Opening the doors of the “Vittorino Cazzetta” Museum in Selva di Cadore

There is a grand total of 33 museums in the UNESCO Dolomites territories, and they all play an important part in increasing awareness and knowledge of the history and the natural, landscape, geological, ethnoanthropological, scientific and cultural features of this vast land. Everything that speaks of the Dolomites and the people who live there, or lived there in the past, is of inestimable value if we are to actively conserve this natural Property that has been recognised by UNESCO. Today marks the first stage of a long journey of discovery which will take us to each of these 33 museums. We decided to start with the one which preserves one of the most sensational findings regarding the ancient inhabitants of the Dolomite valleys: the Vittorino Cazzetta Museum in Selva di Cadore, in the province of Belluno.


Many great discoveries are the result of a combination of intuition, perseverance and expertise. These are the words of Sergio Sommacal in an excerpt from “Appuntamento con il destino nella grotta del Piz del Corvo” (Appointment with my fate in the Piz del Corvo cave) and published on the website The Val Fiorentina was already renowned for its interesting findings, like the dinosaur footprints which Vittorino Cazzetta himself discovered on a rock which had become detached from Pelmetto but kept to himself for a long time. In the mid-Eighties, Ermenegildo Riva (today chairman of the Friends of the Museum) came across a book about the Mesolithic people in the Dolomites. Cazzetta happened to see it and was reminded of the times he used to take his cattle up to graze on Mondeval de Sora: he was sure he had seen objects like the ones he saw in the photos under a large rock. In the spring of 1985, he climbed to Mondeval de Sora (at an altitude of 2150 metres), in the municipality of San Vito di Cadore. The later dig, overseen by Prof. Antonio Guerreschi, lecturer in Prehistoric Archaeology at the University of Ferrara, revealed a Mesolithic burial site in 1987: a Cro-Magnon hunter, who lived about 7500 years ago, was found lying on his back with all his grave goods. The state of preservation of the skeleton was, and still is, astonishing and it is still the subject of many studies.


For most people, a visit to the Cazzetta Museum in Selva di Cadore means meeting the man who has been called “Valmo”, taking a look at his skeleton, admiring his grave goods and realising the scientific importance of the discovery made thirty-one years ago, before the findings in Val Rosna and the Similaun mummy. But there are many other items of interest at the Museum, the running of which was handed over to the association “Trame di Storia” last year by the town of Selva di Cadore.

Of great interest are the geological section, with its important geo-paleontological and archaeological findings, tracing the history of the Val Fiorentina, and the historical section, which preserves the Paleovenetian stele of Mount Pore, found in 1866, and casts of the rock inscriptions of Mount Civetta, which marked the boundary between the Roman municipalities of Bellunum (Belluno) and Iulium Carnicum (Zuglio Carnico).

“At the moment” explains the mayor, Silvia Cestaro, “we are in the final stages of arranging and extending our exhibition space. The work has involved mainly the second floor, where we pass from the Mesolithic age to the historical section which is now home to new exhibits which have recently been restored, like some Roman coins and a clasp which were found at the Mondeval dig. We have also focused more attention on the Neolithic site of Mandriz, which is now central to the exhibition. The map and parchment section has also been extended” points out the mayor. The sections dedicated to the Gothic Alpine style and the Fursil mines are also well worth a visit. At the end of the visit, a map of the nine Dolomite Systems recognised by UNESCO and photos of the Pelmo-Croda da Lago System are on show.

“I would like to thank all those who have funded this work,” concludes mayor Cestaro, “the Veneto Region, the Cariverona Foundation, all those who contributed with an art bonus, everyone who worked on the new displays and of course the Association Amici del Museo. Our decision to hand over management of the museum to “Trame di Storia” has been very positive from an organisational point of view. We are also very happy with the number of visitors because we have noticed a substantial increase in foreign tourists from Germany, Spain, France, Slovenia, Russia and Japan”.


The Mondeval Man is the protagonist, together with the Similaun mummy, at the exhibition “Ötzi e Valmo: quando gli uomini incontrarono le Alpi” (Ötzi and Valmo: when man met the Alps) at the new Lagazuoi Expo Dolomiti gallery which lies 2778 metres high in the mountains. The exhibition focuses on the years (more than 2000) which separate the man found in Val Senales from the one discovered on Mondeval, the climate changes which have made the Alps habitable, the materials used for their tools and the techniques used to hunt and procure food