Hotel Villa Imperina is located in Agordo, a charming tourist centre approximately thirty kilometres (18.5 miles) from Belluno. Immersed in a lush and unspoiled landscape which is now part of the Belluno Dolomites National Park, the Valle Agordina is surrounded by a ring of mountains which have played an important role in the history of mountaineering in the Dolomites: the Agner, the Pale di San Lucano, the Tamer-S range, the Moiazza and, further north, the Civetta and Marmolada, the Queen of the ‘pale mountains’.
This is the expression used to describe these legendary peaks, whose proud beauty has made them a mecca for climbers and mountaineers from across the globe since the nineteenth century. Suffice it to say that the Agordo section of the C.A.I. – the Italian Alpine Club, was founded in 1868, the fourth in Italy and the first in the Eastern Alps.
As in all Alpine centres, the main square of Agordo is at the heart of the social, cultural and political life of the valley. We can still read the signs of a historic past when the town played an important role in the economy of what is now the Veneto area. One example is the mining industry: the rich mines of these areas have been prized since Roman times, though the first written records to mention them date back to the fifteenth century.
The very name Hotel Villa Imperina tells the story of this valley: Valle Imperina had the most important cupriferous pyrite (iron sulphide and copper) mine in the Veneto area. This metal, sought after by the Mint to coin money and by the arsenal to produce gunmetal, was mined in these areas until 1962. The mine is no longer in use and has become an amazing place to take a guided tour to discover what kinds of activities used to go on there.
In connection with mining, Agordo boasts the prestigious Istituto Tecnico Minerario “U. Follador”, founded by Quintino Sella in 1867 to train technicians to work in the extraction and processing of metal. Within the institute you can visit the Agordo Museum of Minerology and Paleontology with over 5000 samples of minerals, rocks, fossils and archaeological finds.
Of no less importance is the Museum of Optics and Eyewear at Palazzo Crotta, which is open to visitors by appointment only. The museum has a collection of over twelve hundred pieces and tells the story of the founding of Luxottica in 1961 by Leonardo Del Vecchio and how it became a worldwide brand name.