The Julian Alps is Where the Italian Alps "Go Wild"...

The Julian Alps (Alpi Giulie in Italian) – and the Carniche (Alpi Carniche) – may not be household names, but that does not stop them from being some of the finest mountain ranges in Italy.

The Alpi Carniche to the north – running along the Austrian border – have a more rounded relief and humbler heights (generally at 2,000 metres or so), while the Julian Alps to the east and south boast more familiar Alpine profiles and more impressive heights, culminating at 2,753 metres at Jof di Montasio – but size is not their defining characteristic: what sets them apart is something else.

An ineffable air of romance hangs over these small, wonderfully explorable areas of wilderness, prompted in part by their Nordic appearance and in part by their geographical position. This is one of the most continental and thus coldest corners of the Alps (and of Italy); average snowfall can be several meters, and permanent snow can lie as low as 2,000 metres – at altitudes a thousand metre or so lower than in the western Alps (in more recent years, though, snowfall quantites have been erratic, and varied a great deal from one winter to the next).

A lot of this romance comes from the proximity of Eastern Europe; from the feeling of being on the threshold of a divide far greater than national boundaries (now this aspect has somewhat been relaxed with the enlargement of the EU eastwards). This reality is epitomised by the two rivers which both have their source in the vicinity of Tarvisio – the main town in the Julian Alps: the Fella and Bartolo.

While the former flows the ‘easy’ way, joining the Tagliamento and reaching the Adriatic Sea, the latter follows a different route altogether, discharging its waters, eventually – through the Gail, Drava and Danube – into the distant and almost mythical Black Sea (there is only one other location in Italy where something similar happens  and that is where the Rienza and Drava/Drau itself originate, between San Candido/Innichen and Dobbiaco/Toblach, in South Tyrol).

Tarvisio marks a dividing line in other ways too. The town lies in the Val Canale, which separates not only two mountain chains, but is also the gap through which the (so called) Barbarians entered Italy in the dying days of the Roman Empire. Here one is in frontier country politically as well as geographically: once inauspicious meeting point of four cultures  where Friulans, Slavs, Austro-Hungarians and Italians have fought each other for centuries –, now, luckily, we have come at a different stage in history altogether, and this complex cultural heritage can come to be appreciated in its diversity, while exploring the marks that the different traditions have left on the land.

Up in the mountains of the Julian Alps, the tree cover displays frontier aspects too. The forests are some of the most famous in the Alps: the Foresta di Tarvisio, for example, displays a huge and elemental sea of firs, which evoke the primeval forests of Russia and the far north. Elsewhere, at lower altitudes, sunnier, montane species shine through: mixed broad-leaved woods which present a much more temperate European outlook.

In spite of the harsh winters, some marvellous varieties of flowers spring up here. They include such Alpine staples as Edelweiss and Gentians, as well as more localized species such as the one-flowered Cushion Saxifrage (S. burserana), the endemic Carniola lily (L. carniolicum, chosen as symbol of the park) and the dainty Figwort (Wulfenia carinthiaca). Among Italy’s rarest blooms, this blue-flowered wonder only grows in the area of the Julian Alps, in the meadows around Passo di Pramollo/Nassfeldpass (1,530 m): the aptly named “Damp Field Pass”.

If the Alpi Carniche take the floral honours, the Julian Alps have the edge when it comes to scenery. Their spectacular profiles bear the classic Alpine hallmark of glacial friction, with knife-edge ridges of splintered limestone and towering rock walls – like those on the north face of Mangart (2,677 m), for instance, where you will find some of the Alps’ most demanding climbs.

Walks in the Julian Alps, though short and simple, are some of Italy’s most enchanting. For example, paths lead along the breathtaking U-shaped valley of Dogna – a huge gash through the grandeur of the Alpi Giulie – or to the huge cwm at the head of Valbruna.

Another notable walk takes one to Masso Pirona and Masso Marinelli, which are recognized as the Alps’ largest erratic rocks. Nearby are also the Laghi di Fusine – a draw for any lover of the wild: here a pair of glacial lakes, picturesque beyond words, are framed by the soaring walls of Mangart and surrounded by forests stretching as far as the eye can see.

The Julian Alps and the Alpi Carniche are also wild enough to have attracted lynx and brown bear, which have strayed from their prolific communities across the border in Slovenia. The best bet for hoping to catch a glimpse of these rare animals is to head for the highest reaches of the Val Uqueval Bartolo or the barren windswept expanses above Cave del Predil.

