From Belluno to Cortina
Valleys, rivers, waterfalls and snow-capped mountain peaks: the irresistible appeal of the Dolomites.
From elegant Belluno to glamorous Cortina d'Ampezzo, head to the towns in the Italian Dolomites for a high altitude holiday with a difference.
Belluno's Piazza Duomo is one of Italy's most beautiful squares, home to such majestic edifices as the Palazzo dei Rettori, the Palazzo dei Giuristi, the Torre Civica and the Cathedral of San Martino. Other piazza's worth visiting include the Piazza del Mercato and Piazza dei Martiri, where the town's theatre is situated. Belluno's beautifully ornate Church of Santo Stefano offers a fine example of Gothic architecture.
From Belluno's old medieval district, descend towards Borgo Piave where boats heading for Venice were once moored
National Park of the Belluno Dolomites
From here, we move in to the heart of the National park of the Belluno Dolomites. Following the indications for Agordo, we make our first stop at Mas, town squeezed within a narrow valley halfway between the Monti del Sole and the Schiara mountain range. Here, a brief detour to take a glimpse of the 15th century Charterhouse of Vedana, now a convent, is an absolute must. We continue towards Pedavena e Feltre. Here, the landscape is dotted by more than two hundred villas.
Continuing towards Lake Mis, we come to the Cadini del Breton, where to admire the spectacular rock formations known as the Marmitte dei Giganti. At this stage, the Soffia waterfall, which owes it name to the blasts of cold air which emerge form the rock, is just a few minutes away.
Mountain transport: cable cars, funicular railways and chairlifts
Of all the area's beautifully preserved little towns, Agordo, with its charming Piazza della Libertà and Palazzo Crotta-De Manzoni, is the most impressive.
The nearby mining village of Val Imperina has been awarded world heritage status by UNESCO. Our itinerary takes us through the San Lucano valley, past the Inferno waterfalls and the town of Falcade, where to visit the museum-studio of the sculptor, Augusto Murer.
At Alleghe, we board the cable car to Piani di Pezze and then the chairlift to Col dei Baldi, so as to admire a spectacular view of Monte Civetta and Monte Pelmo. From Malga Ciapela, by cableway, we reach the summit of the Marmolada, the dolomite's highest mountain.
Traditional alpine art in Fornesighe's museum of in-laying
The Zoldo valley, through which the Maè river flows, lies between the Civetta and Pelmo mountains. This is where to find Longarone, town from where to start the climb towards the Canale di Zoldo.
The 15th century Church of San Floriano dominates the small alpine lake of Pontesei. In the vicinity of the Cibiana pass, we find the picturesque little town of Fornesighe, with its museum dedicated to the local tradition of in-laying.
Nearby Cibiana is famous for the colourful murals which recount the history of the town
Skating on the Marmolada glacier
Once beyond the mountain pass of Staulanza, we proceed through the Fiorentina Valley, in the heart of the Mount Pelmo Nature Reserve, towards the Colle di Santa Lucia. From Arabba, a cableway transports visitors to Porta Vecovo where to admire the Marmolada glacier. Not far from here there is the Falzarego Pass and another cableway leading to Lagazuoi: a splendid, 360° observation point.
High altitude glamour
We make our next stop in the elegant Cortina d'Ampezzo. To see: the baroque Church of Saints Filippo and Giacomo, the Regole d'Ampezzo Museum and the Mario Rimordi Museum of Modern Art. Those wishing to view Cortina from on high and, at the same time, discover the architecture of 300 years ago, should head for Col.
Having left Cortina, we climb towards the Tre Croci pass, and the Forcella Staunies refuge. From the pass, we proceed towards Lake Misurina and the Auronzo refuge, ideal spot where to photograph the majestic Tre Cime di Lavaredo. At this stage, we make just one more stop at Pieve di Cadore so as to visit the Spectacle Museum and the house where Tiziano Vecellio (better known as Titian) was born. From here, ski lovers may well decide to proceed towards Sappada.