9. Canazei

9 Canazei in Valle di FassaDolomites092

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Canazei, a few kilometres on from Campitello, sits at 1,460 metres, at the foot of the Pordoi and Sella Passes and at the point that the Fassa Valley and Valle di Penia meet. I have known Canazei for almost forty years and it has altered a great deal during that time, changing from a compact, modest valley base to become an ever increasing sprawl of large and popular hotels. These mostly feed the insatiable demands of the skiing industry. Unsurprisingly, it is quite easy to find accommodation in the town even in high summer.

That growth, plus doubts that the high viewpoint used by Zardini would have remained free of tree cover, meant that I was not optimistic of achieving a match with the Zardini shot. I believe it was originally shot from a popular picnic spot beside the Pordoi Pass road, which has avoided tree growth from as yet completely obscuring its view west, down the Fassa Valley. I found the spot almost by accident, when I stopped to consult my map. I was unable to reach the
exact spot Zardini used, which is now deep in mature pine woods, but I was able to take my photo from no more than 50 metres away from there.

Subsequently, I found, in a wonderful book of photos of the Dolomites in the 1930s, that the area was clear of trees right up until that time, so the growth has been prolific in less than a century.

For the Cortina - Bolzano version of the booklet about the Road, Zardini revisited the original viewpoint over Canazei and re-shot it. The changes are small, and the viewpoint very slightly different:


These views are very similar to this exquisitely (hand?)-coloured postcard of a view at least as early as Zardini’s first photograph, and from a near-identical viewpoint:

Early Canazei001

The card carries no date but is in a style of other Dolomites cards on sale in the 1950s. The view itself dates from much earlier.

This view is later, on a card dated by the sender in 1937. The slopes immediately in front of the photographer were a WW1 cemetery at that time. It has long gone, with the creation of a modern cemetery west of the town:

Canazei 1937001

A 1957 postcard view:

Canazei 1957

A view from very close by in the late 1960s:

Canazei Late 1960s001

It is unusual that Zardini devotes just one photograph to Canazei, which, even in the early part of the twentieth century, would have been one of the major small towns along the Road. Here is the Hotel Bernard, in the late 1920s, one of many well-established of Canazi’s hotels by that time. Both it and the war memorial are still there:

Albergo Bernard Canazei

This un-dated and un-named postcard shows the Road passing the grand Hotel Canazei in the late 1920s. The view is to the south-east, into Val Contrin, and the snowy top of the Gran Vernel, neighbouring peak to the Marmolada, stands left of centre:


For many years since, the large hotel has been known as the Dolomiti, or the Dolomitenhof. I spent two hard hours in September 2013 trying to find the original viewpoint for this postcard, in the thick pine forest which now blankets the slopes above Canazei. I came very close with this photo:


As already mentioned, in the years immediately after WW1, Canazei had at least one military cemetery, as seen in this Ghedina postcard view looking towards Punta Collaz, or Collac:

Canazei Cemetery 1920s001

The WW1 cemetery has now gone, its place taken by this piece of brutalist concrete municipal cemetery architecture from the 1990s:


The nearby church is quite new, but is a delight, however.

This black and white Ghedina postcard, hand-dated by the sender in July 1960 looks across to the section of the Road from which Zardini’s shots above were taken. It shows very clearly The Road as it winds up the start of Passo Pordoi, and emphasises how clearly it stood out on early postcards, in the days before the surface was made tarmac:


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