As said earlier, the Foresta di Tarvisio (Tarvisio Forest) clothes much of the area, and even though several place names – such as Cima del Cacciatore, the 'Hunter’s Peak' – make a reference to the hunting tradition of the region, this activity has now been banned altogether from the 23,000 hectares of state forest.

One of the best places for walking in the Julian Alps is the Fusine lakes trek – a circuit that, although very popular (and therefore quite crowded in the summer months), offers spectacular views, leading from the lake shores up to Rifugio Zacchi, and from there to the foot of Mangart. Other fine walks in the Giulie include the traverse of the Valbruna to Rifugio Pellarini, the magnificent climb from Sella Nevea to the Corsi hut and the ascent from Lago del Predil to Rifugio Brunner.

In the Val di Ugovizza, instead, one can reach Monte Osternig (2,052 m) from Rifugio Nordio; from Coccau – above Tarvisio – it is possible to ascend to Monte Goriane. The area also displays fine cross-country ski routes, especially around Tarvisio.

The wild Val Alba Nature Reserve (read below) was set up thanks to an initiative that also involved the local population. The project was launched in 2006, financed by the European Union and promoted by the Central Management of Agricultural, Natural, Forest and Mountain resources of the region Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Since 2008, the Julian Alps Regional Park has been the administrator of the reserve.

This area was chosen for its particular natural, historical and cultural characteristics. It is located bewteen the eastern side of the southern Carnian Alps and Pre-Alps, and it extends over almost 3,000 hectares, falling into the municipality of Moggio Udinese. The site is located in the lower part of the basin of the river Fella – a left-hand tributary of the Tagliamento – and, more specifically, within the catchment area of two smaller streams, Rio Alba and Rio Simon.

The Val Alba is located in an area of great ecological value; a zone of transition between the systems of the Carnian and Julian Alps to the north and between the Alps and the Pre-Alps to the south. The different and complex heights create a mosaic of habitats that reflect the rich variety of animal and plant species that manage to survive in such diverse chorological situations.

The territory of the reserve is a relatively wild and intact piece of land, enriched by crystal-clear waters, rock peaks and impenetrable woods – but also abounding in marks left by man and his activities. It is a real natural gem, today almost completely uninhabited and silent, but crossed nonetheless by a dense network of paths.

A really interesting feature related to human presence in the reserve is represented by the residual signs of military actions during the First World War. The ridges were the location of WW1 frontline for several years, and this involved the construction of special war buildings such as mountain shelters and defense structures, little dormitories and dug-out tunnels. In this respect, the excursions to Rifugio del Vuâlt – an ex-military hospital –, or to the Bivacco Bianchi and the springs of Rio Alba are obligatory stopovers for all those who would wish to experience the authentic essence of the reserve.


The “Parco Naturale Regionale delle Prealpi Giulie”

The Julian Alps Natural Regional Park (Parco Naturale Regionale delle Prealpi Giulie) was set up in 1996, and it extends over an area of about 100 km² in the eastern part of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. It comprises territories belonging to the municipalities of Chiusaforte, LuseveraMoggio Udinese, Resia, Resiutta and Venzone, all in the province of UdineThe Park's goal is to promote both nature conservation and sustainable development.

The protected area  famous for its outstanding nature, landscapes and cultural heritage  includes the highest parts of Monte Plauris (1,958 m), the chain of Monte Musi (1,869 m) and its tallest peak, Monte Canin (2,587 m). It has a section at lower altitudes in the area around the village of Povici (municipality of Resiutta); it also includes the valley of Torrente Mea in the territory of Lusevera.

The specificity of this area is largely due to the contact between three different bio-geographical zones – being located at the crossroads between the Mediterranean, the Illyrian and the Alpine regions: this meeting is the main reason to determine its uniqueness, and explains its extraordinary biodiversityIts cultural richness, also, is due to the encounter of two different cultures, the Latin and the Slavonic. 

Flora

In terms of the flora, the vegetation in the valleys of the Julian Alps Regional park is the result of the joint action of two fundamental ecological factors: the particular climate of the area, combined with the geological substratum. High rainfall, relatively mild temperatures and a fairly limited temperature range all contribute to create an oceanic type of climate which favors the development of a very rich and varied flora. On the Monte Musi chain are registered some of the highest rainfall totals in Europe (they can be above 4,000 mm yearly!).

