The Dolomites UNESCO: World Heritage Site

Science and beauty enclosed in the rock are the main qualities that have motivated the nomination and the following election of the Dolomites as World heritage in June 2009.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization was enchanted, as happened before to Goethe, Mario Rigoni Stern and Le Corbusier, by the beauty and majesty of these peaks, characterized by monumental and often irregular shapes and by their fabulous colours at dusk, ranging from lilac to pink, orange and red.

Universally considered the most attractive mountain landscapes of the world, the peaks of the Dolomites own an intrinsic fascination thanks to the wide variety of shapes which remind pinnacles, spires and towers, in contrast with the unexpected flat surfaces of ledges and uplands. The nobility and grandiosity of the lines are enriched by the contrast between the tints of the pale rocks and the bright-coloured woods and meadows underlying.

Dolomia and Dolomite – The rock of the Dolomites

Dolomite is a mineral named after the geologist Deodat de Dolomieu, who first discovered it.

The rock is made up of calcium carbonate and magnesium, which crystallize according to the trigonal system.  It is found in crystal form, or more commonly in compact masses, coloured white and pink.  The colour gives rise to the phenomenon of Enrosadira, which tinges the mountains in shades of red when the sun breaks over the peaks at dawn and dusk. There is still some uncertainty about exactly how Dolomite is formed.  

There are many deposits in geological records, but this mineral is very rare in modern environments.  Dolomite makes up about 10% of all sedimentary rock and it is thought that it is produced near the surface of the earth.  However, synthesis made in the laboratory requires temperatures in excess of  100 °C, conditions typical of the formation in sedimentary basins.  

In the fifties and sixties, Dolomite was found in highly saline lakes in the Coorong region of Southern Australia.  Dolomite crystals also occur in the sediments of high seas with a large presence of organic material. This is known as "organic" Dolomite.  Recent research has revealed a mechanism for the formation of Dolomite by anaerobic super-saturation in lakes near Rio de Janeiro. 

Deodàt de Dolomieu – the origin of the name of the Dolomites

Deodàt de Dolomieu – the origin of the name of the Dolomites

Deodàt de Dolomieu was born in the village of Isère in 1750. His father, a nobleman with the title of marquis, destined him to a military career, signing him up for the Order of the Knights of Malta when he was only 3 years old. This allowed him to travel and to satisfy his passion for science.

After classical studies he dedicated himself to the study of chemistry and natural sciences, and soon found himself studying geology. Dolomieu studied and wrote about many minerals, both new ones and those already known, but little studied. It was the discovery of dolomia, however, that would make him famous. This is the rock typical for the alpine region bewteen Veneto, Alto Adige and Friuli Venezia Giulia, made up of double carbonate of calcium and magnesium.

It was not until many decades later however that the alpine region would be named after him when in 1864 Josiah Gilbert and George Churchill, a painter and a naturalist, published an account of their travels in the Alps entitled "The Dolomite mountains", in London. Deodàt died aged only 51, having suffered greatly by his imprisonment in Messina caused by conflicts with the Order of Malta.