Scenic values

The nominated area is an extensive alpine region whose mountains principally consist of dolomite rock. Its topography is singular and different from all the other alpine mountains. The dolomitic mountains are crossed by deep valleys running in all directions to form a sort of grid. There are no wide massifs or mountain chains but a dense “archipelago” of exceptionally vertical, isolated mountain groups, linked by wide terracing precipitating in very narrow ravines interspersed with cirques of rare beauty. Given the particular orography the most panoramic viewpoints are found on the highest peaks of the isolated masses, now the destination of thousands of visitors (Piz Boè, Pordoi, outside the nominated area, and Marmolada). However, there are exceptional views even within the single groups (such as Catinaccio and Latemar). The exceptional scenic impact of this articulated landscape can be summarised in four main qualities: verticality, variety of form, monumentality and colour contrasts.

The Dolomites, poster 1939The Dolomites, poster 1939

> verticality

The perfect verticality of the very high walls which “seem to grow from the ground”, as Leopold von Buch was the first to observe, is possibly the characteristic which most strikes the imagination. The Dolomites in fact do not have the typically pyramidal shape of other alpine mountains; they do not develop from wide sloping bases but rise brusquely and perpendicularly from the ground. This is possibly the most sublime attribute of the Dolomites (“A perpendicular has more force in forming the sublime than an inclined plane…” observed Edmund Burke). Exceptionally vertical walls, with sheer cliffs over 1500m. in height (some of these are amongst the highest limestone walls in the world: i.e. Burèl - 1800 m., Agnèr - 1600 m.), are very frequent in the Dolomites (Civetta, Sass Maor, Torre di Luganaz, Tofane and the southern wall of the Marmolada) and constitute one of the main motifs which make the Dolomites interesting from every point of view: geological, geomorphological, aesthetic and alpine.

> variety of form

The variety and density of shapes is truly impressive both in a vertical sense (rock faces, peaks, spurs, aiguilles, needles, spires, pinnacles, towers, jags, …) as well as horizontal (ledges, roofs, plates, crags, plateaus, summit tablelands,…). It almost seems that Nature, as if it were a sculptor, had removed the excess from the blocks of stone in these mountains, liberating the work of art imprisoned within. Every mountain group has its own characteristic shape which makes it unique and instantly recognisable. The toponomy is interesting in this respect. The name of each mountain group indicates its most representative formal aspect, conveyed in the musicality of the local dialect, an ancient Romance language of archaic origin: Les Odles = the Needles, ‘l Ciadinàc = the big Basin, La Marmolada = the Shining Mountain, ‘l Burèl = the Gorge, ‘l Pelm = the Massif, ‘l Vajolet = the Cliff, etc.

The Dolomites, poster (~ 1930)The Dolomites, poster (~ 1930)

> monumentality

The possibility of classifying the karst structures into recognisable geometric shapes (points, lines, surfaces) and precise volumetric figures (prisms, planes, cubes) has led to an interpretation of the Dolomites as artificial structures rather than simple natural expressions. The earliest explorers compared them figuratively and metaphorically to the ruins of a “city inhabited by Titans”, thus project ing the region into a mythical dimension. More recently the gigantic order which seems to dominate their architecture and the fantastic relationships in scale led Le Corbusier, considered the most important architect of the XXth century, to call them “les plus belles constructions du monde”.

Drei Zinnen Tre Cime di Lavaredo and Paternkofel Monte PaternoDrei Zinnen Tre Cime di Lavaredo and Paternkofel Monte Paterno

> colour contrasts

The visual impact is crowned by the richness of colours and the harmony of contrasts which characterise each mountain group of the Dolomites. Vertically the bare, hard dolomitic towers rising from sterile scree cones, stand out against the green, undulating pastures and the luxuriant forests which cover the extensive slopes. Horizontally the transformation of facies from the light cliff formations to the dark formations of vulcanoclastic origin emphasise the light and shade effects created by the varying mutability of the surfaces. During the day the rock faces react spectacularly and uniquely to the changes in daylight due to their specific mineralogical structure: flushes of hot colours (orange – red - purple) at dawn and dusk, pale and diaphanous in the midday light, while twilight and moonlight give a cold, unearthly aspect to these mountains. This aspect inspired many artists including the painters, Adolf Schaubach (1800-1850), Josiah Gilbert (1814-1892), Franz von Defregger (1835-1921), Karl Ludwig Prinz (1875-1944), Harry Rowntree (1878-1950) and Alfredo Paluselli (1900-1969), to name just a few. Edward Theodore Compton (1849-1921) was one of the most important and found a variety of scenery in the Dolomites which allowed him to express himself to the full. Subsequently, the extraordinary way these mountains react to light became the main interest of many great photographers including Franz Dantone (1839-1909), Giovanni Battista Unterveger (1833-1912), Giuseppe Ghedina (1825-1896) and more recently Jakob Tappeiner (1937) and Walter Niedermayr (1952). The scenic value of the landscape is thus the characteristic of the Dolomites which most strikes the imagination, capable of inspiring every sort of artistic sensibility.

J. Gilbert, Fischleintal - Val Fiscalina, 1865 (coll. G. Angelini)J. Gilbert, Fischleintal - Val Fiscalina, 1865 (coll. G. Angelini)