Falcade and the Val Biois: the Magic of the Dolomites
Located in the nothern part of the charming Val Biois and surrounded by the magnificent Dolomite peaks of the Civetta (3,220 meters / 10,565 feet above see level) the Focobon (3054 meters / 10,020 feet above see level) and the Auta mounting range (belonging to the Mount Marmolada Group) lies Falcade, a well-known Italian Apline summer and winter tourist destination of the Dolomites UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site.
A Dolomitic Dream. Falcade is institutionally located within the boundaries of the Province of Belluno in the Veneto Region, Italy, and it is the biggest residential area of the Val Biois (one of the seven valleys of the Agordino area) as well as its main tourist resort. This charming, fascinating mountain village is one of the most beloved and most visited places of the UNESCO Dolomites and, despite its dimension (less than 2,000 inhabitants), it boasts a well-structured and well-organized tourist offer.
Falcade | L’origine del nome
As far as the origin of the place name Falcade is concerned, there are at least two hypotesis. The first one seems to identify a resemblance with the Italian verb “falciare” (that is ‘to mow’ or ‘to schyte’); the place name would be a reference to the Piana di Falcade in the current Brostolade area and thus to the “relative abundance”, so-to-say, of cultivable and mowable land (this, of course, as far as abundance can be spoken of, considering that Falcade is a very small village and completely surrounded by the steep walls of remarkable Dolomite peaks). The second thesis conjectures a possible derivation from the Italian “falco” (that is ‘hawk’ or ‘falcon’), an animal which is also portayed on the coat-of-arms of the Municipality of Falcade (together with the three towers of the Focobon Group). Both theories are fascinatig and contribute to the rich cultural Falcadino and Agordino heritage.
Even though the most common dialectal form of the town name nowadays is undoubtedly “Falcade”, the village is mainly pronounced “Fal-chee-ad-e” by the Falcadinos, following the common phonetical tendence of the Val Biois dialect of transforming the ‘k’ sound into ‘chee’ (e.g. casa > ciàsa [read “chee-asa”]).
Falcade and the UNESCO Dolomites
Besides the unparallelled beauty of the natural context and of the landscape, Falcade presents many other features that make it a beloved holiday destination of the Pale Mountains. The inhabitants of this small Municipality of the Dolomites has managed to preserve the original aspect of the village by maintaining intact many ancient houses and, above all, many wonderful wood barns. In Falcade, the guests have the rare chance to admire how life in the Dolomites looked like at the end of the 19th Century and to visit a place that gives back a genuine, untouched essence without any artificial masking.
Falcade is really wonderful: if you love the Dolomite mountains and you are looking for a natural, genuine resort, you can find a treasure in this cozy mountain villahe. Let’s take a look together at what Falcade offers!
To find out more we suggest you to read also:
The Dolomites in the Agordino area
Brief history of Falcade
The history of the human colonization of the Val Biois broadly follows the common history of the whole Agordino. The Heart of the Dolomites had already been explored back to the Imperial Rome age, as it was considered a secondarly yet important communication and trade route across the Western Alps (see History of the Agordino for more info).
Altough Roman posts and almshouses were present in the area, permanent human settlements became effective only in the early Middle Ages. In the Val Biois, which has been on the boundaries between the German-speaking and the Venetian worlds up to the Great War, the main source of livelihood for the Falcadino people was to provide services to merchants, messengers and travelers. The Passo San Pellegrino divided at the time Tyrol from the Venetian “Land State”; on the top of the mountain pass, known at the time as “Mont de Aloch”, there was a famous almshouse dedicated to Saint Peregrine, founded in 1358.
The most ancient building still visible of the Val Biois is San Simon Monumental Church in Vallada Agordina, whose foundation could have taken place in 572 or in 720 A.D.. With the expansion of the communities of the Val Biois throughout the Centuries, the building up of other churches become necessary. The historical center of Falcade corresponds to the current hamlet of Falcade Alto, which inaugurated its own church between 1471 and 1488; the dialectal name of Falcade Alto, Gésia, means indeed ‘church’.
