The Adamello-Brenta Park is the largest protected area in Trentino and one of
the largest in the Alps. It covers a mountain area of 620.51 square km, between
477 and 3,558 m of altitude. In the west it includes the imposing
Adamello-Presanella mountain group (Trentino section), a realm of waters:
huge glaciers, impetuous streams, spectacular waterfalls and dozens of enchanting
Among the several wonderful valleys entering the massif, the Val Genova – very long and wild – dominates for its unique charm. Here, in a striking crown of summits, spectacular waterfalls strike up a natural symphony. In the east, the Park includes the Dolomiti di Brenta: a fairy tale-like sequence of pinnacles, towers, and overhanging walls. Several charming valleys, each with its particular features, characterize it: among them, the extraordinary Val di Tovel stands out as a jewel among the Alpine valleys. It guards the famous Lago di Tovel, the “red lake”, in the past the protagonist of a spectacular reddening event due to the presence of a microscopic algae.
The Adamello-Brenta Regional Park lies in the Rhaetic Alps, the Central-southern Italian section of the Alpine chain. Situated in western Trentino between the Giudicarie, Val di Non, and Val di Sole valleys, it extends on two large but different geomorphological areas: the Gruppo di Brenta (mostly made up of Dolomite) and the Adamello-Presanella granite massif. The two mountain groups are separated by the Val Rendena, crossed by the river Sarca.
Stately and fascinating, the Brown Bear (Ursus arctos L.) has always been of great interest to man, to the extent that its story has intertwined with ours more than once. Victim of persecutions for centuries, it was confined to a limited area of western Trentino which, to protect the plantigrade, finally became the Adamello-Brenta Regional Park. In order to avoid the extinction of the species, in 1996 the Park started the reintroduction project called “Life Ursus”.
The Adamello-Brenta Regional Park boasts an extraordinary richness in wildlife thanks to the environmental integrity and variety of its territory. The area houses all the characteristic species of the Alps, amongst which the Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) has become the Park’s symbol. Some years ago the animal risked the extinction, but it is today spreading again, thanks to the implementation of a specific reintroduction project.
The richness and variety of vegetation and flowers in the Adamello-Brenta Regional Park can only be found in a few other areas of the Alpine chain. The presence of two sections with different geological features (calcareous and sedimentary rocks in the Gruppo di Brenta and intrusive crystal-like rocks in the Adamello-Presanella) has favored the natural development of endemic species and characteristic plants’ associations: this is particularly evident in the vegetation strips above the tree line.
Limestone, Dolomite, granodiorite, tonalite, porphyry, schists ... : only a few other geographical areas across the world present such a great variety of rocks and environments like the one you can observe in the Adamello-Brenta Regional Park. It is an extremely articulated and diversified area whose heart is set in a spectacular and unique high-mountain landscape, within the marked geological and geomorphological differences of the two mountain chains that dominate it: the Adamello-Presanella massif and the Dolomiti di Brenta group.
Castles and Churches
The Park is made of ancient lands. They have been stepped on by the legendary feet of emperors and sibyls, warriors and princesses, and they bear the sings of a long story of raids, murders, attacks and struggles between noble families. You can breathe their past made of blood and power along the roads, which often follow ancient communication routes; in the bridges, in the watchtowers and in the several castles, which – partly in ruins – are scattered on the valley floors and over the summits. Of the buildings once owned by families which struggled for the most panoramic locations from which to watch over the territory, sometimes only gloomy ruins suffocated by the trees remain, together with the names which in the past terrorized the farmers: Nanno, Flavon, Belasi, Sporo.
Some castles, however, are still in perfect standing order – amongst these, is the finely restored Castello di Stenico (Stenico castle), which now hosts part of the Provincial art collection of Trentino.
The “Case del Parco”
The “Case del Parco” (Park Houses) represent a sensory journey to discover the variety of nature, and a virtual exploration preparing to the real experience in the green heart of the Adamello-Brenta Regional Park. They also offer a valuable introduction towards a direct contact with the environmental wonders of the Park. The Park Houses provide the visitor with general information on the Park's naturalistic features and services, as well as with more specific information on particular environmental features.
The Park Houses are a showcase on the protected area and its indisputable aesthetic, environmental, and cultural values. They lead the visitor in a real and fascinating voyage in the world of nature, in the history of the territory and its inhabitants through modern exhibit panels, videos, realistic reconstructions, interactive activities, dioramas, animal reproductions, books and multimedia games.