Plant life in the park of the Julian Alps is particularly rich, boasting 1,200 species and subspecies, plus over 40 endemic plant species such as Zoys’ Bellflower (Campanula zoyisii), Froelich’s Gentian (Gentiana froelichii), Silvery Cranesbill (Geraneum argenteum) and Julian Alpine Poppy (Papaver julicum). The area of the park is also rich in forests – especially beech woods, conifer woods dominated by Black or Austrian Pine (Pinus nigra) and other mixed formations with Norway spruce (Picea abies) and larch (Larix decidua).

Owing to the abandonment of rural and sheep-breeding activities, meadows and grasslands have become relatively rare, but there are some very significant ones remaining by Malga Coot, Malga Confin, and even higher up towards the mountains' highest reaches.

Fauna

In the Park there is a cohabitation of elements of wildlife of Mediterranean, circum-Mediterranean and Oriental origin; as a result, it displays a varied fauna ranging from hundreds of small insects to large carnivores. All main Alpine ungulates are present in the area (roebuck, deer, chamois, ibex and wild boar), important mammalians such as wild cat, as well as different species of Mustelidae, Rodents and Insectivores. In the last few years the presence of brown bear and lynx has been confirmed by numerous reports of tracks and sightings in the Val di Uccea, Val di Musi and Val Venzonassa.

There are quite a few birds of prey too (eagle owl, tawny owl, Tengmalm’s owl, golden eagle, goshawks, buzzard, griffon), all the Tetraoinides (capercaille, black grouse, snow-grouse, hazel hen) and different species of Corvidae, Picidae and various passerines. The Greek partridge is the symbol of the Julian Alps Regional park, and it mostly inhabits the more suitable southern mountain slopes.

Amphibia, Reptilia and Insecta also find in the variability of the Julian Alps' area the ideal life conditions; they arouse the interest of researchers and passionate excursionists alike.

Geology

As for geology, the evolution of the Alpine region during the last few million years has characterised the Julian Alps too, and is well represented within the area of the Park  especially in regards to features of glacial and river morphology, observable within very little space.

In the upper reaches of the valleys examples of glacial arcs are visible, still perfectly preserved; on the northern side of Monte Canin (2,587 m) there is also a tiny glacier.

Sheer drops along the river courses are quite common, thus creating spectacular rapids and waterfalls; particularly impressive are the falls of the Fontanone Rio Barman and Fontanone Goriuda (described below).

All sorts of karstic phenomena are also well represented within the Julian Alps Regional park, both at surface level and underground. The maximum development of Karst morphology features is observable on the plateau of Foran del Muss, at the foot of Monte Canin; all Karst phenomena are represented here, both at surface and underground level, thus creating a real Karst garden. There are also particularly intense examples near Col delle Erbe, where the largest caves in the area – over 1,000 meters deep – are to be found.

Mineral Resources

Within the Julian Alps Natural Regional Park another important activity is being investigated: mineral extraction, which is well documented at the mine at Resartico. This location – together with several ruins and galleries dug into the mountains – gives out a lot of precious information, which was collected by the park authority and is now being shown at the Resartico Mine Exhibition, hosted in the building of a former school in Resiutta.

The numerous panels display pictures illustrating the activities that used to take place in the mine, together with documenting the difficult working conditions, the history of research on the subject of mineral extraction and the geological and natural aspects of the area. Particularly interesting is the rebuilding in life-size of part of the galleries, which were used by the trucks for the transport of raw material.

One can observe samples of rocks – particularly the bituminous schist employed to manufacture the tools used for extraction – and the different equipment used by the miners. The exhibition is complete with a model of the protected area that represents the valley, the mine galleries and the layers of different rocks that are to be seen, plus a computer presentation with all the documentation collected during the research phase.

For a better understanding of the extraction systems, and to get a glimpse on the difficulties experienced by the miners, an excursion to Rifugio Resartico and the old mine is suggested, along the path used by miners to climb up the valley.

To reach the Resartico mine, the starting point is at the last set of houses in the village of Povici di Sopra, then follow the CAI path marked no. 702. After a first section of comfortable forest road that goes along the Rio Resartico (stream), the path crosses the water course at an altitude of 497 meters; then the track narrows down, and re-crosses the Rio at a higher altitude on another passage.

