The Nave d’Oro: the small Grand Hotel of Science
Predazzo, Val di Fiemme
There was once a small hotel overlooking the square of the beautiful village of Predazzo, at the foot of the mountains, where Val di Fiemme meets Val di Fassa: the Nave d’Oro, this is how it was called by Michele Giacomelli, its proud owner, who was unaware that shortly afterwards his hotel, which had been designed for travellers who were passing through, would become an important science hub. This occurred because travelling became easier and faster, but also due to the intellectual vibrancy that characterised Europe between the 18th and 19th centuries.
In those years, the Old World was affected by a mania for travelling to distant places and the Dolomites, a rocky dreamland which was still almost unexplored, stood out among the new destinations. Curious scientists, aristocratic adventurers, eccentric artists and intrepid mountaineers: many of these people regarded the “Monti Pallidi” (Pale Mountains) as a mysterious territory full of promises, secrets, where they could achieve impressive feats.
Soon the streets of the village were bustling with foreigners, who spoke foreign languages, wore different styled clothes, and all, without exception, landed up at the Nave d’Oro. The small hotel was transformed into one of the most illustrious salons of the time. From the royal chamberlain of Prussia, Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859), the well-known geographer and naturalist, to Ferdinand von Richthofen (1833-1905), the tireless German scholar and traveller; from the famous French naturalist and geologist Déodat de Dolomieu, whom these mountains are named after, to Maria Mathilda Ogilvie Gordon (1864-1939), an English geologist, botanist and zoologist, who with great passion devoted a good part of her life to studying these mountains and was the first woman to receive the title of Doctor of Science. All of them were investigating the exciting history of the Dolomites, trapped in the crystal lattice of the pale rocks, and all, without exception, were renowned guests of the Nave d'Oro.
However, the secrets and beauty of these mountains were not entrusted only to the inquisitive eyes of scientists because their research was in fact passed on in the writings of writers, the colours of artists and the ropes of mountaineers, in a medley of different fields of expertise, which contributed to spreading the word on the unique features of the Dolomites. Brilliant characters and restless souls, who are remembered thanks to their elegant signatures on the pages of the guest record books of the Nave d’Oro, testifying to the intellectual excitement of the period.
If you go to Predazzo today, you will not find any trace of the Nave d'Oro. However, the precious memories contained in its records and the stories of the exciting adventures that revealed the splendour of the Dolomites throughout the world are preserved in the halls of the Geological Museum dedicated to them, which is situated on the side of the square of the small village. An atmospheric visit that allows you to immerse yourself in the exciting atmosphere of those years, when the beauty of these rock towers inspired science, art and many adventures.