The site of the Dolomites comprises a mountain range in the northern Italian Alps, numbering 18 peaks which rise to above 3,000 metres and cover 141,903 ha. It features some of the most beautiful mountain landscapes anywhere, with vertical walls, sheer cliffs and a high density of narrow, deep and long valleys. A serial property of nine areas that present a diversity of spectacular landscapes of international significance for geomorphology marked by steeples, pinnacles and rock walls, the site also contains glacial landforms and karst systems. It is characterized by dynamic processes with frequent landslides, floods and avalanches. The property also features one of the best examples of the preservation of Mesozoic carbonate platform systems, with fossil records.
The nine components of The Dolomites World Heritage property protect a series of highly distinctive mountain landscapes that are of exceptional natural beauty. Their dramatic vertical and pale coloured peaks in a variety of distinctive sculptural forms is extraordinary in a global context. This property also contains an internationally important combination of earth science values. The quantity and concentration of highly varied limestone formations is extraordinary in a global context, whilst the superbly exposed geology provides an insight into the recovery of marine life in the Triassic period, after the greatest extinction event recorded in the history of life on Earth. The sublime, monumental and colourful landscapes of the Dolomites have also long attracted hosts of travellers and a history of scientific and artistic interpretations of its values.
Criterion (vii): The Dolomites are widely regarded as being among the most attractive mountain landscapes in the world. Their intrinsic beauty derives from a variety of spectacular vertical forms such as pinnacles, spires and towers, with contrasting horizontal surfaces including ledges, crags and plateaux, all of which rise abruptly above extensive talus deposits and more gentle foothills. A great diversity of colours is provided by the contrasts between the bare pale-coloured rock surfaces and the forests and meadows below. The mountains rise as peaks with intervening ravines, in some places standing isolated but in others forming sweeping panoramas. Some of the rock cliffs here rise more than 1,500 m and are among the highest limestone walls found anywhere in the world. The distinctive scenery of the Dolomites has become the archetype of a “dolomitic landscape”. Geologist pioneers were the first to be captured by the beauty of the mountains, and their writing and subsequent painting and photography further underline the aesthetic appeal of the property.
Criterion (viii): The Dolomites are of international significance for geomorphology, as the classic site for the development of mountains in dolomitic limestone. The area presents a wide range of landforms related to erosion, tectonism and glaciation. The quantity and concentration of extremely varied limestone formations is extraordinary in a global context, including peaks, towers, pinnacles and some of the highest vertical rock walls in the world. The geological values are also of international significance, notably the evidence of Mesozoic carbonate platforms, or “fossilized atolls”, particularly in terms of the evidence they provide of the evolution of the bio-constructors after the Permian/Triassic boundary, and the preservation of the relationships between the reefs they constructed and their surrounding basins. The Dolomites also include several internationally important type sections for the stratigraphy of the Triassic Period. The scientific values of the property are also supported by the evidence of a long history of study and recognition at the international level. Taken together, the combination of geomorphological and geological values creates a property of global significance.
The nine component parts that make up the property include all areas that are essential for maintaining the beauty of the property and all or most of the key interrelated and interdependent earth science elements in their natural relationships. The property comprises parts of a national park, several provincial nature parks and Natura 2000 sites, and a natural monument. Buffer zones have been defined for each component part to help to protect it from threats from outside its boundaries. The natural landscapes and processes that are essential to maintaining the property’s values and integrity are in a good state of conservation and largely unaffected by development.
Management and protection requirements
As a serial property, the Dolomites require an adequately resourced, inter-provincial governance arrangement that ensures all five provinces with territory in the property are bound together within a common management system, and with an agreed joint management strategy and a monitoring and reporting framework for the property as a whole. Common policies and programmes for the management of public use and the presentation of the property are also required for the property and its buffer zones. The property requires protection from tourism pressures and related infrastructure. Each of the component parts of the serial property requires its own individual management plan, providing not only for the protection and management of land use, but also the regulation and management of human activities to maintain its values, and in particular to preserve the qualities of its natural landscapes and processes, including extensive areas which still have wilderness character. Areas that are subject to more intensive visitation need to be managed to ensure visitor numbers and activities are within the capacity of the property in relation to the protection of both its values and the experience of visitors to the property. Adequate resources and staffing, and coordination between the staff teams in the different components of the property are also essential.