At the beginning of the 15th Century, Falcade and the Agordino area were absorbed by the fledgling “Serenissima” Republic of Venice and became borderland between Venice and the Duchy of Tyrol. In the context of the wars with Milan and with Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor, Falcade was reduced to a pile of ashes in 1436 in retaliation by the Tyrolean troops. The turbulent years leading up to the end of Emperor Charles V’s Italian Campaign saw the Val Biois crossed on several occasions by imperial and Venetian armies. Eventually, a long period of peace marked the relationships with the Tyrolean neighbors for the subsequent 2 centuries.
Parallel to this began the great minerals stampede in the Pale di San Martino that eventually concerned the whole Agordino area.
After the humiliating Treaty of Campo Formio, a date that permanently marked the end of the Serenissima Republic, Falcade followed the destiny of the whole Italian Peninsula and became part of the Municipality of the Agordo’s Corner, with the name of Municipality of Sapade (which included the current hamlets of Sappade, Caviola and Falcade).
During the second half of the 19th Century Falcade was annexed to the Reign of Italy together with other 13 Municipalities of the Agordino area (Livinallongo del Col di Lana and Colle Santa Lucia, nowadays in the Province of Belluno, remained part of the Austrian – Hungarian Empire up to the end of the Great War).
About at that time, the first tourists started to arrive to the Dolomites and also in Falcade; young people from the European elites began to visit the Dolomites and slowly to inaugurate that great age of mountain exploration that led to the birth of modern mountaineering. The first hotels and rifugios were brought to light soon after.
The Great War ended this long period of harmony with fiercy battles and gory slaughters along the Yellow Line. Falcade was directly on the frontline, mainly in the Passo San Pellegrino area, where still nowadays many war finds are visible.
During the Second World War, the Val Biois was ignited by the “Bozen” Tyrolean division of the Nazis’ SS, in retaliation of the partisans’ guerrilla warfare against the German invaders. This action led to the death of 44 unarmed civilians and to the destruction of over 600 bulidings, farms, barns and factories and also began to rise “racial” tensions between local people and the neighbor Südtirolers.
From the end of WW2 on, Falcade started to make a name for itself as tourist resort of the Dolomites; nowadays, the majority of the local population deals with tourism. The creation of the Trevalli ski area (today known as Alpe Lusia San Pellegrino in the Dolomiti Superski) gave additional boost to this sector, that kept on growing until the end of the 90s. At that time, the whole tourism system of the Province of Belluno underwent a deep crisis, mainly caused by the profound inexperience of the Belluno public administrators and by the huge economic disparities with the neighboring Trentino and Südritol valleys. Despite this, in the early 2000s the Val Biois Consortium created the still-famous “Love’s Ski Tour” centered on the “Pista degli Innamorati” (“Lovers’ Ski Slope”), the second longest ski piste of the Dolomites.
More recently, many of what were in the past considered weakness of the Agordino area are becoming strengths: the Agordino has been preserved from mass tourism up to now, and it can now offer its best and most genuine features whereas best-renowned places cannot. Falcade and the Agordino area are now places suitable for those kind of curious, clever and dynamic guests looking for the real Dolomites, far away from the confusion, noise and disadvantages of the mass tourism, which are clearly seeable in other places of the Dolomites. A natural treasure to be discovered and loved!
Skiing in Falcade: the Love’s Ski Area
Falcade ist mostly known for being one of the ski resorts of the prestigious Dolomiti Superski skiing consortium.
Falcade is a cozy access from the South to the marvelous Alpe Lusia – San Pellegrino (previously known as Trevalli Ski Area, as said above). It is a modern and functional ski area of the Dolomites that offers 100 Kilometers of perfectly-groomed ski slopes between Falcade, the Passo San Pellegrino and Moena in Val di Fassa.
The Falcade Ski Area is particularly renowned among the enthusiasts of Alpine skiing for having some of the most beautiful ski slopes of the whole Dolomites. 60 kilometers are available in the sole Falcade area, pistes that are known for being wide, sunny, technical and steep, with astonishingly beautiful views on the Pale di San Martino and the peaks of the Marmolada group.