Visiting a Park House means acquiring information on the environment surrounding us, while reflecting on conservation issues and on the promotion of the environmental heritage; they provide an access to specific contents elaborated for a non-specialized public. Coming here means preparing yourself to live a more fully rounded experience in the Park.
The “Casa del Parco Flora” at Stenico
Water and the marvelous world of plants: these are the two common threads of this visitor’s centre, the “Casa del Parco Flora” (Flora House), situated within the Rio Bianco-Stenico Nature Reserve. The theme of water – shaping the landscape, life blood of the Earth and essential resource for man – is dealt with along the outdoor educational trail that skirts the roaring Rio Bianco waterfalls and crosses the stream ravine. The plant heritage of the park is a theme that is being illustrated both in the “Casa del Parco” – where the richness of the flora and the relationship between man and plants are described – and outdoors, along an educational trail that presents all the main plant habitats and vegetation formations found in the park, and also explains the features of the various parts of a plant.
The “Casa del Lago Rosso” at Tovel
The “Casa del Lago Rosso” (House by the Red Lake) is dedicated to the Tovel lake and the extraordinary reddening phenomenon that characterized it until 1964. Situated on the shores of the Lago di Tovel, and surrounded by a fir tree forest, it consists of an exhibition space and of some other areas dedicated to environmental education and scientific research.
The “Casa del Parco” in San Lorenzo in Banale
The Casa del Parco “C'era una volta” (‘Once upon a time...’)' is a permanent ethnographic exhibit prepared by the Adamello-Brenta Regional Park authority in San Lorenzo in Banale, hosted in the Casa Osei – an 18th century building that has been recently purchased and renovated by the municipal amdministration. The exhibit consists of objects coming from the “Widmann" collection, purchased by the Park some years ago.
The “Casa del Parco Fauna” at Villa De Biasi, Daone
The “Wildlife Park House' is dedicated to the discovery of the extraordinary wildlife richness of the Adamello-Brenta Regional Park. Deer and Roe-deer live together with the Brown Bear – the elusive plantigrade that has become the Park’s symbol. At higher altitudes, Chamois and Alpine Ibex graze next to Marmots and Ptarmigans, while the imposing Golden Eagle and the rare Bearded Vulture fly high in the sky.
The “Casa del Parco Orso”, Spormaggiore
The “Casa del Parco Orso” (‘Bear House’) is a museum dedicated to the Brown Bear, which has become the symbol of the Adamello-Brenta Regional Park. Multimedia equipment and life-size reconstructions spread over six thematic sections offer the visitor the possibility to discover – while having fun – the biology of the plantigrade and its controversial relationship with man.
The Val di Genova
The Val di Genova is a beautiful Alpine valley climbing from Carisolo, in the Val Rendena, which separates the Adamello group from the Presanella massif. With its wonderful landscapes, it has been enchanting travellers and visitors from all over the world for a century and a half: wild slopes covered with woods, inaccessible cliffs, very green upland plateaus, stunning waterfalls and spotless glaciers. The Val di Genova contains numerous Geo-sites of the Adamello-Brenta park.
The Val di Genova is a deep glacial furrow through which runs the river Sarca; it is a side valley of the Val Rendena, which runs for about 17 km between the Adamello and Presanella massifs, with a succession of terraces and flat sections from which gushing waterfalls descend (the most notable of which is the Nardis waterfall).
The valley – itself a notable Geo-site within the park (read below) – ends at the Bedole plain and is crowned by a spectacular glacial amphitheatre and by the immense Lobbie and Mandrone glaciers, from which the river Sarca is derived. Impressive waterfalls gush forth from every smaller side valley, and they can be admired by following the Waterfall path on foot. The difficulty is quite low between the dam (services available here at Centro Servizi) to the Bedole plain, but the Val Genova is covered during the summer also by a shuttle bus from the Centro Servizi at Ponte Verde to Ponte Maria (roughly half-way through the valley), then another from Ponte Maria to the Bedole plain, so you can decide to just walk a section. From Ponte Maria to Malga Bedole access is free to cars and motorcycles only before 9.45 and after 18.30, while in the stretch from Ponte Verde to Ponte Maria there is a fee for vehicles between 8 and 17 (summer only).
The Val di Tovel
The Val di Tovel, one of the most striking valleys in the whole Alpine chain, is accessible from Tuenno. Spectacular and wild, it is distinguished for its big undisturbed forests, the silent grasslands, the dizzy heights, the irregular summits – and a lake which is an authentic jewel.
