By Daniele Bonaldo – Wikimedia

Top 10 Facts about the Dolomites in Italy


The Dolomites in Italy are between Switzerland and Austria. They make up a small part of the Alps, north of Italy.

These mountains have a unique appeal that put them in a class of their own. They are about 11,000 feet high and it attracts both locals and tourists.

The Dolomites are also known as the Pale Mountains. The name comes from the carbonate rock dolomite.

The name Dolomites was used after a French mineralogist, Déodat Gratet de Dolomieu. He was the first man to describe the mineral.

These Rocky Mountains are a UNESCO Heritage site. Here are the top 10 facts about the Dolomites in Italy. 

1. Marine fossils have been discovered at the Dolomites

Believe it or not, the towering Dolomites were once submerged underwater. Archaeologists discovered marine fossils near the Dolomite mountains.

This finding proved that the mountains were once part of the ocean. They were formed during the Permian Period 280 million years ago.

Over time and the effects of climate change, the ocean water receded and the bare rocks weathered forming the present Dolomites.

2. There’s a Legend Behind its nickname

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The Dolomites are pale in colour due to their rock composition. The colours pop more at sunrise and sunset.

These beautiful pale colours are beautiful to look at and got the mountain a nickname the Pale Mountains.

Its ghostly appearance made them feature in several folklores, fables, myths and legends. It is also believed that the mountains inspired several literary works.

One famous legend is that it got its colour after the Princess of the moon fell in love with the prince of the mountains.

When the moon princess felt homesick, the prince had the mountains covered in moon silk. This instantly cured her homesickness.  

3. The Mountain was named after a French geologist

The Dolomites in Italy were given a French name. They got this name after a French geologist and mineralogist, Dieudonne Dolomieu, identified them.

During his trip to the mountains, he noticed that the limestone did not react to hydrochloric acid. After his publication, the rocks were named Dolomie.

In his honour, they were named after him. He identified calcium in the rocks. The mineral can be found all over the mountains.

The calcium also contributes to the colour and texture of the mountain. 

4. World War I happened near the Dolomites

By Vincenzo Gianferrari Pini – Wikimedia

The Italian Dolomites sit at the border of Austria and Italy. This border location was where the most vicious battled during World War I happened.

Evidence of the War can be seen in the tunnels and other fragments of the war. The mountain terrains were really tough for the Austrian and Italian soldiers.

Freezing temperatures, high altitudes and the rough terrains of the mountains were not easy to tackle. The soldiers used landmines on the mountains.

There is an open-air war museum at Cinque Torri (Five Towers), Monte Piana and Mount Lagazuoi.

Tourists climb the Dolomites along the protected paths and rock walls that were created during the war.

5. It was listed in the UNESCO Heritage Site in 2009

In 2009, the Dolomites was added to the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The region that the mountain is located has multiple nature reserves.

Archaeologists found Mesozoic fossils and limestone deposits near the mountain. The mountain area has sapphire blue lakes and verdant valleys.   

Since the mountains are at the border, Austrian culture is prominent around the area. The language, costume and even architecture have Austrian touch.

The signature look of the Dolomites is the spires, sheer cliff faces and crags.

6. It is the best place for hiking

By Roberto Ferrari – Wikimedia

There are several long-distance hiking trails that traverse the Dolomites. The trails are numbered from 1 to 10.

The longest trail takes about a week to walk and there are several huts where one can rest. Alta Via 1 is one of the most used.

Tourists and locals are always rewarded with picturesque views from the top of the mountain.

Hikers and cyclists have various vistas to enjoy as they go up and down the mountain. There are chalets, vineyards and orchards along the hiking routes.

During winter, the mountain attracts several skiers.

7. Bits of the Dolomite may be in your toothpaste

The Dolomites in Italy is made up of calcium minerals. These minerals are useful in born formation. They are also added to toothpaste.

Calcium is also used to reduce stomach acidity. It is also used by animals too. They boost the nutritional value of food for both humans and animals.  

8. The Landin people were the owners of the land

By Roberto Ferrari – Wikimedia

The Landin people lived around the Dolomites area. They were the first inhabitants of this hilly area.

These people loved nature and lived in cabins they built in the Dolomite valley. Some of the cabins were used to shelter cattle during lightning storms.

These cabins were strategically built and were not damaged by lightning-like the trees around the mountain were. 

The Landin people were also incredibly skilled artisans. They have deep family traditions that taught different techniques and they date back to the Middle Ages.

9. A mummy was discovered at the mountain

A mummy that was discovered at the Dolomites was named Otzi. This mummy is more than 50 centuries old but looks like it is just 10 centuries old.

The mummy was preserved in ice and was discovered in 1991. Archaeologists believed that the Ice mummy died due to exposure to natural causes.

One can see the ice mummy at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy.

10. The Dolomites were once underwater

Photo sourced from Wikimedia

As amazing as it is to think about, this massive mountain range was once covered by water. Fossils found near the Dolomites indicated that they were once underwater.

Volcanic activities are said to have caused them to be in their present state. This happened during the Permian Period about 280 million years ago.