Magmatic rocks from the Dolomites, Carnic and Julian Alps, Italy, have been sampled to investigate the origin and geodynamic setting of Triassic magmatism in the Southern Alps. Basaltic, gabbroic and lamprophyric samples have been characterized for their petrography, mineral chemistry, whole-rock major and trace elements, and Sr, Nd and Pb isotopic compositions. Geothermobarometric estimates suggest that the basaltic magmas crystallized mostly at depths of 14–20 km. Isotopic data show variable degrees of crustal contamination decreasing westwards, probably reflecting a progressively more restitic nature of the crust, which has been variably affected by melting during the Permian period. Geochemical and isotopic data suggest that the mantle source was metasomatized by slab-derived fluids. In agreement with previous studies and based on geological evidence, we argue that this metasomatism was not contemporaneous with the Ladinian–Carnian magmatism but was related to previous subduction episodes. The lamprophyres, which likely originated some 20 Ma later by lower degrees of melting and at higher pressures with respect to the basaltic suite, suggest that the mantle source regions of Triassic magmatism in the Dolomites was both laterally and vertically heterogeneous. We conclude that the orogenic signatures of the magmas do not imply any coeval subduction in the surrounding of Adria. We rather suggest that this magmatism is related to the Triassic rifting episodes that affected the western Mediterranean region and that were ultimately connected to the rifting events that caused the break-up of Pangea during the Late Triassic – Early Jurassic period.