Here it is possible to see, on one side, one of the most interesting natural curiosities along the trail – the "stone of the devil": a huge boulder that preserves the sections of numerous Megalodon bivalve fossils, typical of the Dolomia Principale (Main Dolomite). Further up along the path, above the ruins of Casera Nos, there is a great concrete foundation: it was the base for one of the cableways used for the transport of material from the mine to the valley floor.

Continuing to climb further up along the valley on country roads interesected by rich wooded paths  and crossing large torrents flowing eventually into the main river bed  one reaches the old mining village, where at an altitude of 900 metres stands a comfortable refuge at the trekker’s disposal.

From the mining village – still continuing along the path and following the indications – one eventually reaches the entrance to the gallery used by miners to access the extraction galleries quickly. The first part of the cave, put in safety by the park authority, can be visited by booking and only if accompanied by a guide.

It is also possible to access a short section of an equipped underground path (wearing protective helmets here is mandatory) and thus re-live on one's skin a bit of the history of this place, written long ago by the hard work of miners.

On the northern slopes of the small Plauris massif, the geological aspects of this territory have been an important reference for most activities of the local community for over a century; in fact, for a long time, the Resartico mines have been one of the few sources of income for the people of Resiutta.

From the end of the 1800s to the mid 1950s, a light brown mineral – easily inflammable – was extracted from the mine; the raw material was then brought to Resiutta to be distilled in a warehouse next to the Resia river. To extract the heavy mineral oil, a combustible substance derived from the gases freed during the distillation was used. Udine’s first public lighting system was provided with oil coming from Resartico; all this – and much more – is now well documented in the interesting exhibition space.

Signs of Human Activity

Lying at the margins of the main traffic arteries which have connected the plains of Friuli to the countries beyond the Alps since the remotest past, the territory of the Julian Alps Regional park is rich in historic and cultural elements. Summer stables and mountain dairies (here known as 'malghe' and 'casere'); farmhouses and country villages; architectures and fortified towns: all these are a precious accompaniment to the area’s rich natural heritage. Ethnic and linguistic minorities also survive here, isolated and preserved by the unique geographic conditions.

All the villages are endowed with cultural and historical evidence. Particularly important are the Medieval town of Venzone – completely rebuilt after the 1976 earthquake – and the Abbey at Moggio Udinese: still today a unique place of mystery and faith.

The Resia valley (Val di Resia) – deep and secluded, with its seven hamlets surrounded by verdant heights – is home to an ethnic minority that preserved its traditions: Resia ethnic group speaks an archaic dialect of Slavonic origin, and it has maintained its old uses and customs (such as a famous Carnival – here known as Püst).            

Gastronomy 

As far as gastronomy is concerned, in the valleys of the Julian Alps – which historically were lacking in agricultural resources and production facilities – the diet was traditionally very basic, and centred on polenta, potatoes, pulses, dairy products, plus a little meat and eggs.

Traditional dishes included potato and bean soup, polenta with cheese or some other kind of accompaniment – and for special occasions, there would simply be more generous portions! The local drink was cider: the only alcoholic beverage produced in these mountains by fermenting apple juice or crushed pears. Among the many traditional recipes, some of the local dishes are today also of ethnographic and linguistic interest.

Life in the Park

We get a succession of emotions from visiting the Park. It is possible to access the whole area for free, and numerous paths will allow you to reach in safety the most important places within the Julian Alps Regional Park. Farms, guestrooms, mountain refuges and huts are available for a rest or an overnight stay and will offer you a full immersion experience in the surrounding nature. Hikers can follow the explanatory panels about the natural environment features situated along the paths. If you would like to better discover the Park of the Julian Alps and its characteristics in more depth, you can take part in one of the guided tours organized in every season, or ask for an Alpine or Nature guide. In the protected area you can also practice sport activities such as climbing, Nordic walking, canyoning, or simply enjoy excursions wearing snow-shoes. There is also a path named ‘For all’ because of its suitability for all – adults, children, old people and the disabled alike. You can also taste the local products in typical restaurants bearing the Park’s trademark. In a word, the Julian Alps Natural Regional Park can be visited at all times of the year: the staff in the visitors’ centres and at the info-points in every village is always happy to help, and will give you all the information that can be needed in order to make your stay in the protected area unforgettable.    


