In the Heart of the Dolomites
Agordo (611 m above sea level) [Italian pronunciation: A’gordo, local Agordino dialect: A’gort, Arabba’s Ladin: E’gort] is a charming small town of the Dolomites UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site.
As for the number of inhabitants and for the presence of many administrative offices and the biggest hospital of the area, Agordo is for all intents and purposes the administrative center of the whole Agordino area. Given its central position in the context of the Dolomites and its astonishingly beautiful mountain setting (with 12 Dolomite peaks overlooking the basin), Agordo is known in Italy as the “Heart of the Dolomites” (Cuore delle Dolomiti).
With the generic definition of “Agordino” we refer to that portion of Dolomites, bounded by imposing natural boundaries, identified by the River Cordevole: we talk thus about 16 Municipalities of the Dolomites belonging to the Province of Belluno (in the Veneto Region), from Livinallongo del Col di Lana in the north (well-known for its skiing resort, Arabba) to Agordo in the south. The Agordino area borders directly with both the Trentino and Alto Adige – Südtirol.
Agordo: Population and geographical data
With its 4200 inhabitants, Agordo is the institutional center of the Agordino, a geographical region of the Dolomites with a total of 20,000 inhabitants. Agordo is the seat of the local Unione Montana Agordina (the administrative unit that gathers the 16 Municipalities of the Cordevole Valley together). More precisely, Agordo is located right in the valley bottom of the Conca Agordina, a wide valley surrounded by many Dolomites peaks located in the southern part of the Agordino. Other 5 Municipalities (Rivamonte Agordino, Gosaldo, Taibon Agordino, La Valle Agordina, Voltago Agordino) are located inside the same valley, the Conca Agordina indeed.
The Conca Agordina borders to the north with the other Municipalities of the Agordino area (like Cencenighe Agordino), to the east with the Val di Zoldo (also in the Province of Belluno), to the south with the Valbelluna (also in the Province of Belluno) to the west with the Primiero in Trentino.
Natural context and landscape
The most suggestive natural feature of Agordo is for sure the marvelous landscape that visitors can enjoy from the valley bottom. Agordo is indeed completely surrounded by some of the most imposing and majestic peaks of the Dolomites UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site: as for the Dolomites UNESCO Foundation, the peaks around Agordo are included into the 3rd of the 9 official Dolomites Systems, the Pale di San Martino, San Lucano, Vette Feltrine and Dolomiti Bellunesi. According to the SOIUSA Alps Classification, on the other hands, the peaks that surround Agordo are divided into Pale di San Martino, Monti del Sole, Schiara Group, Dolomiti di Zoldo or Dolomiti Agordine.
Starting to the north clokwise, the Dolomites peaks that can be admired from the center of Agordo are: Framont, Pelsa and Moiazza (part of the Civetta-Moiazza group), the three peaks of the San Sebastiano Group, the Cime di Zità and the Monte Celo (Schiara Group), Pizzon and Monti del Sole (Monti del Sole Group), the Piz di Sagron (Cimonega Group), the Agner Group with the Pale di San Martino plateau (the widest upland of the whole Dolomites) and the Pale di San Lucano (all belonging to the Pale di San Martino System); then the Marmolada (the Queen of the Dolomites, that shows to the visitors her huge southern wall) and the peaks of the Marmolada Group, like the Piz Zorlet, Cime di Pezza, Cime d’Auta. More than 12 mountain groups are thus visible from the center of Agordo, and many more can be seen from different locations of the valley.
Turism in Agordo
Agordo and the Agordino area are places dominated by a lush, untouched and verdant nature that surrounds the inhabited areas in all directions. Love and care for the montains and the forests play traditionally a key role for the inhabitants of these places, as testified by the numerous toponyms of the Agordino area, inspired by peaks, tools, geographical features. Agordo offers perhaps the highest degree of water and air purity of the whole Dolomites and, since the limited number of inhabitants, a very low impact of man on the ecosystem. Agordo is thus the ideal place for guests looking for a bucolic, untouched natural place surrounded by marvellous Dolomites peaks and far away from traffic, crowd and noise.