The valley is situated in the northern part of the Brenta Dolomites group, heading south-west towards the heart of the massif. It has practically uniform geological features, being composed almost exclusively of sedimentary rocks: Dolomite and Dolomitic limestone. The valley extends for over 17 km, and the considerable drop in altitude gives rise to a large variety of different environments; the area known as Glare stands out amongst them: a chaotic expanse of stones, the result of ancient, immense landslides. The Alpine pastures of Malga Tuena, Pozzol and Flavona – still used today albeit to a lesser extent than in the past – are of considerable cultural and ecological importance too.
Lake Tovel is situated in the central part of the valley; its crystal clear water takes on incredible shades of blue and green. In the summer months, up to the early 1960s, the lake was affected by a natural reddening phenomenon, unique in the world for the intensity of the colour and its extension. The effect was caused by the presence in the lake of a microscopic algae (for decades known as Glenodinium sanguineum, today renamed Tovellia sanguinea), which is still present in the lake but at much lower concentrations. This algae contains oily substances in the plasma coloured by carotenoid pigments, which are responsible for the characteristic red colour. In the summer, when the water in the lake warms up, the algae rise to the surface with a concentration of 2-3,000 microorganisms per cubic cm of water. This phenomenon, however, has not occurred since 1964. In recent years, the Adamello-Brenta Regional Park – created also to protect this fascinating, unique phenomenon – has collaborated on a number of complex research projects, which have identified the most likely cause for the missed reddening effect in the lack of nutrients in the lake water. The Val di Tovel also contains numerous Geo-sites within the Adamello-Brenta Geopark (read below).
The Tovel Lake Trail
Walking along the Adamello-Brenta Regional Park trails will give you the opportunity to live an extraordinary adventure surrounded by nature.
The Tovel Lake Trail has been extended: it now includes also the stretch linking the car park to the “Casa del Lago Rosso” visitor centre (see above), once opened to the traffic. The road is now reserved to pedestrians and the route that leads from the car park to the small but charming waterfall formed by the Rio Rislà is another stretch closed to the traffic, from which visitors on foot will also benefit. Moreover, this is one of the few local trails accessible to people with disabilities.
Please note: access to the valley is regulated during the summer, and from 9 to 18 there is an entrance fee for vehicles; alternatively, a shuttle bus (advised) runs between the Capriolo car park and the lake.
The Geopark and the Dolomites World Heritage Site
The “most famous mountains in the world” are characterised by extraordinary naturalistic and landscape values: with this definition, on the 26th June 2009 in Seville, the UNESCO decreed the entrance of the Dolomites into the World Heritage Sites, thus fulfilling a long technical and political process. Nine Dolomite groups obtained recognition from the UNESCO as “serial property” thanks to their geological and landscape extra-ordinariness: once inserted in the list of the natural properties of the UNESCO, they had to be subjected to precise rules of protection and valorisation.
The European and Global Network of Geoparks
Have you ever walked across a wonderful landscape and wondered how so many varieties of rocks and shapes of mountains, hills and valleys came to be? Have you ever experienced a moment of exhilaration when looking down from the top of a cliff to the sea crashing below or across a snowy ridge of high mountains, and wondered how these shapes did form? If so, then welcome to the world of European Geoparks, where we aim to explore our geological heritage and provide an answer to many of these questions!
Established in 2000, the European Geoparks Network (EGN) aims to protect geo-diversity, to promote geological heritage to the general public, to support sustainable economic development of Geopark territories, primarily through the development of geo-tourism as well as enhancement of a general image linked to the geological heritage.
To achieve these aims, 43 European Geoparks – belonging to 17 countries and collected by the Network – are now working together in an active and dynamic way, cooperating under the auspices of the UNESCO. In fact, in 2004 the UNESCO instituted in Paris the Global Geoparks Network (GGN), to which the European Geoparks belong. The GGN represents an active base of cooperation among experts of geological heritage conservation. In this way, important geological sites of national interest acquire international recognition and benefit from an exchange of knowledge, ability and expertise among Geoparks.
What is a European Geopark?
