Dolomiti Friulane e d'Oltre Piave

This system extends over the Provinces of Pordenone and Udine with a small area in the Province of Belluno. Its surface area of 21,461 hectares is enclosed by the river Piave, the higher reaches of the Tagliamento river and by Val Tramontina and Val Cellina. The Dolomiti Friulane e d’Oltre Piave, to give it its full name, is a fairly compact, continuous system of peaks offering breath-taking views over its magical landscape. Moving from North to South you encounter Mount Cridola (2,581m) and the Monfalconi (Cima Monfalcon di Montanaia 2,548m) peaks, which include the spectacular Campanile di Val Montanaia (2,173m), Spalti di Toro (Cadin di Toro 2,386m) and the Duranno (2,652m) – Cima dei Preti (2,706m) chain. What makes this system special is its extensive wilderness areas. Here you can marvel at the sheer power of Mother Nature, largely untouched by human interference.

Protecting the environment

The Parco Naturale delle Dolomiti Friulane is an area of natural parkland, designated as such in 1996 to preserve and enhance the geological and natural heritage of the system. This area of 37,000 hectares in the Provinces of Udine and Pordenone is completely free from public roads. The area, bounded by the Valcellina, Alta Valle del Tagliamento and Val Tramontina valleys, is home to the most outstanding mountain peaks in the UNESCO system – Duranno, Cima Preti and Monfalconi. It has a wonderful array of flora and fauna, the realm of the golden eagle, a bird of prey that only nests in the wildest of natural environments (www.parcodolomitifriulane.it).

The Vajont Tragedy

The signs of the massive Vajont landslide, a disaster that is sadly famous all over Italy and overseas, can still be seen on the south-western border of this system. In the 1950s the Vajont valley was closed off by what was to become, at 268 meters, the tallest double-arch dam of that era, in an effort to exploit the hydroelectric potential of the Vajont basin. As the first trial fillings of the reservoir were in progress, landslips began to happen on the northern face of Monte Toc. On October, 9th 1963, a massive landslide of 250 million cubic meters slid down the mountain and fell into the reservoir, raising a giant wave of 140m that overtopped the dam, destroying Longarone and the other nearby villages in the Piave Valley. Part of the wave flowed back into the reservoir, washing away houses, livestock and people and parts of the villages of Erto and Casso. This disaster, which claimed the lives of almost 2,000 victims, was caused by the thoughtless exploitation of the natural environment and failure to plan civil engineering work properly in that area. The signs of this catastrophe are still visible in the scarred landscape and the dam has now become an open-air museum, a stern reminder of the need to treat the natural environment with care, mindful of the risk of heedless human intervention unleashing far more powerful forces.

For more information, visit www.dolomitiunesco.info

The Cava Buscada Refuge lies in the heart of the Dolomiti Friulane Park and owes its name to its location: a real quarry was opened there in 1953. The refuge enjoys a panoramic position on the slopes of Monte Buscada and at night it becomes a natural observatory for stargazers, thanks to its telescope.

The Maniago Refuge lies at the foot of the pyramid of Duranno, one of the most imposing peaks in the Dolomiti Friulane. A pleasant walk through the Zemola Valley takes you to the refuge which also acts as a good base for climbs and itineraries for more experienced hikers. It's a stage point along the Alta Via no. 6.

The Pordenone Refuge is situated where the Montanaia Valley and the Meluzzo Valley meet, on a woody promontory on the slopes of Cima Meluzzo in the Spalti di Toro – Monfalconi Group. The refuge, which is easy to reach, is a great starting point for excursions and walking trips through the Dolomiti Friulane Park.

The Pussa Refuge is hard to miss, due to its triangular shape. Protected by a thick wood of fir and beech trees at the end of the Settimana Valley, the refuge is an excellent starting point for excursions to Caserine, Cornaget and Pramaggiore. Nearby is the natural sulphurous – magnesic spring which gave the name to the place.