The entrance to the Alpe Lusia ski area from Falcade is located in the hamlet of Molino, where skiers are quickly taken to the heart of the area with the brand-new, efficient 8-seater gondola cable car. The intermediate station, Le Buse, is an interesting high-altitude resorts with cozy mountain restaurants, kinderheims and much more.
Falcade boasts the second longest ski slopes of the Dolomites, the famous Pista degli Innamorati (the “Lovers’ Ski Slope”); 11 kilometers of always perfectly-groomed ski piste take skiers from the top of the Col Margherita to the hamlet of Molino in Falcade, with a one-of-a-kind landscape with the Pala Group as main protagonist.
Find out more!
Falcade suprises you also in Summer!
The Falcade – Le Buse cable car is operational also in Summer, usually From July to September. With this mean of transportation it is really super easy and comfortable to reach the hamlet of Le Buse in a few minutes. Here guests can enjoy the sun comfortably seated on the panoramic terraces of the restaurants there; tasting the dairy products of the local malgas; or taking one of the many trails there to hike or to mountain bike. Are you looking for inputs to arrange your summer holiday in the Dolomites? If so, please feel welcome to consult our Articles section (click here) or the list of our mountain Rifugios (click here).
Among the Summer attractions of this part of Falcade there are also the brand-new Artist’s Wood (a themed path adorned with marvelous wooden sculptures) and the Ants’ Garden (a natural themed route dedicated to the anthills present there).
Historical heritage, monuments and local culture in Falcade
In addition to the ski area, Falcade boasts a remarkable patrimony of architectural, cultural and historical attractions. Its marvelous hamlets are rich in interesting monuments that perfectly illustrate how life in the Dolomites UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site has evolved throughout the centuries. A unique chance to see something genuine and original, of course enhanced by the superb natural context. Let’s find out together what we’re talking about!
The tabià. Together with the other 2 Municipalities of the Val Biois (Canale d’Agordo and Vallada Agordina), Falcade boasts an impressive amount of historical wooden barns called tabià. These are perhaps the best recognizable buildings of the Dolomites, and in the past each family had at least one tabià. No other valley of the Dolomites boasts such a remarkable number of these constructions: in the Val Biois guests can admire more than 300 tabià, many of which are century-old.
Want to discover more? Check out the dedicated section:
The Saints at the Windows. Together with the neighboring Muncipalities of the Val Biois, Falcade displays a great amount of religious frescoes which had been the subjects of a recent enhancement campaign by the Veneto Region called “The Valley with Saints at the Windows“. Dozens of religious frescoes can be admired througout the alleys of Falcade, Canale and Vallada, some of which go back to the 17th Century. The frescoes have been mapped and included in a thematic walk that virtually connects all these masterpieces. The map as well as further information about these frescoes can be easily found at the local tourist offices.
For more on this topic:
Personalities from Falcade. Falcade is the birthplace of two heavyweights of the Italian Postwar artistic movement: Dante Moro (1933-2009) and Augusto Murer (1922-1985).
The Augusto Murer Museum is an interesting exhibition space dedicated to the great Falcadino artist. Located nearby the ski lifts in the hamlet of Molino, the museum is housed inside what was once the Artist’s atelier and it is curated by his relatives, among which his son Franco who is at his turn a famous Italian artist. The Murer Museum is full of statues, paintings, bas-reliefs, sketches and other masterpieces by Augusto Murer and it is open to public during the tourist seasons. A visit to this atelier is definitely worth a visit!
Augusto Murer Museum > Click here
Gesìa. In the sunny and panoramic hamlet of Falcade Alto (Gesia in dialect [pronounced “dje-sya”], in addition to a remarkable number of historical houses and barns, there’s the ancient Church of St. Fabian and St. Sebastian (Chiesa dei Santi Fabiano e Sebastiano). This is a wonderful example of the typical architectural style known as Alpine Gothic; the building was inaugurated between 1471 and 1488 with the aim of providing local inhabitants with a closer church than San Simon in Vallada Agordina, which before was the only church of the valley.
