Cibiana di Cadore is a little off the beaten path. But it is a wonderful place to slow down and spend time in the fall.
Cibiana is in the Dolomite Mountains of northern Italy. It is a short, arduous drive from the famous and glitzy Cortina d’Ampezzo. Cortina is an elite ski destination and a winter Olympics site (1956).
But Cibiana itself is not glamorous or snobby. It is a well-preserved stone village with a strong independent mountain spirit. It sits along a rushing stream at the base of jaw-dropping walls and spires of dolomitic rock.
The village people are tough, self-sufficient, comfortable, and friendly. Historically, the main industry was making heavy steel keys. But as that industry faded many adults had to spend most of their time in Germany working in ice cream factories. The village became a place of left-behind grandparents and children.
The rebirth of Cibiana was based on art. Artists from around the world have produced an interesting variety of murals painted on stucco panels on the outside of the ancient stone houses. Each mural depicts the original trade of the family that built the home centuries ago.
On a sunny cool day in autumn when the narrow streets are quiet it is a great place to walk and think about the history and the people who built this village. You might even find a small café/bar in the side of a home. There are two tables out front with a sweeping view of the mountains and a sheltered sunny exposure.
The cathedral has recently been refurbished and the village has a food co-operative with a wide selection. The town also has a partnership with world-famous mountain climber Reinhold Messner. Together they developed a spectacular mountain museum in a rebuilt stone fort on top of nearby Monte Rite. There are 360° views into the valleys and the high peaks of the Dolomite Mountains.
One of the village gathering places is the Hotel Ristorante Remauro. The small café on the bottom floor fills with locals each evening who come to socialize before dinner time. It is also a relaxing and cordial place to stay. The hotel staff are very helpful and friendly.
After spending a few days around Cibiana I was struck with the openness of the people. They are also hard-working as most mountain villagers are. In the fall each home has replenished their massive wood piles which are artistically stacked with pride. I was impressed with how the wood was delivered. Most people get their wood from the nearby mountains (or a few larger stacks, like hotels, are from a large scale wood company). The deliveries that I saw were made by very small three wheeled motorcycle-type vehicles with a truck bed or by a trailer hooked to the family car.
(Incidentally, I saw NO personal full-size pickup trucks in the Dolomite Mountains. Zero. In spite of the challenging mountain lifestyle, people got their wood, building materials, and yard supplies without owning a pickup. In fact, during five weeks of travel in Spain, Morocco, Austria, and Italy I saw TWO full-size pickups the entire time. But it seems as if about half the people where we live need to have a pickup. I don’t understand this.)
Cibiana is beautiful in the autumn. The hardwood trees brighten the scenery with oranges and yellows. But there is also a deciduous conifer, the European larch (Larix decidua Mill.). The European larch turns vivid yellow in the fall. And since it grows in extensive, dense stands entire mountainsides glow yellow. Of course, having a giant spire of rock protruding above the forest doesn’t hurt either.
If you love mountain scenery and peaceful, friendly villages then Cibiana di Cadore, Italy should be on your list. It is worth driving the narrow, winding mountain roads over the passes to find it. And it makes a great base for exploring the Dolomite Mountains, Venice (two hours south), and even southern Austria.