Madonna di Campiglio, the pearl of the Brenta Dolomites
Madonna di Campiglio sits at 1550 metres above sea level, in the beautiful basin between the Brenta Dolomites group and the Adamello and Presanella glaciers. Launched as a tourist destination in the second half of last century, the “pearl of the Dolomites” became an exclusive holiday resort for the Austrian and Mitteleuropa nobility and wealthy bourgeoisie. Its visitors, in 1889 and 1894, included Princess Sissi and Emperor Franz Joseph.
In 1910, the winter beauty of Madonna di Campiglio was discovered by a group of “English skiers”. Thereafter, it acquired the reputation as one of the most beautiful ski resorts in the Alps. Since then, the area has become part of skiing history, thanks also to the major international sporting events it hosts, such as the 3Tre FIS Ski World Cup.
Points of interest
Church of Santa Maria AnticaBuilt in 1894 and 1895 by local entrepreneur Franz Joseph Österreicher, this neo-Gothic church in Tyrolean style replaced the previous church that was attached to the residence. It was situated between two sections of the new Hotel Des Alpes, which Österreicher had recently inaugurated. The Austrian imperial family financed some of the interior decor, which remains visible to this day, as well as Österreicher’s sepulchre. It remained the town’s main church until 1972, when the new, larger Church of Santa Maria Nuova was erected nearby. The smaller church preserves a number of particularly important works of art, including the crucifix and the late- Gothic altar.
Canalone MiramontiDesigned in 1940 by a commission chaired by Bruno Detassis, mountaineer and director of Madonna di Campiglio’s first ski school, Canalone Miramonti is the area’s legendary ski run. In 1967, this highly challenging run, featuring marked changes in slope, played host to the first men’s World Cup event to be held in Italy. It has since been the site of a great many Alpine Ski World Cup and European Cup events, as well as junior alpine ski world championships and snowboard and freestyle world championships. Canalone Miramonti is now home to the 3Tre, a historic event created in 1948 that has since become a fixture on the International Ski Federation calendar.
Monument dedicated to Alpine GuidesNot far from Piazza Righi in the centre of town, there is a stunning sculpture created by the well-known monk Silvio Bottes. Inaugurated in 1974, this monument depicts a tall, granite boulder featuring a bronze sculpture of an alpine guide climbing the rock face.
Monument to G.B. RighiGiovanni Battista Righi, an entrepreneur originally from Strembo, was a great advocate of tourism in Madonna di Campiglio. In 1912, in commemoration of the thirtieth anniversary of his passing, a monument was dedicated to him. This large granite sculpture is a symbolic representation of the mountains and features a bronze effigy of Righi as well as the shield and eagle coat of arms of the area’s association of mountaineers. The sculpture was created by the Trentino artist Remo Stringari.
Salone Hofer (Hofer Hall)Salone Hofer, a stunning ballroom located within Hotel Des Alpes, was created towards the end of the 1800s during the reign of Franz Joseph Österreicher. The hall is elaborately decorated with frescoes and other decorations created in 1896 and 1897 by the Bolzano artist Gottfried Hofer, from whom the hall gets its name. These works miraculously survived a fire in 2007.
Hofer’s paintings include a canvas depicting the Virgin Mary appearing to a number of shepherd boys on Monte Spinale, portraits of Franz Joseph I and Elisabeth of Bavaria, a brown bear (the symbol of Madonna di Campiglio), and numerous floral, natural, and mythological figures in Art Nouveau style. Salone Hofer is a ballroom of great historical and cultural value, which has been officially recognized by the Province of Trento’s Authority of Architecture, and has hosted balls attended by illustrious guests from the Habsburg empire in the late 1800s.
