History and development

The aim of this chapter is to describe the more significant events in the history of the Dolomites which have determined their present conditions and to explain the historic reasons for the administrative structure and linguistic diversity in the region. There are two historical perspectives in the Dolomite region: political and material. The political history gives prominence to frontiers and divisions since the area has always represented a boundary zone between different fields of influence due to its geographic position. The material history, on the other hand, emphasises the cultural cohesion of the region, inhabited by populations with similar languages and established traditions, typical of alpine culture. The interweaving of these “two” histories, has left its strongest mark in the multilingualism which characterises the area: two languages derive from political history (Italian and German), while the other two are from material history (the Alpine-Romance languages Ladin and Furlan). Dolomite toponymy faithfully reflects the historical and cultural wealth of the region and place names (inhabited nuclei, localities and mountain groups) are expressed in at least two or three languages, in respect of all the cultures peacefully living there.


Brief chronology

prehistory 10,000 B.C. first Mesolithic encampments of nomadic hunters
and gatherers
Rhaetic period Vth century B.C. first stable settlements (Celts and Rhaetians)
Roman period IInd century B.C. Roman military occupation and colonisation
Ist century A.D. pacification of the alpine populations and constitution
of the Regio X (Venetia et Histria): development
of the Alpine-Romance culture
Middle Ages VIIth century linguistic boundary, German and Italian languages
XIth - XIIth c. first forms of autonomous local government
Modern Era XVth - XVIIIth Austrian and Venetian rule
1789 Dolomieu’s journey to the Alps and the “discovery”
of the Dolomites
XIXth century Napoleonic campaigns: insurrections for independence
of the Dolomite territories
1866 annexation of part of the Dolomites by the Kingdom
of Italy
XXth century World War I (1915-1917)
1918 annexation of all the Dolomite territories by Italy
World War II
1943 the Dolomites were absorbed into the Nazi Reich
as “Alpenvorland”
1946 treaty of Paris between Italy and Austria: the Dolomites
return to Italy