About the Dolomites

Historical, geographical, and linguistic reference
About the Dolomites
Historical, geographical, and linguistic reference
about the dolomites
The Dolomites, a mountain range in northeastern Italy, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, form a part of the Southern Limestone Alps and extend from the River Adige in the west to the Pieve di Cadore in the east. The Dolomites are nearly equally shared between the provinces of Belluno, South Tyrol, and Trentino.

The Dolomites, or the "Pale Mountains," derive its name from the carbonate rock dolomite, which was, in its turn, named after the 18th-century French mineralogist Déodat Gratet de Dolomieu, who was the first to describe the mineral.

The Dolomites have lived through some tragic history: they were on the front line between the Italian and Austro-Hungarian forces during WWI (which is referred to as the Great War), where both parties extensivelyused mines, a series of underground explosive charges, throughout the mountain ranges, which changed the mountainscape forever. There are a couple of war museums that I recommend visiting: one at Cinque Torri and the other at Mount Lagazuoi.

There are a number of long-distance trails through the Dolomites that have numbers from one to eight and are called alte vie or high paths. The most renowned of those paths is the first one, Alta Via 1. Some paths are served by little rifugi or huts, which could be closed depending on the season, so please, check beforehand.

The Dolomites are commonly divided into the Western and Eastern Dolomites that are separated by a line following the Val Badia – Campolongo Pass – Cordevole Valley axis.

The Dolomites have been one of the favorite destinations for tourism and leisure: skiing in the winter; mountain climbing, hiking, cycling, BASE jumping, paragliding, and hang gliding in the summer, spring, and autumn. Free climbing has been popularized in the Dolomites after a 17-year-old boy Georg Winkler soloed the first ascent of the pinnacle Die Vajolettürme in 1887.

There's also a famous bicycle marathon, the Maratona dles Dolomites, which covers seven mountains and takes place annually starting in the first week of July, has been of particular interest to tourists around the world.

Because of a great influx of tourists in winter and summer, I recommend coming to the Dolomites in autumn, i.e. in September - October. Not only because there are fewer people, but also because of the beauty of the mountains at this time of the year. Autumn in the Dolomites is a golden time to observe the nearby scenery and shoot great mountainous landscape of a changing season -- vegetation turning yellow and tangerine.

To chase epic sunrises and sunsets, you really have to take control of your schedule and rise up early, before dawn, then hike up (at times) great distances to some of the most picturesque places you've probably ever been to.

If you have strength and stamina, I suggest you hike up to all the recommended locations, watch a burnt orange sunrise, photograph the breathtaking landscapes, and more importantly -- enjoy the scenery of alpine meadows, deep valleys, and turquoise-colored lakes, breathe fresh air, and love life!
the great war (WWI)
Since the Great War has played a huge role in the history of the Dolomites and shaped how they look today, I decided to share a few facts about WWI that will make you understand the landscape that you'll explore on your trip.

The war in Ladin, Trento and Tyrol valleys, which at the time belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, began in 1914, just a month after the heir to the Habsburg throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated in Sarajevo.

After the Treaty of London was signed in May 1915, Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary. That was the time when the new front line was formed: from the Stelvio Pass to the Carinthian border.

Since the Italian forces significantly outnumbered the Austrian-Hungarian, they easily overcame the Dolomiti passes; and by the end of May 1915, the Italians occupied Cortina d'Ampezzo and Colle S. Lucia.

Numerous mines exploded in the following months; however, nothing definitive was happening up until a year later. The most ferocious and bitterly fought battles occurred on the Col di Lana because of its strategic location.

The hunger and cold though that occurred between 1916 and 1917 forced the Austrians to design and build a series of tunnels that eventually grew into a network of several kilometers (miles) -- precisely those you can still see and explore in the Dolomites.

Those efforts didn't help the Austrian army, and even after a short calamitous defeat of the Italians in October 1917, fate took its toll and Italy won the decisive battle of Vittorio Veneto.
about the language
Traveling through the Dolomites and across northeastern Italy, you'll notice that some inhabitants speak a peculiar language, Ladin, which scientific recognition (despite its ancient origins) dates back to as early as the second half of the 19th century, when scholars recognized its presence in three distinct areas -- in the Dolomites, in the Friuli area, and in the Grisons Canton in Switzerland. Interestingly enough, many place names in those three regions coincide.

Despite late recognition, Ladin language retained some characteristics of the vernacular Latin language (the Vulgar Latin) with Celtic influences.

There are also many variants of Ladin spoken across the region. Those dialects soaked up different elements of the Italian northern dialects, Bavarian, and Germanic influences.

Despite the fact that the inhabitants of the Dolomiti area speak Ladin, both Italian and German languages are acknowledged and widely spoken in the area. You'll notice that some of the places on the maps (including driving directions) are written in several languages so it's easier to navigate for anyone who speaks either of those languages. Because of tourism and globalization, Ladins were forced to become multilingual, so it should not be a problem for you to get driving or hiking directions from the people who live in the area.