Geography & history

What you should know about the Val Gardena origins

The name Val Gardena is first recorded in a deed of gift from the year 999, when Duke Otto von Andechs made the Bishop of Freising a present of an area of woodland called "Forestum ad Gredine". Val Gardena – Gröden in German, and Gherdëina in Ladin – means "fence".

Val Gardena, the heartland of the Ladin culture, is about thirteen miles long and runs more or less from west to east from the narrow entrance to the valley at Ponte Gardena to Selva at the end of the valley and up to Passo Gardena and Passo Sella. The lowest point is located at 470 m above sea-level, while the highest is Sassolungo (3,181 m).

Val Gardena starts off as a gorge-like valley before it opens out after the defile at Pontives to form a high-level valley at Roncadizza, at about 1,100 m above sea-level.

From Pontives the valley rises gradually to Ortisei (1,236 m) and continues to gain in height as far as S. Cristina (1,428 m) and Selva Gardena (1,563 m). These are the main centres of the three valley communities, of which Selva Gardena is the biggest in area. Roncadizza, Bulla and Oltretorrente – on the left bank of Rio Gardena – have been part of the adjoining community of Castelrotto since the Middle Ages. For the church, however, the valley is a single unit, the Deanery of Val Gardena.

Concerning the history we do not know a lot about the area of the Dolomites if we think of the prehistoric times. Some reminds announce on one hand an early settlement of this area but on the other hand we haven’t got much information about the way of life. It is merely based upon suppositions. But one remind found in Val Gardena made prick up an archeologist’s ear: at "Plan de Frea" prehistoric objects were found during archaeological excavations. Archeologists date this find 6000 before Christ. Arrowheads, needles and other tools has been shown turned out to be the oldest archaeological finds in the whole area of the Dolomites.

This supposition could be revealed as true, because a permanent settlement of this place was rather unlikely during the winter period.