How the Dolomites differs from the rest of Italy

Locals in Italy will tell you that the Northern and Southern Italy are two different countries. The border lies at the southern border of the Emilia-Romagna region (capital city is Bologna). There is Central Italy between them, too. And the Dolomites is a separate mountainous country, which is different from the rest of Italy, even from northern part. I’ll explain the difference.

Ivan Kuznetsov
Outdoor journalist from Dolomites and Karelia

— Everything is simple: the difference is in the word “mountains”. The border between mountainous and plain Italy (Northern, Central plus Southern) is not imaginary, but natural. Life in the mountains is not like it is in the plain.

Last year (2019) I tried to formulate specific differences between the two countries — of a mountains and a plain — and shared them with the visitors of the largest exhibition dedicated to Italy in Moscow — Italian Week Festival. It is held every year several times: in spring, summer, autumn, and winter.

Below are the differences and video lecture in Russian.

Nature and Weather

  1. In the Dolomites, there are mountains all around the place and you’re always look on something. There is a lot of greenery here, mountains up to 2000 meters is covered by forest, there are many mountain lakes.
  2. In the Dolomites there is a wild nature and there are wild animals. There are 8 nature parks, a national park (Dolomiti Bennunesi) and many protected areas.
  3. In the Dolomites it is colder and rainier (but there is also a lot of sun). It has harsher winters and everything is covered with snow from Dec. to June.

Mentality and Language

  1. In the Dolomites people work even more and harder than the industrial north, but they also like to have a good rest and appreciate the slow life.
  2. In the Dolomites people mostly do not speak English, but only Italian, German or other European languages. Here you will also be understood in Russian!
  3. In the Dolomites there are almost no tourists comparing to Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome, Naples and other big and popular Italian cities. And if there are, they are invisible. It is easy to meet locals, but to become local — it takes time.
Italian Week Festival in Moscow poster
Poster of Italian Week Festival in Moscow with my name on it at 12:00-12:50 © Ivan Kuznetsov

Gastronomy and Farming

  1. In the Dolomites, people live in villages and do farming — almost all have vegetable gardens. No grapes grow here, beans and corn instead!
  2. In the Dolomites you can try strange products: goat or sheep, rabbit… There are also pizzerias — they are cheaper and better.
  3. In the Dolomites there are 25 kinds of grappa. It is recognized more than wine. There are more bars per capita, I guess, than in Ireland.

Culture and Traditions

  1. In the Dolomites people preserve traditions. For example, they celebrate the arrival of spring and the harvest. Here, the full moon is also a holiday that is celebrated.
  2. In the Dolomites, just like everywhere in Italy, religion is very strong. But here, the churches work like clockwork, measuring every half hour with a bell.
  3. In the Dolomites, there are native people — ladins. And their have their own language too. Here a trip to Italy becomes a trip to three countries at once (plus Austria).

Sports and Outdoor Activities

  1. In the Dolomites there are no direct roads. All the time you walks or ride either up or down. People walk on paths here, not roads (but everyone has cars).
  2. In the Dolomites you can walk in the mountains for around a week without going down to the towns. There are hotels (mountains huts called refugio) at an altitude of 2500 with hot meals and showers for 1 euro/l.
  3. In the Dolomites (and only here) cycling is more popular than football! It is also the best place in the world for skiing — hundreds of kilometers of slopes.

And this is the video:


Cover photo: Thursdays’ Market in the town of Lamon in the Dolomites, Norhern Italy © Ivan Kuznetsov.

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