Unlike the Municipalities of the Alto Agordino (the northern part of the Agordino area), which are villages with a clearly touristy vocation, Agordo has never developed a proper long-term plan for tourist welcome, maintenance and promotion, since the majority of its population deals with eyewear industry rather than tourism. However, Agordo has some nice hotels and many accommodation possibilities in B&B and private flats, even if its would be not a proper tourist resort if compared to other villages in the nearby areas. Because of this, Agordo ist the ideal place for guests looking for silence, tranquillity and rest and a lot of hiking and mountaineering possibilities. Furthermore, Agordo has no ski lift that climbs up the surrounding peaks, and because of this guests interested in the Dolomites in their most natural aspect find here in this place an unparelled, amazingly untouched natural paradise.
Hiking & Mountain Biking
A very dense net of hiking paths and mule tracks crosses the slopes of the Dolomites which surround the Conca Agordina; these fascinating trails allow in a few hours to reach the foot of most of the mountains of this area (e.g.: Moiazza and Agner can be reached with a 2-3 hours walk from the main square of Agordo). The remarkable amount of hiking paths of the area has allowed in the last few years the promotion of the practice of mountain biking: in the Conca Agordina, the best MTB Guides are definitely the ones of the Guide MTB Agordino.
Recently, another interesting offer for hiking lovers has been realized: it is the Agordo Geologic Path. This proposal allows guests to walk on an amazing ring route that connects the main square of Agordo to the worldwide famous Alta Via delle Dolomiti 1, presenting two different aspects of the area: the marvelous town center, with its villas and the ancient Venetian houses, and the Dolomites, with their unparelled, enchanting views. We dedicated an entire article to this proposal on July 2016 – click here to read the article.
Agordo is furthermore one of the most renowned centers in the Dolomites area for rock climbing enthusiasts; the town boasts a decades-old tradition of climbers and a lot of climbing possibilities (both on artificial walls as well as on mountain climbing routes). Further information about the climbing spots are available at the local Tourist Office (contacts below).
A few steps far from the town center, a lot of thrilling slopes at the foot of the mountains are available for ski mountaineering lovers: the huge amount and variety of slopes on the Pale di San Martino and Dolomiti Agordine have made these places famous among the enthusiasts of ski descents on fresh snow throughout the last decades. If you don’t know well the place but you would like to ski on the marvellous slopes of the area, a good ski instructore (click here) or a Mountain Guide (click here) could be the solution to the problem.
Services and facilities
Despite its dimensions, Agordo, as administrative center of the Agordino, offers many efficient services as well as sporting facilities at the guests’ disposal. The Heart of the Dolomites offers: A wide choice of supermarkets and grocery stores Clothes shops Stores selling typical products and souvenirs Tobacco shops Bars, pubs and restaurants A very good hospital, whose orthopedics is among the best in Italy Vet Tourist Office Bus station (with daily routes to Belluno and the other Municipalities of the Agordino and Südtirol area) Sporting facilities like: a public swimming pool with gym (tel. +39 0437 62406), an athletic field, 2 soccer fields, a tennis court, an ice rink, 2 basket courts. The lovers of open-air meals can enjoy a lot of picnic areas in Agordo, like the ones close to the Polane lake or the brand new ones next to the tennis court
History and monuments
In the past, the primary source of subsistence for the people dwelling in the Heart of the Dolomites was mining activity: in many different places of the Agordino area (once subjected to the Serenissima Republic of Venice), the Agordino people have dug for Centuries in search of precious metals for industry and the weapon production. Agordo hosted the most important mining and industrial site of the Dolomites, the Val Imperina Mining Center (today an open-air museum) and the building connected to the mining activities, among which we cite the 16th Century Villa Crotta – De’ Manzoni in the town center. Also Friedrich Mohs dwelt for a while in Agordo while working on his famous “Mohs scale of mineral hardness”; a commemorative plate in the town center remind of the stay of this illustrious guest in our small town. Agordo hosts also one of the most important mining schools of Europe: it is the Umberto Follador Mining Institute, a school that have trained entire generations of Agordino people which have worked all over the world. Most part of the monuments of Agordo are thus connected with its long and successful mining history.
In addition to this, Agordo was basically the last Venetian center of a certain importance on the way the the Tyrol; its strategic importance throughout the Centuries has made Agordo a Venetian stronghold as well as a mining, administrative and customs center of primary importance. This considered, it is not surprising that a so small village of the Dolomites offers a cultural and artistic heritage so interesting and various.
On Piazza della Libertà in the town center, guests can admire the “Broi“, which is perhaps one of the most renowned and emblematic symbols of Agordo: it is a wide public meadow, surrounded by a hedge and a row of trees, given for free to the population by the previous owner. The Broi hosts both in summer and in winter many sporting and cultural events like the Vecia Popa, the Palio dei Cento, the St. Paul and Peter Patronal festival and the Fiera del Bestiam.
