Dolomiti - Area around Cortina D'Ampezzo
In the north area of Veneto, surrounded by the Dolomites, is the Province of Belluno. It is a famous tourist destination where art, history and culture establish a perfect link with the wonderful surrounding environment. It is an extraordinary landscape with many small towns, impressive mountains, beautiful valleys and quiet woods.
The Dolomites are without a doubt the area’s largest attraction an extraordinary natural monumental masterpiece declared a Unesco heritage site in 2009, created over the centuries by an inimitable artist, Mother Nature. This imposing mountain range with Marmolada, Monte Antelao, Monte Civetta and Tre Cime of Lavaredo offers visitors the opportunity to admire outstanding landscapes, with big valleys close to impressive rocky mountainsides, small and big lakes that in summer are tinged with blue.
There are also many torrents, rivers and waterfalls with clean and roaring waters, thick woods that are a source of colour when the winter covers everything with white snow, creating an almost surreal landscape.
The sky too is extraordinary here, with incredible sunsets, followed by a wave of intense blue that colours the landscape, followed in turn by the dark of night, lightened by a wonderful moon and a multitude of stars. There are many ways to spend nature holidays, and also a lot of opportunities for those who want to explore the history and traditions of this land.
A tour of the villas and castles, abbeys and monasteries, archaeological sites, museums, cities and old small towns of the area provides ample opportunity for those who as well as experiencing the natural world want to discover the interesting historical and artistic heritage of this area.
When you get to Belluno, the first thing you notice is calm and peace, a rare commodity in this day and age. If you walk in the old city centre you discover a city perfectly adapted to the human dimension, with no frenetic rhythms. It is a city that has kept the mountain lifestyle, probably because it is surrounded and protected by the Pre-alps and by the imposing Dolomitic faces of the Schiara, with the famous Gusela del Vescovà, a monolithic steeple 40 metres high, emblem of Belluno
In this almost surreal environment it is possible to admire buildings and architecture from different periods, such as Porta Rugo, a typical medieval structure; the old Piazza del Mercato where the site of the Roman castrum in ancient times; Piazza Duomo which hosts Palazzo dei Rettori, the Cathedral of Belluno and Palazzo dei Giuristi, site of the Civic Museum containing many interesting paintings.
In the central area of the province is the Parco Nazionale delle Dolomiti Bellunesi, characterised by wild and captivating nature, with rocky peaks, enchanting valleys and pure waterways.
Feltre is a wonderful fortified town perched on a hill of Val Belluna, with a remarkable history that many old buildings like the Torre del Castello di Alboino, which dominates the valley, can prove.
There are many unique and beautiful valleys in the area of Belluno. In the north is the “jewel” of Dolomites, Cortina d’Ampezzo, in the valley of the same name. It is Italy’s best known skiing area , and is also famous for its glamourous and lively nightlife. Close to this area, the Valle del Boite, has remarkable resorts such as Cibiana and San Vito di Cadore, all well equipped to receive tourists.
The Cadore-Auronzo-Misurina area, with the beautiful lakes of Santa Caterina and Misurina at the bottom of the imposing Tre Cime of Lavaredo, is the perfect challenge for mountaineering enthusiasts. Various landscapes with an element in common: the incomparable beauty of nature.
The most northern part is occupied by the “communita montana” of the mountain area of Comelico e Sappada, two pretty and welcoming places to spend a calm and relaxed holiday in the captivating natural landscapes of Valgrande, Val Sesis, and Val Visdende (the “valley that is well worth a visit”).
At the centre of the province, bordering Trentino-Alto Adige, there is another remarkable skiing area with the impressive Marmolada, the Monte Civetta and its challenging mountainsides, and the Conca Agordina, surrounded by majestic peaks. These giants creations of nature belong to the “Dolomiti Superski”, an entertainment park on the snow between Veneto and Trentino, with 1200 km of ski slopes for skiing in one of the most charming landscapes of the Dolomites. Between Belluno and the Veneto plains, in a unique location, is the Nevegal Alp. A perfect place in any season, because in summer, when nature is lush, there are many opportunities to have fun; in winter this place becomes the favourite destination for skiing enthusiasts, with 30 km of ski slopes and 10 km for cross-country skiing.
There are many things to do, since these places offer a wide variety of opportunities to escape from the daily routine and to fortify body and mind.
In Belluno the Dolomites are never far from your thoughts, it is the perfect place to practise mountain sports: Alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, climbing, snowboarding, bobsledding, ice-skating, curling, snowshoe racing, hiking, and also hang gliding and paragliding, for extreme sports lovers.
Adults and children will have fun on a sledge pulled by dogs with a musher telling the tricks and guiding the visitors along routes that explore the wonderful nature of these places.
For bike lovers there are many routes to discover by mountain biking along rocky slopes, alpine pastures, thick woods or along the sides of swift brooks. But it is not just a place for those who love the mountains: it is also possible to spend holidays in lush woods protected by impressive rocky mountainsides, or in small and pretty lakes enjoying aquatic sports. On the small beach by the lake, adults and children can relax, play and enjoy aquatic sports such as sailing, canoeing and windsurfing.
It is possible to have a picnic and taste local specialities.
For those who are tired, under stress, or looking for relaxing treatments, the Terme delle Dolomiti are ideal, against the wonderful natural scenery of Valgrande, bordering Austria. They are renowned for their special waters, rich in minerals and used for their curative properties and as beauty treatments.
December is the month of holidays, sounds, lights and colours, and the Christmas street markets are a definite must see. The booths are set in decorated wooden houses exhibiting handicrafts, specialties and unusual gifts. And if the Dolomites mountaintops are covered with a blanket of snow, the scenery is even even more suggestive.
In the summer the spectacular Palio di Feltre is held,, where the four districts of the city challenge each other in competitions like archery, tug-of-war and horse-races. Every District has a few are festive stalls with traditional menus, music and games.
History, engines and nature, three passions join in the “Coppa d’Oro delle Dolomiti”, a remarkable national event with the most beautiful old cars in the world challenging each other on the hairpin bends of Dolomite roads. It is a race full of charm, that captivates everyone.
The unspoiled nature is a real wealth for this land, for many reasons. The vast green mass of land next to the Dolomites is the perfect habitat for outdoor cattle farming, and it is possible to obtain excellent raw materials to make exquisite high-quality specialties. Ancient techniques, practised with love do the rest.
The main ingredients of Belluno’s cuisine are simplicity and genuineness, together with delicious cheese, excellent meat and tasty cold cuts.
And, obviously, there is the main ingredient of the Venetian art of cooking: polenta. It can be a single course or perfectly served with a slice of Casél dell’Agordino, Contrin, Nevegal or Casalingo d’Alpago, great local dairy products.
Polenta can also be served with a slice of exquisite speck ham of Cadore or salami from the Belluno area, both of them made with the meat from Alpine reared cattle. Another typical dish that reflects traditional local flavours is polenta served with game.
For any other combination it is worthwhile exploring the area of Belluno and taste the original and exquisite recipes of the locals. Amongst the traditional specialties there is kodinzon, a jam made with dried apples from local cultivation. The apples are cooked to obtain a purée, then dried; the Pastin, flat meat balls made with sausage then fried or grilled.
Another good recipe is the Risotto Lamonese, called “the food of the poets”, with exquisite Lamon beans flavoured with bay leaves.
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