As a result of a phase of extensional tectonics in the western Tethyan region, a horst and graben topography formed during the Middle Triassic (Ladinian) in northern Italy. Horsts were sites of shallow water carbonate sedimentation, while pelagic and volcaniclastic sediments were deposited in the grabens. Two carbonate platforms approximately 500 m thick can be distinguished in the Marmolada area of the Dolomites: the Marmolada platform proper, which covered an area of 6 km2, and the Costabella platform, which extended for about 12 km in a NW-SE direction and was about 3 km across.

The facies of these isolated platforms reflect the influence of storms from the SW. Windward platform margins were characterized by a marine sand belt of skeletal and aggregate grainstones with a dominant platform directed cross-stratification. The central portions of the platforms were occupied by supratidal sand cays which are made up of storm washovers. Leeward parts of the platforms are composed of shallow subtidal sand flat deposits. Laterally discontinuous reefs chiefly composed of various calcareous algae are developed at the outer margins of the platforms. Along windward margins, reefs may form a belt several hundred metres wide; along leeward margins their width is commonly reduced to some tens of metres. Foreslope talus breccias surround the platforms. Clinoform bedding showing basinward dips of 30°-40° is typical of this facies belt, which is approximately 2 km wide. Basinal sediments, only some tens of metres thick, are radiolarian micrites. Abundant sediment-gravity-flow deposits expand the basinal sequence at the toes of windward margins and were probably triggered by storm return flows.

Synsedimentary faults striking both NNE-SSW and NW-SE separate the bedded platform limestones from flank deposits and reefs. They account for the stationary nature of the platforms. Neptunian dykes show preferred NNE-SSW and E-W trends. Sinistral displacements are associated with NW-SE trending faults. Depressions in the basins, filled with red, turbiditic pelagic sediments, show N-S trends and are probably compressional in origin. The structural pattern may have resulted from oblique, NW-SE oriented extension of the E-W trending Middle Triassic graben zone of the Dolomites.

In the Ladinian of the Dolomites, the stationary platform type can be distinguished from a retrograding type, whereas continuously prograding platforms apparently did not develop.