With its sharp bell tower and its nice sundial, the church of Falcade Alto is an emblem of the whole Municipality and a precious contribution to the untouched, original charm of this wonderful village of the UNESCO Dolomites.
Check out the dedicated page at this link
Madonna della Salute Church. In the hamlet of Caviola there’s another important church of the Municipality of Falcade, the Church of Our Lady of Health (‘Madonna della Salute’). The building is located on a hill called Collaz in a very sunny and panoramic position; because of its history and the many remakrable masterpieces it contains it has been added to the list of the Italian Heritage by the prestigious Accademia delle Belle Arti of Venice.
To read more on this monument, click here
Discovering Facade: Sports, Family, Emotions, Food
The Dolomites. Falcade is an excellent starting point for marvellous excursions into the two Dolomite systems of the Biois Valley: the Pala Group (Pale di San Martino) and the peaks of the Auta and Ombretta groups in the Marmolada system. A dense net of hiking trails connects the valley floor with Cozy rifugios, dreamlike Alpine meadows or even to the top of the surrounding peaks; wonderful mountain adventures wait in this place for sporty guests.
Find out more: The Dolomites in the Agordino
Among the cultural hikes we mention here the Shepherds’ High Route (‘Alta Via dei Pastori’), the Falcade Geological Path (‘Sentiero Geologico di Falcade’) and the Tilman Route (‘Via Tilman’).
The Shepherds’ High Route is a wonderful hinking adventure aimed to re-discover the paths, shelters and habits commonly used by the local sheprherds many decades ago. This amazing hiking route is arranged in 6 stages that winds through the Pala Group, the Marmolada Group and the Agordino Dolomites though high-altitude paths, enjoyable meadows, lakes, forests and so on. The aim of this route is also cultural, as it follows the ancient routes used by the Dolomitic shepherds up to some years ago (luckily, 12 of the many Malgas of the Val Biois are still operational as modern breeding and dairy production enterprises). It passes through dreamlike Alpine fields, unbeliebably beautiful mountain passes, gurgling mountain streams, cozy Dolomitic reifugios and other shelters. Local Hiking Guides and accommodation facilities offer a wide variety of services addressed to the hilers interested in this Alta Via. This proposal is quite new and it is led by the Municipality of San Tomaso Agordino.
The Tilman Route is another wonderful multi-day hike freely inspired by the actions of the Royal Army Major Harold William Tilman in Italy during World War 2nd, when he was in charge of arranging the supply chain to support th anti-fascist resistance in the North of our Country. The Timan Route connects Falcade to the Asiago Plateau for a total of 190km of wonderful hike in the Pale di San Martino, Alpi Feltrine and Prealpi Bellunesi. The starting point for this route is set in the hamlet of Molino in Falcade, where there’s a dedicated monument with the European flag and the Union Jack. We did review this route in a recent article (click here).
The Falcade Geological Trail is the newest among the mentioned cultural routes you can enjoy when in Falcade; this is another wonderful hiking experience developed along the course of the Gavon Stream upstream (from Sappade to Bosch Brusà) on 15 interesting stages that highlight the same amount of geological features of Falcade and of the Marmolada Group. Each stage presents an interesting, easily readable information panel; these panels have been conceived to be addressed both to adults and to children and in the same way they are suitable for geology experts likewise for newbie.
Please feel welcome to read our review of this trail at this link: click here
On Piazza Municipio, in the town center, there’s the little but interesting Falcade Alpine Garden (also known as Falcade Geological Garden); it is a small portion of green containing examples of local stones and plants to easily represent Falcade’s flora and fauna to the guests of the Heart of the Dolomites. The Falcade Alpine Garden is always accessible free-of-charge.
Among the easiest and more striking walks suitable for the whole family in Falcade we can’t avoid mentioning the Giro delle Coste, a wonderful stroll in the woods from Somor to Via Trieste, with nice view on Mount Focobon and the other peaks of the Pala Group.
Read the article on the Giro delle Coste > click here
The Barezze Waterfall. Another super beloved attraction in Falcade is the Barezze Waterfall, a nice waterfall formed by the Gavon Stream slightly the hamlet of Sappade.
