Monday, January 20, 2014

Madonna di Campiglio

Green mountains covered with flowers, permanently snow-covered peaks, places imbued with a legendary past and in fashion with the tourists looking towards the future, Madonna di Campiglio is all of these.

An old medieval settlement, it acquired importance under the Habsburgs, when it became one of the favourite residences of the Austrian nobility.

Today it is one of the most famous summer and winter resorts of the whole Alpine range. It is situated in the upper part of the Val Rendena and surrounded on the east by the peaks of the Brenta Dolomites and to the west by the ramifications of the Presanella Mountains. Madonna di Campiglio, in the province of Trento and at a height of 1522 metres, owes everything to an enterprising gentleman who, in 1872 bought up the land where a hospice for pilgrims had stood since the XII century, from the Trento cathedral chapter, and built the first hotel on the road going up from Pinzolo. His name was Giovan Battista Righi and the year was 1872. Today there is a statue dedicated to him in the square. The locality in the valley of Sarca di Nambino (or Campiglio) started its life as a tourist attraction. It’s here, around these elegant streets where people come on holiday, that international skiing competitions are held along the tracks of the Brenta Dolomites, with its vast faces marked by towers, bell towers and frozen streams. It´s an spectacular opportunity for skiing or rock-climbing. The highest peaks are Cima Tosa (3173 m.) and Cima Brenta (3150 m.).
The only defects to be found in this area are the uncontrolled building which has distorted the original character of this mountain village and the car traffic which in peak season is like the traffic in a big city. Otherwise there are excellent hotels, restaurants and structures offering the tourist their best for a fun and satisfying holiday in every respect. The long-distance skiing at Campo Carlomagno and at Patascoss with ski-runs of five and 15 kilometres and three easier loops, in fascinating natural surroundings is romantic and highly satisfying; the skating in the heart of the town, with race circuits, is fun and the mountaineering ski setting is suggestive.

What to see
There are some contemporary frescoes and a valuable triptych with gothic sculptures above the altar in the old gothic town church. In the nearby Pinzolo, the church in the cemetery, which probably dates back to before the year 1000 and still conserves the stone bell-tower with a pyramidal crown, typical of those times, is worth seeing. The building, transformed in the XV century, presents a steeply sloping roof which protects, on the south facade, a fresco which is 20 metres long. The painting, known as the “Danza Macabra”, was realised by the bergamasco artist Simone Baschenis who completed it in 1539. The eloquent allegorical images on the transience of human life are emphasised by another series of frescoes by the same artist on the mortal sins. Unfortunately, these are in a rather degraded state due to the adverse weather.

In December, the World Cup stops here for a classic ski competition: special slaloms on the '3-Tre', one of the best ski-runs in Campiglio which is sometimes closed to tourists so as not to ruin the snowy mantle. Halfway through January it’s the turn of the Winter Marathon, a race for enthusiasts more than a marathon, which has numerous vintage cars racing neck to neck from all over Europe. Worth seeing is Speedway on ice, spectacular and very unusual exhibition: motorbikes with spiked tyres which crash into each other on an ice circuit.
The Hapsburg carnival, held on Shrove Tuesday in the streets of the town is picturesque, with exhibitions of typical local folklore in costumes and dance.

Madonna di Campiglio is equipped for all sports. In summer and in winter, in fact, it offers a wide choice. In winter for those who don’t want to ski there are swimming-pools, golf courses and beauty farms. In the summer, the more daring can cross the difficult mountain paths by mountain bike or opt for a parachute jump or hang-gliding in the Dolomites.
But you can also fish or play tennis on one of the many courts in Campiglio. Nature lovers can take trips to the higher parts of the mountains along marked routes which allow you to explore the fascinating microcosm of the Brenta Dolomites, or go in search of mushrooms in the vast conifer woods which surround the town.

It is however inevitable that the main sport in Campiglio remains skiing. The profusion of ski centres, ski-runs and infrastructure of services makes this locality a continuous destination for enthusiasts in winter. The snow is hardly ever a problem, in fact, it snows in abundance, but in case, the ski centre directors have equipped the runs with 320 cannons for artificial snowing along the various slopes, like Canalone Miramonti, the top place for the slalom, where the "3-Tre", the classic and historic World Cup competition, has been organised for many years.

There are three areas for skiing. The first, it is Mount Spinale, where most of the ski centres are scattered over the slopes of the Brenta group,  and can be reached by a cabin-lift from Campo Carlomagno. The other two areas, Pradalago to the north and Cinque Laghi to the east, grew up together. There are more than thirty installations for getting up to the top (cable-cars, chair-lifts and automatic ski-lifts) also connected to the installations of Marilleva and Folgarida, in Val di Sole, for a skiing carousel which is truly exceptional. In an hour 26,000 people can be taken to the top, where they have about 90 km of ski-runs at every level available, some are even black. The connections with Folgarida and Marilleva are excellent. The two little towns can be reached by a two seater chair-lift which leaves from Lake Malghette. The area is equipped with four telecabins, 14 chair-lifts and 5 ski-lifts.

The atmosphere in the town reflects the surrounding country. So, everywhere, in the little squares, in the shop windows and inside all the public places, colour reigns. Pale colours are used with wood, plays of light, frescoed shop signs on the walls. In the shops the handicrafts alternate with sports wear. Every type of sports equipment, Loden jackets and coats, materials, painted and varnished wooden or papier- maché objects, objects made by the artisans of the valley, silverware and dainties are just some of the things that you’ll find in the shop windows.

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