Alpe di Castrozza
(Castrozza Alp): this large grassland hollow at the foot of high inaccessible peaks was referred to with this name in old documents.
The name Castrozza is thought to derive from castrum, a Roman military outpost on a secondary road (the Via Claudia Augusta ran about 50 km from here) which served as a support base for the armies engaged in conquering the Alpine territories.
Later a spontaneous religious community, adopting a Benedictine-type order, established a Hospice in the area. Documents attest that the Hospice of Castrozza
was established to assist and give hospitality to pilgrims, wayfarers and traders who from the early Middle Ages often needed to embark on the difficult challenge of crossing the Alps. The monks disappeared mysteriously from the area in the mid-fifteenth century and the monastery was replaced by a simple benefice with no obligation to look after souls, but which continued to give hospitality to wayfarers.
A new era started for San Martino di Castrozza around the mid-nineteenth century: English explorers
, inspired by a romantic and decadent spirit driving them to face long and adventurous tours of the uncharted Dolomites, "discovered" the Pale di San Martino. The mountains first sparked the ambitions and interests of hiking enthusiasts, geologists and botanists. Later, intrepid mountain climbers, in this case not only British, faced the towering dolomitic pinnacles. Some names: Francis Fox Tuckett, John Ball, Leslie Stephen, Edward Whitwell, Theodor von Wundt, and last but not least the ladies, Mrs. Imminck and Mrs. Thomasson.
To accomplish these historic ascents, the climbers were helped by local hunters or shepherds. As time went by, these stalwart escorts became excellent and sought-after professional guides, the legendary Aquile di San Martino
(San Martino Eagles). Before long, the Hospice inn was inappropriate to give adequate hospitality to these first explorers and mountain climbers; thus, the first hotels
were built by local and foreign entrepreneurs. Shortly, San Martino di Castrozza became a first-class resort on the international tourist scene. Burnt down during the First World War by the retreating Austrian troops, San Martino, with its glamorous hotels, by now an Italian town, rose back to its previous renown after the First World War. In the 1920s, the resort’s tourist offer was completed by the rise of winter tourist facilities.
It all begins in 1861 when the English travellers Gilbert and Churchill publish their guide The Dolomite Mountains, which piques the curiosity of mountaineers including Leslie Stephen, one of the founders of the Alpine Club of London, Edward Whitwell, who will conquer the Cimon della Pala in 1870, Francis Fox Tuckett, the Earl of Lovelace, Beatrice Tomasson, but also the Dutch Jeanne Immink. The British then give way to others, including Norman Neruda, Georg Winkler, Günther Langes, who is the first to climb the Spigolo del Velo in 1920 with Erwin Merlet, Otto Herzog, Emil Solleder, Hermann Buhl, Bruno Detassis, and Ettore Castiglioni, who in 1934 builds thirty new routes on the Pale and reaches the sixth degree on the south-east edge of Sass Maor. The climbs of Reinhold Messner and Samuele Scalet in the 60s are famous, while the 70s feature those of Manolo, who opens new frontiers of climbing. Worthy of note are the local Alpine Guides, who have been able to stand out for their knowledge of the places and technical experience since the beginning of mountaineering.