Art & Cuisine in the Dolomites

Author: Barbara Pichler
Photos: Biennale Gherdëina; Dolomites Val Gardena

The Val Gardena Valley, in the heart of the Dolomites, is a place filled with history, tradition and art. In addition to multifaceted landscapes, Ladinia also has a unique linguistic aspect to of- fer. Three different cultures meet here – the Ladin, the Italian and the German. Ladin is a Rhaeto-Romanic language that was developed during the five centuries of Roman rule in the Alpine regions and was preserved due to the so- mewhat isolated location of the Val Gardena and Badia Valleys.


The old customs that are still alive here today, and passed on from generation to generation, are equally interesting. For example, the old tradition of wood sculptors: The famous wood carvings can be admired in the various carving ateliers or bought as souvenirs in shops. What began more than 400 years ago with the first carved utensils and toys has developed into a true artform over the centuries.

This year’s highlight is the Biennale Gherdëina, an event that merges the region’s old traditions with contemporary art. It can be seen as a stimulus for an exchange of ideas about art and life.


Our guided tour begins in the pedestrian area of Ortisei. Here we will see the first works of art, which occupy the center of the village as installations. Opposite the main exhibition in the ‘Trenker Hall’ we will find the “Art 52” exhibition with carvings by Val Gardena sculptors. The Rasciesa funicular takes guests over the Trenker Promenade to an altitude of 2,200 meters above sea level in eight minutes. At this height, the views of the mountain scenery with the Sella massif, Marmolada and Sassolungo are even more impressive. An impressive encounter with traditional and contemporary art in harmony with nature.


You can experience the new and the old Ladinia and marvel at the development of this special linguistic island here. Just as exciting: the Fischburg Castle, which is partially open during the time of the Biennale and is otherwise rarely accessible to visitors.


Alex Cecchetti’s “Sentiero” begins in St. Christina. This path invites you to an action-packed immersion into nature, where the artist interweaves plants with fabrics and enables very special encounters between humans and the local flora and fauna. Cecchetti’s approach is reminiscent of the ‘Little Prince’ by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It is about the beauty, love and responsibility for all that we have come to know. At the end of the hiking trail, visitors reach the yurt: a haven of peace and a temple of contemplation.

With our tour a visit to some interesting culinary highlights is guaranteed. One of them is above St. Christina. Another special place can be explored here, which, like an eagle’s nest, has provided an incredible view of the area since the 13th century. It’s Klaus and Gemma’s farm, which they have carefully restored. The façade of the old family farm impresses with its original aesthetics. The three rooms and the kitchen of the house were lovingly made habitable from the old materials. The five daughters of the house slept in the smallest room, just 2 x 3 m in size, up until the 1980s. Today, the farmers work the yard with a garden and keep three cows, some chickens and even rabbits. These are the main resources of the homemade Ladin specialties. Klaus and Gemma receive guests three days a week and serve their delicacies in their impressive dining room. The view from the courtyard is breathtaking, the calmness is wonderful, and that despite the proximity to the popular tourist resort.

Art & Cuisine in the Dolomites
Art & Cuisine in the Dolomites
Barbara Pichler is certified Tour Guide and Experience Designer for laifain.

From Selva we’ll go to the nearby Langental Valley. Along the way you can experience sounds, art installations and, depending on the events calendar of the Biennale, also admire live performances. Back in Selva we will head to the cultural center Tublà da Nives. Here you can meet some artists of the younger generation. There is the possibility of reaching the Sellajoch from Selva, with its climbing garden “Steinerne Stadt” (“the stone city”) and another unbelievable panoramic view of the Dolomites. If you want, you can take the train from the Sellajoch to the Langkofelscharte wind gap. Fun fact: the lift is a real museum piece.


Here we can experience it very clearly: the people of Val Gardena are always drawn towards art and creativity. In times of need, like a few hundred years ago, and also now, when it is less about economic ‘need’ and more about a new confrontation with being and a new form of longing. A lon- ging for what was. It is easy to find your way back to yourself through nature, in slowness, in art and in creativity.


The 8th edition of the Biennale Gherdëina festival, curated by Lucia Pietroiusti and Filipa Ramos, is entitled ‘Persones Persons’ and will take place from May 20th to September 25th, 2022. It will be held in Ortisei and the surrounding countryside of the Val Gardena Valley, in the heart of the Dolomites.

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