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Parco Naturale Dolomiti Friulane
The Friulian Dolomites are an outdoor lover's paradise © Mario Vechin, PTFVG
This is one of only four natural sites in Italy to make UNESCO’s World Heritage list, precisely because it remains so refreshingly untouched.
For many, this will be Friuli’s star attraction: one of the most scenic and pristine patches of northern Italy. The Friulian side of the Dolomites has never attracted the same attention as the side in the Veneto, but that has made it perfect for the sort of nature tourism that is increasingly popular. The Dolomiti are impressive enough from the valleys, on the roads that follow the Tagliamento or the Cellina, but it is only when you hike up into them that you can really appreciate their delicate peaks and spires – some of the most beautiful mountain landscapes in the world.
The Dolomiti Friulane are a relatively compact area between the Piave valley, the upper Tagliamento valley and the Val Tramontina. Much of it is encompassed in the Valcellina and Parco Naturale Dolomiti Friulane. Created in 1992, this is one of only four natural sites in Italy to make UNESCO’s World Heritage list, precisely because the core peaks – Cima dei Preti (2,706m), Duranno (2,652m), Cridola (2,581m), Cima Monfalconi (2,548m), Spalti di Toro (2,386m) and the sublime solitary Campanile di Val Montanaia (2,173m) – are still refreshingly untouched. There are no villages at all within the park borders – not even any roads.
The quiet, rugged villages around the periphery are an attraction in themselves; their friendly people help make them perfect bases for exploring the mountains. Barcis and its lovely green lake make an exceptionally relaxing setting. The western end of the Dolomites brings a surprise: the incredible Vajont Dam, and the memory of the terrible tragedy of 9 October 1963, the Vajont tsunami.