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Art and culture – attractions in the Val Gardena

Geography and history

The Val Gardena extends for around 25 km from Ponte Gardena (470 m) to the Sella Pass (2240 m) and has three main villages: Ortisei, Santa Cristina and Selva. The valley is surrounded by the magnificent Dolomite Mountains. The majestic peaks, as well as the varied flora and fauna, make it a very popular holiday destination in the heart of nature. British tourists were the first to discover this area as a playground for climbing in the summer and skiing in the winter and visitors from all over the world are now discovering the valley as a year-round resort in the Italian Alps.

Culture and historical monuments

Of course, there are also sites of historical, cultural and religious interest in the Val Gardena: The St. Silvester chapel in Vallunga; the Fischburg castle, the Ruins of the Wolkenstein castle and the pilgrim’s church of “Maria Hilf” are just some of the places you should definitely visit.

Wolkenstein Church “Maria Hilf”

Church Maria Hilf

The parish church of Selva dates back to 1503, when Wilhelm von Wolkenstein built a chapel dedicated to "Maria Hilf" (Mary, Help of Christians). It has been extended several times over the years and has become a valuable pilgrimage site among the most faithful

The painting at the altar of the Virgin and Child is a beautiful copy of the Maria Hilf, painted by Lucas Cranach in the city of Dresden in 1537 and currently preserved in Innsbruck.

St. Silvester chapel in Vallunga

Silvester chapel in Vallunga

At the entrance to the Vallunga you will find the little chapel of dedicated to the patron saint of cattle, San Silvestre. The chapel is in an idyllic setting.

During restoration work in 1993, interesting frescos came to light that were created more than 300 years ago. It is just a short, easy walk to reach and can be combined with a walk to the “Pra da Ri”, a natural field at the highest part of the valley.

Ruins of the Wolkenstein castle

Ruins of the Wolkenstein castle

The Ruins of the Wolkenstein castle can be visited from Vallunga, also known as Langental. It is the ancestral seat of the noble Tyrolean family Wolkenstein-Trostburg and was constructed in the 13th century.

It is understood that it once served as a summer hunting residence for the family of the well-known composer and late medieval poet Oswald von Wolkenstein, although only a stone floor and a wall facing the valley survive today. Due to its deteriorated condition, access may be subject to restrictions.

Traditional customs in Selva and Val Gardena

The historic and artistic tailoring of costumes.

One of the most important traditions of the Val Gardena is the design and making of traditional costumes.

For centuries, the Val Gardena has proudly presented its traditional garments, which with their elaborate decorations and meticulous goldsmith work, are among the most beautiful in the entire Alpine region.

Traditional costumes used to be part of everyday life because they revealed, based on their colours and details, the marital status and age of the person who wore them. In this way these costumes could be compared to modern-day Facebook or Instagram in the way that each outfit tells the story of its wearer’s life in its design details and the care of its composition.

Folklore festival – the traditional dress of the Val Gardena

Folclore festival

These days the traditional costumes are only used on special occasions such as costume parades and family celebrations. All the beauty of the costumes of the Val Gardena can be seen in the annual “Val Gardena in costume” parade which takes place each year in August.

The costumes are presented, accompanied by traditional folk dance groups and musical bands. The inhabitants of the Val Gardena are proud to use these celebrations to show visitors the ancient customs of the valley and to bring to life a piece of times gone by.

The art of woodcarving in the Val Gardena

Woodcarving in the Val Gardena

The Val Gardena is not just famous for impressive scenery and the hospitality of its inhabitants. The valley is also world famous for its woodcarving and the artistic ability brought to such a precious natural material. The many artists who live and work as sculptors have inherited this tradition; in many cases the art has been passed down from father to son. Today the tradition of woodcarving is the most important cultural patrimony of the valley.

Today, artistic woodcarving is one of the most important economic sectors in the Southern Alps and especially in the Val Gardena, thanks to the extraordinary design and quality of the artworks produced by many renowned artists. The sacred art, nativities and secular ornaments are recognised worldwide.

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