The Park’s Visitor Centre

The Park’s Visitor Centre is located in Prato di Resia, in a building that offers a panoramic view over the Musi (1,869 m) and Mount Canin (2,587 m) chains. Along with the exhibits, there is an information desk for trips and visits to the area and a well-stocked bookshop. A welcoming hostel – with 20 beds in 4 rooms – is also available for researchers and school parties using the guide services organized by the Park. The four main themed trails within the Park (described in more detail below) are also presented in the Visitors' Centre.

Educational Workshops in the Park’s Visitor Centre

The educational and play shelters house workshops equipped with biological and multimedia supports used particularly by the school parties visiting the Park or by anyone who wishes to further study the environmental and naturalistic aspects offered by the Julian Alps Regional Park. A food pyramid illustrates the European temperate forest ecosystems that characterise the territory of the Park, with stuffed animals and images. A multimedia game on water quality is used to virtually reproduce the analysis of the Park’s rivers in a fun way, by sampling the micro-invertebrates that live in the water. A large xylotheque with all the wood species growing in the Park helps to recognise the different trees, by associating their leaves to the respective trunks; also, an interactive work station with stuffed animals invites visitors to discover the traces left by the forest fauna, and from these to recognise the various animals.


Trails Within the Park

Geological Path

Rocks Carved by the Water

The landscape of the Julian Alps Nature Park is a small compendium of Alpine geology. The surface rocks are mostly of sedimentary origin: deposits accumulated on the old sea beds, brought to the surface 50 million years ago by the Alpine orogenesis. Their current appearance is also the result of more recent modeling: the ice ages created glacial basins and arches which are still visible today, while water has carved deep gorges and created splendid Karstic gardens. A panel describes the main rocks that surface in the park, and their stratigraphic succession. By selecting each rock, the monitor displays a sheet with a photo, a map where to find it and a guide for recognising it. Another panel shows the Karstic cycle of water: by touching the sensor, one can follow the underground route followed by rainwater and see the spectacular Karstic formations in the park.

Territory Path

One Park, Four Worlds

The territory of the Park is of great geological, natural, landscape and historical-cultural interest, with particular traits that are not to be found elsewhere. It includes the highest areas of Mount Plauris – a pyramid of rock (1,958 m) –; the wild Musi chain (1,869 m), a rock wall rich in undergound waters; the Chila backbone (1,419 m); the green amphitheatre of Resia and Mount Canin (2,587 m), the white monument of Karstism. From the green Prealpi Giulie (Julian Pre-Alps) peaks to the candid, severe majesty of the Julian Alps, the landscape here changes several times. It offers four different worlds, each with its own elements; its own symbols and colours. An interactive model helps visitors to find their way in these four worlds. By selecting one of the sectors, one can observe its borders and study the features in a special video.

Biodiversity Path

The Call of the Forest – Where Eagles Dare  

The Park’s ecosystem boasts an exceptional biodiversity, with many local and rare plant and animal species, iridescent woods, multicolored meadows and unusual animals. The high rain levels and mild temperatures promote the development of a rich vegetation: 1,200 flower species, with rarities including Gentiana froelichii, Zois bellflower (Campanula zoisii) and the beautiful Julian Alpine Poppy (Papaver julicum). The rich fauna offers rare sightings of Forest Dormouse, Emerald Toad, Corncrackle and large predators like bear and lynx. Two rooms filled with graphs and photos reconstruct the various valley and mountain environments using dioramas, interactive corners, findings and other biological supports.  

Sustainability Path

The 'Shepherd in the Park' – and the Rock Partridge, Symbol of Cohabitation

The Park enjoys an anthropic presence which has contributed to the wealth of its environments and the diversity of the landscape. Mountain chalets and pastures, paths and chapels, rural hamlets and a unique folklore are the pieces of a puzzle demonstrating the human activity that has become part of the ecosystem. Sustainability means taking from the environment all that is needed for survival, without compromising the possibility for the natural resources of the different ecosystems to be regenerated. Mountain folk have always known how to do this, and nature is generous with those who know how to integrate it. A panel shows how to find and recognize wild edible grasses in the Park’s woods. The ‘Park shepherd’ tells the story of his pastoral and dairy activities, based on ancient traditions which are so bound with nature that they have promoted the survival of species such as Rock Partridge – now symbol of the Park.


