The Dolomites have always had a huge impact on those who admired them for the first time and it is not a secret that they are acclaimed as the most beautiful mountains on earth. In fact, they actually contribute to the definition of the concept of ‘natural beauty’ developed in the years preceding their ‘discovery’, thanks to the philosophy of the aesthetic of the sublime.
Long before being painted and photographed, the Dolomites were described by scientists and climbers through reports that clearly told the extraordinary emotion that invaded their minds looking at them, in fact they used words that corresponded exactly to the categories of the 18th century aesthetic of the sublime: amazement, transcendence, verticality, intense colors, grandeur, essential purity, monumentality, mystical asceticism and tormented forms.
The very first explorers who revealed not only the aesthetic relevance but also the geological and geo-morphological peculiarities of the Dolomites were two eminent scientists and cultural figures: Leopold von Buch and Alexander von Humboldt, through their reports and travelers’ accounts. Then, the publication of the first guidebooks for explorers and travelers presented these mountains to a larger public: Murray’s Handbook written by J. Murray, Reisehandbuch durch Tirol written by B. Weber and The Dolomite Mountains written by J. Gilbert and G. C. Churchill.
Moreover, there are several tales and legend about these mountains, originated by the presence and relationships between Italian, Ladin and German cultures inhabiting the area, which helped to portray the Dolomites as a charming fabled epic world.
After their scientific ‘discovery’, there were lots of Romantics who imagined the Dolomites as the ruins of a mythical city inhabited by Titans.
The evocative power of their outlook is such that the term ‘Dolomites’ could finally be used also to describe other mountains in Europe: there are indeed Dolomites in Sicily, in the south of Italy, in France, in Slovenia, in Switzerland and in Norway as well.