Millions of years of geological history have combined with centuries of rich cultural influence to forge the Dolomites - a region unlike anywhere else on Earth.
A towering presence
Rising from the wildflower-dotted meadows of Northern Italy are the Dolomites, a mountain range that is part of the Southern Limestone Alps. Though miles away from the main Alps, the Dolomites are their own magical land full of adventure, nature and vibrant life.
The Dolomites are special because of their geological and mineral makeup, which garnered them UNESCO World Heritage Site recognition. The mountains are defined by their jagged reach, sheer sides, and bright ribbons of limestone. The unique structure of the Dolomites makes them incredibly photogenic. Light fancifully plays off their sheer faces to create stunning fuchsia alpenglow. Italians call it enrosadira.
Lush meadows and pine forests weave their way through the mountain range, beckoning visitors and locals alike with an exciting diversity of walking and hiking routes, biking paths, and, of course, world-class skiing trails in the winter.
A mélange of cultural influences
The geological splendor of the Dolomites is matched by a one-of-a-kind combination of cultures in the villages surrounding the mountains. While officially part of Italy, there is a significant Austrian influence in the region. Many towns have both Italian and Austrian versions of their names, and the Dolomites population is trilingual: There are speakers of Italian, German, and the unique local language, Ladin.
In the stylish mountain town of Cortina d'Ampezzo, visitors can dig into signature dishes influenced by the three cultures of the Dolomites. What all dishes have in common is an emphasis on rustic, filling fare that gives skiers and hikers the strength they need for the journey ahead.
"The real food of this region is butter and cheese, pork and dumplings," said Hugo Pizzinini, owner of the local Hotel Rosa Alpina, in an interview with Saveur. "It's what you eat when you have to walk over a mountain to get home."
A rich history of craftsmanship
Stylish Cortina d'Ampezzo and the surrounding villages of the Dolomites are well known for their long tradition of craftsmanship. While the tourism sector is strong today, the craft trade has historically driven the Dolomite economy. Travelers to local villages will marvel at the beautiful architecture of the buildings, with their Italian and Austrian influences, and can admire ornate baskets, delicate embroidered prints, and hardy wood furniture in shop windows.
All in all, the Dolomites is a place for living the good life. It's a region where long walks across meadows and mountainsides lead to warm, welcoming villages - and where earthly concerns are put into perspective thanks to the comforting presence of the looming mountains. Discover the Dolomites for yourself with our Italy: The Dolomites walking tour.
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