Close to the Broi lies the suggestive Villa Palazzo Crotta – De’ Manzoni, an ancient and prestigious Villa Veneta from the 16th Century (even if the core of the building is even more ancient). The palace was initially bought by Francesco Crotta, owner of the Val Imperina mines on state concession, and rebuilt and expanded by his descendants.
Originally indeed, the palace seems to have been formed by two different buildings; still nowadays, the Villa Crotta – De’ Manzoni is divided in two part. The fist one, facing Piazza della Libertà, hosts the descendants of the Manzoni Family; the second one houses on the other hand the Optical Museum of the worldwide known multinational company Luxottica (further information: +39 0437 62641). Another interesting feature of the Villa Crotta – De’ Manzoni are the statues adorning the garden railing, made by hand by the scuslptors from cencenighe in 1692 with stones from Mesaroz.
The Villa is open to the public also on certain occasion throughout the year; futher information at the local Tourist Office.
Behind the facade of the Villa there is an ample private in which lies also the “Torresella” [dialect: Toreséla], another strong symbol of Agordo; this monument, a striking neo gothic tower built in the 19th Century, was used as a suggestive setting for the recreational moments of the Manzoni family, like concerts and theatrical performances but also for less important occasions like tea breaks. The Torresella can be admired at best in the area close to the Agordo nursery school, but at the moment this monument can’t be visited inside due to security problems (the internal structure is old and needs definitely an heavy restoration. The facade of the tower is anyway very fascinating, and, since pretty close to the town center, it deserves at least 5-minute visit.
Piazza Libertà hosts also the imposing church of Santa Maria Nascente; this monument is characterized by the double bell tower and embellished by the artistic masterpieces of artists like Palma il Giovane, Varotari and other minor local artists.
On Piazza Libertà, in central position right behind the flag pole and close to the entrance to the Broi, there is the central fountain; this small monument its interesting because adorned with the famous St. Mark’s Lion, the symbol of the Serenissima Republik of Venice. The lion testifies the ancient bond between Venice and this small town of the Dolomites.
For some years now, the Municipality of Agordo has started to support an interesting artistic project, “Agordo Paese del Graffito“: it is a long-term initiative, conceived by the local artist Dunio Piccolin in cooperation with other colleagues from all over Italy, that aims to enhance art and local culture in the hamlets of Le Ville of Agordo (Toccol, Prompicai and Parech). Many colorful graffiti, portraing different aspects of the rural life in the Dolomites, can be admired while strolling through the alleys of these hamlets.
South of Agordo, in the area known as La Muda (close to the Galleria dei Castei on the SR203 Agordina road), guests of the village have the chance to admire the Tagliata di San Martino Fort, an interesting military stronghold built at the end of the 19th Century and rebuilt in the first post-war period by the TODD organization of the Third Reich. The Nazi Fort, as it is commonly known, occupies the place in which rose the ancient Castel Gordino, a Medieval emplacement used for centuries to prevent invasions from the south. In anticipation of the Great War, under the influence of the tension between the members of the Triple Alliance, the Reign of Italy started the building of a series of strategic posts in this area in order to stop any possible attack by the Austrian-Hungarian Army. During the Great War, the fort wasn’t involved in the active phases of the conflict (which involved on the other hand the northern part of the Agordino area); during the Italian retreat in 1917, the Tagliata di San Martino fort was blown up by the Italian Army in order not to let it to the enemy. After the Great War, the TODD Organization, a pro-Nazi organization operating in Italy, carried out the rebuilding of the Tagliata Fort, this time organizing it in order to protect from invasions from the south. Also during World War II, the fort wasn’t even touched by the war, and now it still lies there, like it was abandoned, ready to be discovered by curious and resourceful tourists.
Not far from the main square, in Via V Maggio, guests can admire the historic “Umberto Follador” Mining Institute; this mining school, active from 1775, has contributed to the fame of the Agordino mining experts all over the world during the 19th and 20th Centuries. Nowadays the school has been moved to the new location, but the old building still hosts a remarkable minerals and mining museum (further information: tel. +39 0437 62105) and some pieces of the museum are housed in the nearby Archaeologic and Mining Museum of Agordo.
Ufficio Turistico di Agordo Tel. +39 0437 62105 E-mail: email@example.com