It is an area with clearly defined boundaries that has a significant geological and geo-morphological heritage, as well as particular importance in terms of its rarity, scientific quality, aesthetic appeal and educational value. Its identity is tightly related to geology but it is important also for the natural and cultural heritage. A geo-site will have the following characteristics:
– it comprises a certain number of geo-sites of geological interest, but its interest may also be archaeological, ecological, historical or cultural. The geo-sites are object of common action of promotion;
– they promote geological and geo-morphological heritage, fostering environmental education and training; they improve scientific research in the various fields of the Earth’s sciences and enhance a particular form of sustainable tourism: geo-tourism;
– they protect, through a coordinated strategy, the geological and geo-morphological heritage by using innovative conservation strategies that don’t exclude people from fruition of the environment; the Geoparks don’t exist without the site integrity that justifies their existence;
– they are managed by a consistent and structured management body that has already adopted a long-lasting and sustainable strategy of economic development;
– they involve the inhabitants, local authorities and other local bodies; public organisations and companies in the management and valorisation of the geological sites, aiming at the local economic progress;
– last (but not least), they improve the natural environment and therefore the lifestyle of the inhabitants.
The Adamello-Brenta Geopark
The Adamello-Brenta Geopark was born in 2008, when it was acknowledged by the European and Global Network of Geoparks thanks also to the worldwide known stone tonalite – a mother-rock whose name comes from the local toponym of nearby Passo del Tonale (Tonale Pass). Apart from that, there are several other kinds of rocks within the Geopark, which altogether give this territory its uniqueness: a high geo-diversity that distinguishes all of the Geopark area, comprising the whole protected area of Adamello-Brenta Nature Park and its 38 municipalities.
The Adamello-Brenta Geopark is therefore an open-air laboratory where children, students and geo-tourists alike can discover and learn about the rich geology of the territory. Studying and discovering the geologic heritage tremendously improves comprehension of the landscape transformations in time and space and fosters everyone’s responsibility towards nature. For this reasons the park, within its wider and more complex strategy of conservation of the natural and cultural heritage, carries out several activities, in which geo-tourism always plays an important role. Come and experience one of these activities for yourself, and you will discover the history of the rocks and also of the people that live here. This story is recorded into the surrounding stones and landscapes….
Limestone, Dolostone, granodioryte, tonalite, porphyry, schists… these are just a few of the rocks which can be seen here. Few other geographic areas in the world display such great variety of rocks and habitats — in a word, such geo-diversity. Here we are in the heart of the Adamello-Brenta Geopark, an extremely heterogeneous and diversified area, characterised by the spectacular uniqueness of the high elevation landscape and the deep geological and geo-morphological diversity between the two mountain systems that overlook the park: the Adamello-Brenta massif and the Brenta Dolomite group.
Westwards the hard and firm tonalite (an igneous rock) gives the Adamello and Presanella massifs a morphology characterised by numerous sharp edges. This is the ‘youngest’ rock in the park, originated 29-42 million years ago from the crystallisation of melted rock (magma), ascended from the depths along fractures on the earth’s crust, where it cooled there without reaching the surface — as indeed usually does the magma. With a cover to slacken the cooling, the single crystals had time and the possibility to form: if you take a look at the rocks in this part of the park while hiking, you can tell apart the single minerals inside. Another characteristic of tonalite is its impermeability: 48 enchanted lakes, several spectacular waterfalls and rushing streams dominate the Adamello landscape, where water is the main topic.
Eastwards you can find a completely different world: the superficial water disappears in the depths and only 4 beautiful lakes decorate the rocky landscape of the Brenta Dolomites. We are indeed in a great castle of sedimentary rocks, with breathtaking keeps, steeples and needles.
Would you have ever imagined that about 200 million years ago, where today there are these mountains, there was a warm and tropical sea, rich in coral reefs? Yet we have evidence of this: several fossils, skeletons and shells of marine organisms still ‘inhabit’ the limestone and Dolomite rock of the Brenta group. Among the fossils we can find the Megalodon — the index fossil of Main Dolomite: a rock formation that shapes these mountains at heart.
Between the two mountain groups the oldest rocks of the area — called ‘Schists of Rendena Valley’ (Scisti di Val Rendena) — emerge. They are about 300 million years old and are metamorphic rocks: that means originated from transformations of pre-existing rocks.
The territory of the Geopark — in a nutshell — is a real open-air laboratory, where it is possible to see all three main kinds of rocks: igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic… and all we have to do is go and discover them for ourselves!
There are 61 Geo-sites within the Adamello-Brenta Geopark: the Geo-sites are places that give clear evidence of the earth’s crust evolution or of its influence on the life and growth of people. They comprise rock emergences, soils, fluids, minerals and fossils, or even particular forms of the landscape and other natural phenomena. The geological landscape is like an open book on the history of life on the planet. The 61 Geo-sites within the Adamello-Brenta Geopark have been divided into 5 main categories: glaciers; glacial and peri-glacial morphologies; Karst topographies; sites of geologic value and sites of demographic-ethnic-anthropologic value.