Dr. Daniele Castagneri took me for a tour to the Eastern Italian Alps (also called the Dolomites ) after visiting the University of Padua. The stone that many of the peaks are made out of are dolomite which is a calcium and magnesium carbonate that has formed on the sea floor and later been uplifted through plate tectonics.
We drove up from Padua through wine country. We found many rolling hills with vineyards and old homes, mansions, or castles. It was a beautiful landscape. We later found out that this is mainly a white wine producing area and tried some of the wine as we went out to dinner at restaurants back in Padua.
There was still snow on the ground, but most of the roads and trails where clear. The mountains are very sharp and contain some clear glacial features such as U-shaped valleys, arêtes, and horns.
The deciduous trees on this side of the Alps are beech (Fagus) with fewer Larch (Larix) trees. Much of the Dolomites are above tree-line exposing severe rock walls that reached into the azure blue sky.
Much of this valley has been used for agricultural production for more than 800 years in a collective land ownership model (see the Sustainability in Italy post for more details). Wide grassy valleys are located throughout the mountains along forested tracks making a very nice mixed land management design that would provide high diversity production on the landscape.
After visiting the University of Padua field station, called Study Centre on the Alpine Environment (See the University of Padua Dendrochronology Lab Blog Post) outside of San Vito, we drove up to Cortina D’Ampezzo. This is an alpine town that is known for its ski resorts and winter sports.
This area has been the film location for many famous films such as The Pink Panther (1963), For Your Eyes Only (1981), Krull (1983), and Cliffhanger (1993). Ernest Hemingway wrote Out of Season here.
This spire is relatively new with the plaque dedicating it to Carlo D’Austria who (according to the plaque) preserved the bells in this tower in 1917 with the plaque itself dated to 2005. It was unclear when the tower was built, but it appears to have been in the 20th century.
We drove up to Passo Giau at 2,236 meters (which is 7,335 feet) above sea level. This area was still covered in about 10 feet of snow. We drove through a snow canyon where the road had been plowed and when we reached the pass, it was hard to find a place to park because the snow covered just about everything.
This pass provides a great view where you can see for long distances in about every direction. There was a lodge up here, but we just stopped a short while for the view before heading back down.