Regions: Trentino-Alto Adige and VenetoSituation and importanceThe Dolomites are a range of mountains in the eastern part of the Alps, situated in northern Italy, actually in the Alto Adige - east of Bolzano and Trento. The magnificent range of mountains called the Dolomites after the French geologist Dieudonneà (or Deàodat) Dolomieu (1750-1801) is one of the most beautiful and most visited parts of the Alps. Taken in its widest sense, the range is bounded by the rivers Isarco, Adige, Brenta, Piave and Rienza. Scattered among the mountains are beautiful little lakes, including the Lago di Braies, Lago di Carezza, Lago di Misurina, Lago di Landria and Lago d'Aàlleghe.Alpine glowThe famous Alpine glow, bathing the Alps in the flaming red of the setting sun, is particularly beautiful in the Dolomites. The real Alpine glow, when the rock faces and snowfields are clad in brilliant hues of yellow, purple and red, occurs only very rarely, and then only for five to ten minutes after sunset, when there is a light haze in the west and dusk has already fallen in the valleys.FloraThe natural flora of the Dolomites is of Alpine character. The valley floors and gentler slopes are mostly covered with arable land and pasture, while the steeper slopes, up to 2,200m/7,260ft, are wooded - mostly with conifers but in the southern Dolomites also deciduous trees. Above the tree level are great expanses of upland meadows spangled with Alpine flowers.PopulationThe Isarco valley and its side valleys and the Val Pusteria were settled from the sixth century onwards by German-speaking Bajuwari (Bavarians), while at the same time Italians advanced into the region from the south. The Rhaetians, speaking a Romance language and now known as Ladins, withdrew into the inner valleys of the Dolomites, and are now mainly found in the Val Gardena and Val Gadera. There are newspapers and magazines in the Ladin language which is derived from Latin. The Ladins are noted for their fine wood-carving, particularly in the Val Gardena.LegendsLegends of giants and dwarfs, witches and ghosts, princes and heroes have grown up in the Dolomite area, most of them originating from the Ladin region.
The area between the Isarco valley, the Val Pustera and the Val di Fiemme forms the greatest skiing area in the Alps, the so-called "Dolomiti Superski", a "Mecca" for skiers. Some 500 lifts give access to 1,000km/620mi of pistes, descents through deep snow and cross-country skiing and all can be used with a single ski pass. The cableways cover an area of some 100,000m/330,000ft.
The Gardena valley provides one of the largest interconnected lift systems in the world in one of Europe's most spectacular mountain ranges - the Dolomites. Three main villages serve the huge skiing area - Selva, Ortisei and St. Christina. Selva is closest to the interconnected lifts of the vast Dolomiti Superski region which covers 38 resorts served by 464 lifts, all skiable with one pass. Selva is also the starting point of the Sella Ronda, a gentle skiing experience which goes through and around a dozen resorts in the four valleys surrounding the Gruppo Sella, a major mountain surrounded by ancient pass routes linking scores of old villages. This can take five and a half to six hours so it's best to do it early in the week because many ski school classes tackle it as their final project at the end of the week. Experts will find their biggest challenges off-piste.
Madonna di Campiglio
A former summer vacation spot for Austrian royalty, Madonna di Campiglio now attracts affluent Italian skiers to its splendid Dolomite scenery. This is not the place to go if you want the steep stuff. Only 16 percent of the terrain is black but there is plenty of intermediate skiing, both above and below the tree line, on some 150km miles of groomed runs served by 49 lifts. Nearby are the Folgarida and Marilleva areas which add another two dozen or so lifts and some 60km of marked runs. The resort draws mainly Italian visitors.
The Dolomite Road is a twisting and turning alpine road that meanders 100 km through the heart of the Dolomites, from Bolzano to Cortina d'Ampezzo.