Maybe the truth depends on a walk around a lake.
Auronzo di Cadore and its lake in the Dolomites
A lake with incredible colours and green expanses surrounded by the Dolomites: this is what you will experience in this incredible area in the province of Belluno in the Veneto Region.
If you are a mountain lover in the summer and are looking for excursions with views that will leave you breathless, then a holiday in the Cadore area is the right thing for you!
Let’s start from the mountains called “Pale Mountains”; the Dolomites have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2009, for their aesthetic and landscape value and for their scientific importance at a geological and geomorphological level.
Their great variety of shapes, both vertical and horizontal, almost makes the Dolomites look like a work of man.
Fascinating and beautiful, these mountains are also rich in biodiversity; there are numerous natural parks created to protect the flora and fauna of the Dolomites, unique in the world, like the Parco delle Dolomiti Bellunesi.
But today I am talking about the Lake of Santa Caterina known also as the Lake of Auronzo.
Auronzo di Cadore
A village, a lake, splendid Dolomite peaks and verdant forests: this is Auronzo di Cadore, an alpine village nestled in a valley in the Dolomites. Established holiday destination, in all seasons, it is the only centre from which you can admire the southern slope of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo.
Origin and History
The name Auronzo derives from the name of the ancient inhabitants of Cadore, the Eboruntii or Aboruntii. Some argue instead that it derives from the Latin word aurum (gold) due to the presence of a mine.
The first evidence of the presence of the Romans was discovered at the end of the twentieth century in the area of Tarin. Following the accidental discovery of Venetian and Roman finds on Mount Calvario, some excavations were carried out which brought to light a stepped sanctuary (dated 199 BC – 476 AD), one of the most important archaeological sites in the region.
The territory has always been the subject of disputes. Between the Austrians and Venice at the time of the Serenissima, between the Germans and the French with Napoleon, but especially during the First World War when it was an Italian military garrison. On Monte Piana the trenches, barricades and tunnels, dug into the rock, are still preserved today.
Auronzo di Cadore is linked to the history of the artificial lake of Santa Caterina, which takes its name from the small chapel built on its banks.
Lake Santa Caterina also known as Lake Auronzo
Lake Santa Caterina, also known as Lake Auronzo, is located in the municipality of Auronzo di Cadore at 830m above sea level, in the province of Belluno . Its extension is 0.49kmq.
It is an artificial lake dating back to the first half of the last century. The works to build a dam that blocked the Ansiei River, creating a basin 2 kilometres long, capable of collecting 625,0000 cubic meters of water, began in 1930 and ended in 1932, to allow the channelling of water in order to power the hydroelectric plant downstream. It is still in operation today for the production of electricity.
The dam, 55 meters high, 35 meters thick at the base and 5.5 meters at its top, over which the first bridge passes, was given in concession to the companies of the time which were then acquired by Enel in the 1960s. The lake finally took the name of Santa Caterina thanks to the presence of a chapel dating back to 1500 located near the dam, and which was dedicated to the saint.
Until a few years ago the races of the Cadore Motonautical Grand Prix were held on the lake, while the canoe-kayak championships are still held today. While walking, it often happens to meet athletes in training with their canoes in the lake.
The Historic Centre and the Churches
At the entrance to the town there is the Ponte dei Leoni, two stone lion statues that mark the beginning of the dam. There are many places of worship in the area.
In the center of Villagrande there is the parish church of Santa Giustina built in 1772, with its seven altars. The painter Giovanni De Min created the frescoes of the choir and two large oil paintings “The resurrection of Lazarus” and the “Desecration of the Temple”.
Also worth visiting are the octagonal Church of San Lucano, consecrated in 1856 in Villapiccola and the Church of Santa Caterina, in the locality of Cella, rebuilt in 1554 and to which the lake owes its name.
Finally, the Church of the Madonna delle Grazie built in 1743 as a vow to redeem the controversy between Dobbiaco and Auronzo. On top of the dome there is an iron rooster that recalls the legend relating to the achievement of peace.
Museums in Auronzo
In the center of Auronzo it is possible to visit the Palazzo Conte Metto Museum, a multi-thematic museum divided into four sections: Life and Earth Sciences, Archaeology, the “Great War” and mining and mineralogical activities.
With about two hours of walking you will arrive at the open-air museum of the First World War on Monte Piana, where the trenches, tunnels and military posts are still visible. A plateau, paths, woods and rocks that testify to the bitter fight between Italians and Austrians.
A simple walk by the lake for postcard photos
Arriving by car in Auronzo di Cadore is pretty easy and the first thing welcoming you is the dam that delimits Lake Santa Caterina.
On the left there is an old cabin of the Monte Agudo cable car, now replaced by the modern chairlift located in the Reane / Taiarezze area, and two winged Lions of San Marco, symbol of the Serenissima, guarding the entrance to the dam bridge itself. Continuing a few meters you will also find the church of Santa Caterina to which the lake is dedicated.
As you will discover from the external engraving, the saint from which the lake takes the name is Saint Catherine of Alexandria, a virgin and martyr who lived between 200 and 300 AD. The church was consecrated in 1554 but documents show its presence several years earlier, in 1388. It is a small mountain church that deserves to be looked at even just from the outside.
The route can be started in many places, by parking the car and walking down the various roads that lead to the lake. For convenience of parking, I recommend going down to the lake in Transacqua, Via Zardus, after crossing the town center, where the municipality has just completed the renovation of the car park as well as the reopening of the “beach of the Dolomites”, a real mini sandy beach, equipped with umbrellas, deck chairs and swimming pool and a bar/restaurant, Bucintoro.
The path running along the lake begins from there.
The route is flat with a very small climb from the left side, just past the Juventus Hotel in the direction of the Palaghiaccio, but it is really a ridiculous difference in height, and almost always runs along the lake.
In some places the banks are high, while in others they lower to form small green areas where it is also possible to stop for a picnic or to sunbathe. In the part of the path on the right of the lake, running along the mountain, you will also find several streams of water that descend and pour into the lake.
One in particular is harnessed in a thirst-quenching fountain. Also along the right bank you will find benches and areas with tables for picnics, in the shade or in the sun.
The entire circular route around the lake is no more than 6 kilometres long, and goes from the first bridge, the one of departure in the locality of Transacqua, to the Santa Caterina dam and back on either sides. In addition to these two crossing points, halfway through the route it is possible to cross the lake on a third bridge made of wood and iron, which I recommend to cross at least halfway to take wonderful postcard photos.
The walk on foot is suitable for all ages and also with a stroller.
Lake Auronzo is navigable, in fact, you will find a pedal boat rental service to have fun like at the sea. Canoe and kayak competitions are held every year.
Halfway through the route you will also notice a structure similar to a covered grandstand, which was used when the Powerboating championships were held. Nowadays it is used very little, but it is an excellent observation point of the lake.