DISCOVERING THE UNESCO HERITAGE SITES
To the west there’s the Brenta Group, to the east the Latemar, the Rosengarten group, the Pale di San Martino and the Marmolada massif that, with its 3,342 metres, is the Queen of the “Pale Mountains”
The essence of the Dolomites can be found in the rock itself: it’s what gives them their slender forms (Le Corbusier once described them as “the most beautiful pieces of architecture in the world”) and take on different tones of colour as the day goes on, until dusk and the magical “enrosadira” where the mountains take on a rosy hue. The current aspect of these “Pale Mountains” is mainly the result of a long and fascinating geological history going back 280 million years. Back then, what would later become the Dolomites, was a floodplain draining into a gulf of the tropical Tethys Ocean that reached up between Europe and Africa which were otherwise joined together in the Pangea landmass. Over time, as the sea floor yielded, the Tethys ocean invaded the area currently home to the Dolomites. This sea was shallow and warm and similar to certain tropical coastal areas today. From the Triassic onwards, this sea changed depth many times. Every time the ocean floor yielded, a vast number of microorganisms went to work building up reefs apparently in an attempt to maintain a constant depth.
And then something new happened: about 65 million years ago, towards the end of the Cretaceous, the Dolomites started to rise out of the sea as a consequence of the rising pressure between the European and African continental plates. The successive ice ages of the Quaternary Period covered these mountains in glaciers for over two million years and finally when the ice retreated they finally prepared to welcome the first human settlements.
The geological history of the Dolomites has made them a global reference for the Earth Sciences especially due to the ease with which it’s possible to read in the rock itself the evolution of our planet, something akin to flicking through a giant stone book.
Since 2009 the Dolomites have been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Today, just like in the past, the Dolomites manage to capture the imagination with their spectacular vertical conformations, their giant rock faces which can rise for over 1,600 metres above the soft undulating line of forests and mountain meadows and the countless tones of colour this rock assumes throughout the day.
UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Geopark and Prehistoric pile dwelling sites around the Alps
These are the other acknowledgements that have recently been placed beside that of the Dolomites. With the recognition of the “Riserva della Biosfera Alpi Ledrensi e Judicaria” (Biosphere Reserve of the Ledro Alps and the Judicaria) in 2015, Trentino hosts, on its own, more categories of UNESCO sites than the vast majority of countries across the world. A territory of just 6,200 square kilometres has become an international example of integration between man and nature, between high living standards and excellent territorial organisation and management.
It’s not just the undeniable natural and environmental virtues that make Trentino “universal”: according to UNESCO, what has really rewarded this land is the ancient yet solid relationship that man has established with nature. A remote bond, preserved and evolved over time across these mountains which today promotes a sustainable approach to the use of resources and an integration of man and nature which starts from the land itself and its communities before arriving at the central administration.
Not just Dolomites: The Adamello Brenta Geopark
In June 2008 the Adamello Brenta Natural Park was officially designated a Geopark and is now part of the European and Global Network of UNESCO Geoparks which counts a total of 127 geoparks across 35 countries. This prestigious recognition testifies to the rich and extraordinary geological heritage of the Adamello Group and the Brenta Dolomites and also to the effectiveness of the Park’s management of protection, education and sustainable development.
Man and Nature today: the sustainability of the Biosphere Reserve of the Ledro Alps and the Judicaria
In 2015, the area that extends from the Brenta Dolomites down to Lake Garda was declared a “Biosphere Reserve” by the United Nations Commission. This prestigious international recognition, awarded through UNESCO’s “MaB – Man and Biosphere” programme, now counts 669 reserves across the globe, 15 of which in Italy, and all distinguished by an exemplary relationship between man and nature.
The reserve of the Ledro Alps and the Judicaria, the first of its kind in the central-eastern Alps and in the Dolomites region, is distinguished by a extraordinary landscapes that span from the 3,173 metres of Cima Tosa (the tallest peak of the Brenta Dolomites) down to the 63 metres of Lake Garda: inbetween we have mountain meadows, forests, pastures and bogs, randomly combined with traditional cultivations. But it has been the steadfast commitment of the local people to establish a sustainable relationship with nature, more so than the landscape, to have worked in favour of this UNESCO recognition.
A story marvellously preserved: pile dwelling sites
In 2011, the pile dwellings (or stilt houses) of Ledro and Fiavè became a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the second in Trentino (in Italy there are a total of 53). The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization recognised the extraordinary universal importance of the 111 “prehistoric pile dwelling sites around the Alps”, two of which are found in Trentino. These sites contain the remains of well-preserved prehistoric stilt house settlements dating from 5,000 to 500 B.C and are found in 6 countries (Switzerland, Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia) and coincide with the establishment of the first agricultural settlements in Europe.