Sunday, July 11, 2010

Lessinia Regional Nature Park

It is not easy to believe that in the past, instead of Lessinia, the area was covered with a warm sea rich in tropical flora and fauna. A drive up the steep slopes of the pre-Alps, will bring you to Sant'Anna d'Alfaedo, where the Museo Paleontoglogico e Preistorio will help you to discover how 50 million years ago this area was covered a big sea rich in many fish and plants. The building itself is built out of stone from the area and is divided into two parts.. The first part is devoted to geology of the territory, to explanations of the stratigraphys of the local caves, and to the exhibition of a series of fossils of exceptional value, among them a shark more than six meters long and a sea turtle, reptiles, ammonites, and echinoderms. The second part is devoted to local prehistory, rich of findings of incredible value, such as those of the cave of Fumane, including a 35,000 year old cave drawing and Roman coins intricate with detail.

Nearby is the Ponte di Veja, the largest natural bridge in Europe at 50 meters high. The bridge is the result of natural formation of the cavern. In the beginning there was a cavern of karstic origin. The structure of the cavern was represented by a sort of architrave formed by the bridge with soluble calcareous rock below. The waters of the torrents passed over the bridge, forming a waterfall. With the passing of time the sinkholes were formed bringing the waters inside the cavern, this fact led to the digging, the most soluble part leaving only the arch in red ammonitic limestone. According to a popular legend, Dante Alighieri, exiled in Verona and the guest of Cangrande della Scala, was inspired by the bridge for the description of Malebolge.

Studies and excavations began in 1932 of the caves surrounding the bridge. Estimates of human presence are based on the Upper Paleolithic and date back 100,000 years with the area populated until about 10,000 years ago, a period of probable loss of the extracting of flints for the appearance of metal in sufficient quantity for the first articles made with flint. Residents near the bridge had to be skilled craftsmen at work building the flint arrows, needles, and pins. 

Stop by the Trattoria Ponte di Veja after exploring the bridge and surrounding area. The menu includes several specialties with tartufo nero (black truffles) from the park.

Molina is a Medieval village at the junction between three valleys in steep wooded mountainside. The village itself is charming. The old stone houses reflect the style of the western Lessinia, and its botanical museum in the main square has a fine exhibition of local flora. Located below the village, is the Parco delle Cascate (Waterfalls Park), the main attraction of the village.

The final immersion of the Lessini region took place during the Tertiary era, 25 -30 million years ago, and the rocks in this area, since the moment of their sub-aerial exposition, were subjected to the action of atmospheric agents which caused their modification and fragmentation. The waterfalls were originated along the rivers because of the presence of rocks with different levels of erodibility. The clayey waterproof layers of the Biancone limestone prevent meteoric water from filtering under the ground, thus causing the creation of springs. 

From the village, follow the path to the park entrance (about 10 minute walk). And if you think the path to the entrance is steep and strenuous, turn back! Once inside the park, you can follow one of three trails. The first is the easy trail and will take you to the grotto and Cascata Nero. The red path (medium difficulty) passes by all but the panoramic viewpoint, the round well, and the Dark-breasts cave. The black path is the most difficult and passes along all points, with several very steep uphill ascents. From either the red or black paths, be sure to zip along the cableway across the Cascata del Tombolino and the bravest can swing right into the Cascata Nera. Stop by the bar once you reach the top to rest for a few minutes and cool down with an ice cream. 

To view all my pictures of Lessinia Regional Nature Park, visit 

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