and equestrian centers. These solutions are ideal especially for families with children, with whom organize activities indoors, protected from the cold and snow.
The Dolomites in terms of scenery are a lot like that postcard images that our mind associates with the word mountains: trails, forests, vast stretches of green, lush vegetation and breathtaking views.
If you love nature, this is the place to come during every period of the year, and not just during the winter.
In summer Val Gardena can easily convince you to book the hotel and meet the locals, always hospitable and polite. Let’s face it, who doesn’t feel the need, now and then, to run on top of a mountain, to get away from the stress and anxiety of everyday life? Once here a deep feeling of serenity and peace flows through the body and soul. What could be better to shake off the stressful routine of the city?
Go to hike mountains, or riding a horse through the woods? Man and nature, you don’t need anything else to be happy.
Val Gardena local customs
In Val Gardena there are three cities, three small pearl of the Dolomites to visit without ifs and buts: Ortisei, Santa Cristina and Selva Gardena.
Here ancient traditions reign supreme. Particularly folkloristic are the typical costumes of the Val Gardena, worn during festivals and religious feasts, parades, and more traditional weddings.
The peculiarity of the costume is the ability to differentiate the social background, the adults from the children, and the women from the men. For example they used to distinguish the single women from those married; The first wore a pink scarf and had to wear her hair in a braid, while the second had a yellow scarf and her hair and covered with a wool cap called “Cazina”.
For males, however, the trend was to distinguish under this scheme: green suspenders and red vest for kids, red waistcoat over a short jacket for boys and silk waistcoat with ornaments and a cloak for married.
To give importance and value to the traditional costume helped the leather belt worn by men, characterized by precious embroideries made with the feathers of peacock tail.
Italy is the country of good food and the Dolomites and Val Gardena are no exception. Being a mountainous area, the culinary tradition includes simple dishes; we talk about herbs, meats, especially the famous Speck – in May is held the Speck Festival in Bolzano – apples of SÜDTIROL, wines, as Gewürztraminer, Kalterersee, Lagrein and S.Magdalena and the Törggelen, the preparation of which involves pressing of the must after the grape harvest.
The flagship of handicraft production is represented by the woodwork. Here are created true works of art, wonderful sculptures entirely handmade by master craftsmen: these kinds of things are the perfect gift to buy and take home at the end of your holiday, but also a great gift idea.
An excellent opportunity to learn the art of carving more closely is the Festival of Art Gardenese (UNIKA) which takes place every year in early September.
What are you waiting for? If you want to live a fulfilling experience, relax, and spend a few days in contact with nature, the Dolomites and Val Gardena are the perfect itinerary for you. Sport, health, fun, clean air and many beautiful things to discover are concentrated in this little corner of paradise.
Autumn, winter, spring or summer, doesn’t matter. Any time is good to pack up and take refuge here, to leave behind the rhythms that characterize the hellish life of modern man.
Trust me, you won’t regret it!