Piazza RighiMadonna di Campiglio’s central square is named after local entrepreneur Giovanni Battista Righi, originally from Strembo. He purchased the remnants of Campiglio’s first residence and transformed the structure, in 1872, into a modern hotel. He named the hotel Stabilimento Alpino (Alpine establishment) in dedication to the emerging alpine tourism industry here. Righi also constructed the road connecting Campiglio, Pinzolo and Val Rendena in 1874 and 1875. In 1887, Franz Josef Österreicher, transformed the establishment into the new Grand Hotel Des Alpes. When the hotel welcomed the Austrian emperor Franz Joseph and Princess Sissi, in the 1890s, other entrepreneurs began erecting the area’s first residences around what is now Piazza Righi. The square began to take on its current form in the 1920s and it achieved its definitive form towards the end of the 1930s.
Il Giardino di Campiglio (Campiglio Gardens)Not far from the town’s lake, you will find Il Giardino di Campiglio (Campiglio Gardens), a delightful area dedicated to local residents and tourists alike, created by the District of Ragoli in 2014. Within the gardens, there is a vast park with a great many view points and short trails that tell the story of Madonna di Campiglio.
The ski jumping hillWinter sports are about more than just downhill and slalom, and history has included many disciplines, including spectacular events such as ski jumping that took place in the Palù area, where a medium-sized ski jumping hill was constructed in the 1930s. This hill was used for many events until the early 1940s, but was abandoned after World War II as interest grew in alpine skiing and ski jumping was gradually relegated to being something of a niche event. Nonetheless, the remnants of this curious relic from the past are still visible to this day as a sort of testament to the past, present and future of winter sports here in the Campiglio area.
The “Sissi Stone”Just a short walk from the town centre along the path that runs from the Church of Santa Maria Antica to Monte Spinale, there is a small, panoramic area called “Piazza Imperatrice” (Empress Square) including “Il Sasso di Sissi” (Sissi’s Stone), which, it is said, was once a favourite resting spot for Elisabeth of Bavaria on her frequent outings during her visits to the area.
The Brenta DolomitesOn June 26, 2009, in Seville (Spain), the Dolomites has been named a World UNESCO Heritage site, for its particular geological excellence. Formed of dolomite rock, a crystalline, sedimentary mineral created from the sedimentation of limestone, coral, and seashells, the Dolomites are a uniquely spectacular mountain range with majestic spires and dizzying cliff faces. The particular composition of its rock formations also results in spectacular sunsets in which the mountains themselves turn pink.
Adamello-PresanellaThe Adamello-Presanella group is the other mountain range that defines the Rendena valley. Here, the mountains are largely formed of tonalite rock (a hard, compact rock that is similar to granite) that itself was formed out of magma that rose through the earth’s crust and was trapped here. Reaching as high as 3,500 meters (11,500 ft) in altitude, over time this mountain range favoured the creation of vast glaciers along the highest summits and plateaus.
Campo Carlo Magno Pass The name of the pass Campo Carlo Magno is the result of the legend that tells how Charles the Great had stopped with his army at the pass between the Val di Sole and the Val Rendena in the 1800s, during the journey to Rome to be crowned Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. With its striking view of the Pietra Grande, in summer it is home to the Madonna di Campiglio Golf Club, one of the first to have been built in Italy in 1923 as a project by the great English golfer Sir Henry Cotton. In winter, however, it is a white expanse where there are more than 20 km of cross-country ski tracks.
Museum of the Guides and People of CampiglioEstablished in 2009, this small museum offers an intriguing, detailed look at the rise and development of mountaineering in the Rendena valley. Set up in a number of rooms of Chalet Laghetto, the museum features vintage climbing equipment, photos and portraits that date back to the early days of mountaineering, and other information on some of the most famous figures from this glorious past, such as the legendary Bruno Detassis, the “King of the Brenta”.
Lime factories in Mondifrà and FontanellaBoth along the road from Campo Carlo Magno Pass to Malga Mondifrà and in the Fontanella area of Madonna di Campiglio, you will find the remnants of buildings once used for the production of lime. (The first is clearly recognizable thanks to restoration efforts, while only a few sections of wall remain in the second location). At one time, the production of lime was an important component of local economies, as it was used both in construction and to enrich feed for livestock, to fertilize crops, to clean clothes, and to disinfect.