In the northern Italian region of Veneto, surrounded by the Dolomites, lies the province of Belluno. It is a famous tourist destination where art, history and culture form a perfect bond with its captivating surroundings. This extraordinary landscape is dotted with quaint towns, impressive mountains, beautiful valleys and quiet woods.
The Dolomites are without doubt the area’s largest attraction. The extraordinary and monumental natural masterpiece was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site a decade ago, but its remarkable scenery has left visitors awestruck since the first people arrived thousands of years ago. The imposing mountain range offers visitors the opportunity to truly admire outstanding sceneries. Valleys seem hewn by the hands of giants, while thick forests surround deep crystal blue lakes. Streams emerge from the snowcapped mountains meeting to form rivers, interrupted only by thunderous waterfalls. It is an absolutely surreal landscape. Peering above the tree line, even the sky seems extraordinary, where the vivid colors of sunset are followed by the dark of night, lit by a luminous moon and a multitude of stars. It is nature that captivates the travelers in this area, but it is complemented by both history and rich traditions.
A tour of the villas and castles, abbeys, monasteries, archaeological sites, museums, cities and tiny medieval villages provides ample opportunity for experiencing both its natural world and the fascinating historical and artistic heritage. Arriving at the provincial capital, the city of Belluno, take a walk through the old city center, which reveals a town that has maintained a quaint Alpine atmosphere, even in today’s modern technological age. Nearby is the imposing Dolomite face of Monte Schiara, with the famous Gusela del Vescovà, a monolithic steeple 131 feet high, the emblem of Belluno.
This remarkable environment is laden with architecture from different periods. The access to the city of Belluno on its southern end was from the ancient river port of Borgo Piave. At the beginning of the 19th century, most of the city walls were demolished, but its medieval Porta Rugo still remains, with portions of the gateway dating back to the late 12th century. Its façade of bricks, rather than stone, is unusual for Belluno. In the 15th century, the ruling Visconti Family added their coats of arms to the structure. They were cut away by Giacobini revolutionaries in 1797, but to this day the locations of the plaques can still be seen. Within the city, Piazza del Mercato is the site of the ancient Roman military castrum, while Piazza Duomo, in addition to the cathedral, contains the Palazzos dei Rettori and Palazzo dei Giuristi, home of the city’s museum and art collection.
For the truly adventurous, mountain climbing in the Cadore-Auronzo-Misurina area provides an enthusiast’s challenge, but for most, the beautiful lakes of Santa Caterina and Misurina, situated below the imposing Three Peaks of Lavaredo, are captivating enough with their incomparable natural beauty. The peaks are among the most photographed of the Dolomites and the center peak, known as La Cima Grande, stands nearly 10,000 feet tall.
The province hosts many a unique and beautiful valleys. Central to the province and bordering Trentino-Alto Adige is one of the world’s most remarkable ski districts. Surrounded by majestic peaks are the impressive slopes of Marmolada, Conca Agordina and Monte Civetta, with its world class challenging runs. These gigantic masterpieces of nature belong to the Dolomiti Superski. This incredible ski park has 450 lifts and 746 miles of ski slopes set amid one of the most charming settings of the Dolomites.
In the north of the province lies the Queen of the Dolomites, Cortina d’Ampezzo, in the valley of the same name. It is Italy’s most famous ski resort and is also renowned for its glamorous and lively nightlife. Home to the 1956 Winter Olympic Games, it is the frontrunner for the 2026 Games, having placed with the Olympic Committee a revolutionary joint bid with Milan. Although most well-known for its winter activities, Cortina is really a resort town for all seasons. Its beautiful scenery, wonderful mountain air and exceptional spas make it a destination for travelers from around the globe. There are numerous five-star resorts in the town, which also has long been a favorite of the literary crowd.
Hotel Ancora has been an icon of hospitality since 1826, with beautiful rooms and luxury that surround guests at every turn. The nearby Cristallo has hosted all of the biggest names for more than a century. Black-and-white photographs line the walls of hotel’s majestic lobby and period details such as pendant chandeliers and frescoes lend further elegance to an atmosphere of sophisticated leisure. The surroundings of Cortina have been the location for many movies, including the “Pink Panther” and the mountain climbing scenes for “Cliffhanger,” but it is the James Bond thriller, “For Your Eyes Only” that is perhaps most familiar. The movie featured many scenes in Cortina, such as the Hotel Miramonti at the peak of Tofana and the famous ski chase sequences, where Bond eludes assassins by skiing down the bobsleigh run.
Auto racing is also part the fabric of the province. The Coppa d’Oro delle Dolomiti (Dolomites Gold Cup) is a fantastic annual event, with the some of the world’s most beautiful vintage cars speeding along the hairpin turns of the roads. This year it takes place from July 18-21 with eligible cars dating from 1971 or earlier. The original car race took place from 1947 to 1956 on public roads in the Dolomite Mountains. The race began and finished in Cortina d’Ampezzo and featured a circuit that was 188 miles long with elevation changes of more than 6,600 feet. A highly-challenging race, the lap record is a mere 62.4 miles per hour.
Feltre is a fortified town perched on a hill in the Val Belluna. During the first week each August, it holds a festival called the Palio di Feltre. The historic event dates to the 15th century and commemorates the entrance of the town into the Republic of Venice. The procession involves several hundred people wearing Renaissance-style clothes. In the annual competition, the town’s four districts challenge each other in archery, a tug of war competition and horse races. Each district also organizes market stalls featuring traditional menus, music and games with an enormous feast for all in attendance. Such are the pleasures and treasures of the province of Belluno. No matter what the season, it is a place to add to your travel itinerary to Italy.