Interview with Massimiliano Gabrielli: a globetrotter from the Dolomites

From the Australian desert to the beaches of Sri Lanka

with the Dolomites in his heart

When you know and love your homeland, you can take on the rest of the world

Read Massimiliano’s story

Massimiliano Gabrielli 2

I was born and still live in Predazzo, a village surrounded by awe-inspiring forests and magnificent mountains. From an early age my family used to take me on excursions up Catinaccio, the Pale di San Martino and especially the Latemar Group and, as I admired the breath-taking panorama, my curiosity would get the better of me and I would study the remains of the marine fossils, wondering how on earth they had ended up in the mountains.

When I was an adolescent, I was naturally drawn to anything and everything that was different, always on the lookout for something new to explore. When I was fifteen, I set off on my first trip, crossing Australia solo in three months with just my rucksack on my back and a sleeping bag. A couple of years later, as a Red Cross volunteer, I visited the beaches in Sri Lanka, devastated by the tsunami. My journey retracing the steps of Abraham in the Syrian desert was another unforgettable experience. My last cross-country trip was in the United States a couple of years ago when I walked 31,000 km with my inseparable backpack, admiring amazing natural landscapes and meeting some extraordinary people. On that particular trip, one freezing night in Arizona with the temperature -10 °C, I was sitting on the side of the road with nowhere to sleep and semi-paralysed from the cold. After a while two Navajo Indians, who were in the same boat as me, arrived. Once we got over our initial hesitation, we soon become friends and I began telling them about where I come from, the large forests and lovely mountains, and they described their homeland.

What I learnt from this experience is that if you know, respect and have a solid relationship with the environment you live in and its traditions and customs, not only do you develop a strong sense of identity and belonging, but it also helps you appreciate other cultures and places, enjoying their diversities, creating a two-way, informed and interested dialogue.

Thanks to my work at the Dolomites Geological Museum in Predazzo, I have learnt more about geology which I studied at university on my Forest Sciences course.

My personal and preferred vision of the Dolomites is a place where nature rules supreme, with no playgrounds or artificial beaches, where the morphology of the land has not been altered by digging and excavation. If the mountains remain pure, they will preserve their charm. Most of the visitors who come here do so because they are attracted by their sublime beauty. This is what we must concentrate our efforts on, on preserving and promoting our area. Thanks to progress, more people can visit the Dolomite peaks than in the past and enjoy the magnificent landscape. But I do think you can have a special relationship with the mountains if you walk the paths through the forests and on the scree slopes, stopping for a moment to catch your breath and looking around you. Spending a night in one of the many refuges or huts is an unforgettable experience, as you listen to the silence of the mountains and admire dawn as it breaks over the peaks.