Read more on this > click here
Valfredda. One of the best known natural attractions of the Val Biois is undoubtedly Valfredda; it was so beautiful that the Tyrol tried to stole the land to the Falcadino people for centuries, eventually managing to grasp some land and to shift the boundary 2km towards the South (that’s why Fuciade is nowadays in Trentino, even if geographically it lies in the Val Biois). Valfredda can be easily reached from the Passo San Pellegrino and with a nice hike from Falcade.
Read more on Valfredda here
Mountain Passes. From the hamlet of Falcade Alto two wonderful mountain passes can be easily reached by car: Passo San Pellegrino (that connects Falcade to Moena in Val di Fassa) and Passo Valles (that connects Falcade to Paneveggio in Val di Fiemme). Being steep and wonderfully surrounded by marvelous Dolomite peaks, these two passes are ofter the setting of many road cycling competitions, among which the famous Giro d’Italia. San Pellegrino and Valles are two must-do dolomitic mountain passes for lovers of pedaling seeking fatigue and fulfillment.
Check out our pages about Passo San Pellegrino and Passo Valles
As fas as mountain biking is concerned, Falcade is a good proving ground for skilled bikers. Some of the slopes of the Alpe Lusia – San Pellegrino ski area area open to bikers during Summer; a good team of local MTB Guides is always at disposal to open the doors to the secrets of the valley.
Falcade | Facilities
Falcade disposes of an excellent assortment of sports infrastructures: most of them lie on the Piana di Falcade, the wide, sunny plain in the center of the village. There guests can also enjoy a charming picnic areas with grills and water supply for free, a nice playground and a small but fun amusement park with inflatables and games for children.
Read more on the Piana di Falcade
In Winter, the Piana di Falcade hosts an ice rink and the Pietro Scola Cross-Country Ski Center. This latter one is equipped with lighting system on 2.5 km of its track (the longest of its tracks amounts to 10km) for night skiing. The Italian National Team often stops here for their training sessions.
Read more on the Pietro Scola Cross-Country Ski Center
Regarding night life, Falcade is pretty lively during peaks tourist periods. This village offers a wide choice of aprés-ski bars, pubs, restaurants with ballrooms, party clubs.
Falcade | Folclore & Events
Adherence to its rural and agricultural tradition is still very much felt by the inhabitants of the beautiful Val Biois, as it happens in many other valleys of the Pale Mountains. Many of the village’s traditions, although of course impoverished and half-abandoned following the rise of globalisation, are carried on with pride by local volunteers, mostly in the form of public associations. The Gruppo Folk Val Biois, for instance, promotes the conservation of local costumes and the knowledge of local history, legends, ballads and much more.
Saint Sebastian (San Sebastiano) is the Patron Saint of the village and 20 January is the Patronal Day of Falcade.
The most important yearly event in Falcade is undoubtedly Se Desmonteghea, the colorful transhumance festival of the malgas of the Val Biois. This beloved weekend festival, that takes place in the last weekend of September, celebrates the return to the village of the cattles from mountain pastures and it is a huge party with thousands of participants. Absolutely not no be missed!
Other notable events in Falcade are: El Bon de l’Ansuda, a two-day village festival celebrating the arrival of Spring with a rich program of activities, tastings and cultural proposals. The Giro Podistico di Falcade is the main Summer runnign event, whereas since a few years Falcade houses its own vertical run, the Vertical 107. La Zinghenesta, the Carnival of the Val Biois, shows off its amazing traditional masks and characters also through the alleys and streets of Falcade.
Falcade’s traditional cuisine is infulenced by mainly the Venetian and the Ladin cooking schools; this curious mix is very surprising and there are things you can find only in this place (the Carfogn, for instance). Dairy production has a great importance in the Val Biois and the many cheese types produced here abound in the local dishes you can find in Falcade’s restaurants, hotels and snack bars.
Go to: Traditional Agordino Cooking
Tourist Information Office:
Ufficio Turistico di Falcade – Tel: 0039 437 599 062