Other Sights Within the Park

The “Fontanone di Goriuda"

The “Fontanone di Goriuda" (“Big Waterfall of Goriuda”) is a Karstic spring that is found at 861 meters on the left side of the Val Raccolana. The water gushes out of a cave with more than 600 m of development, characterized by lakes, shafts and siphons. From a geological point of view, the cave of the Fontanone falls into the domain of Main Dolomite, which constitutes the basement of Monte Canin (2,587 m). From the wide entrance to the cave spring all the waters that sink on the Italian side of Monte Canin. The outflow of internal water has a torrential regime, and the water temperature is mostly constant all year round, at about 5° C. According to local tradition, in the cave lived a monster called ‘Goriuda’; probably this epithet is a reference to the ‘Guriuz’, the famous dwarves of the caves found in many legends of Friuli. The ‘Fontanone’ counts among the geo-sites of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. The ‘Fontanone’ cave can also be visited thanks to the guided excursions organized by the Park. 

The trail to the “Fontanone di Goriuda” is an easy walk that enters the beech wood for a few hundred meters, and leads to the spectacular sight of the ‘Fontanone’ itself. This is a waterfall that springs to the side of Monte Canin with a jump of about 80 m, and that flows into a circular-shaped green lake positioned at the base of this side of the mountain. From here, the waters continue their route with small jolts in order to flow into the Raccolana stream. The waterfall is well visible from the main road too, in the locality of Pian della Sega. It is nice to stop here in any season, to admire this impressive mass of water surrounded by an intense green during the summer, and by the warm yellow and red hues of the beech wood in autumn. In winter, the waterfall also surprises us by creating an unexpected wall of ice with glistening azure tones. Walk this route slowly: you will bump into plants and flowers with unusual shapes, and see curious animals that love shadow and humidity. 

The “Ta Lipa Pot” Nature Trail and the Casa Resiana” 

We’re right at the margins of the Prealpi Giulie Natural Park. In the ancient language of Resia, this path is called “Ta Lipa Pot”, which means “The Beautiful Road”. In the olden days, “Ta Lipa Pot” was the main access road to the valley, whereas today it is a nature trail that ventures into the heart of the most untouched areas of the valley. The trail starts in the small village of Stolvizza, enters the woods, crosses the “Po Toc” stream with its nice waterfall, and leads through the forest up to the “Casa Resiana” (Resia House).

This is located in Hostjë — one of the oldest settlements in the valley; one can still find ruins around here that are evidence of man’s hard work in places like this. Nearby is an old house in the traditional vernacular style of Resia that was inhabited by a family until 1976. In 2011, a new era began for this house; bought and lovingly restored, it has now become the Nature Education Centre “La Casa Resiana”.

In 2015, thanks to the public funds of the autonomous region FriuliVenezia Giulia, comprehensive measures and new substantial interventions were realized with the goal to enhance the upkeep and valorization of the rural heritage. The actualized measures here include a resting place for walkers, a pond to favor water habitats, an access path, and some forestry interventions to encourage the presence of various animal species.

The Resia valley is an important bio-geographical convergence zone. Some very important flora and fauna species at European level can be found here, many of them threatened and identified on the European Red List. The high biodiversity of this small spot of Friuli represents therefore a precious natural heritage, accessible for all those who love the beauty of an untouched nature. 

Trail Length: 7,8 km; altitude difference (ascent): 345 m; altitude difference (descent): 330 m; duration: 2 h 30.


The Val Alba Nature Reserve

Thanks to a joint procedure involving the local population, this project was set up in 2006, funded by the European Union and promoted by the FriuliVenezia Giulia Region. The Val Alba was chosen for its particular natural, historical and cultural features. The valley lies to the east of the southern Carnian Alps and Pre-Alps, and it extends for almost 3,000 ha in the municipality of Moggio Udinese. The site is in the lower part of the basin of the Fella river – a left-hand tributary of the Tagliamento river – and more specifically in the catchment area of the two smaller basins dug by the Rio Alba and Rio Simon.

Attractions

This is an intact and still realtively wild land, full of crystal-clear waters, rock peaks, thick woods, but also abounding in marks and traces left by man and his activities: a real natural gem, completely uninhabited in the past, silent and crossed by a dense network of paths. Another really interesting feature is represented by the signs left by military presence during WW1: the mountain ridges were the site of the second front line for several years, and here many special war constructions were built – such as mountain shelters and defense structures, little dormitories and dug-outs. Excursions to the Vualt shelter, the old military hospital, the Bianchi bivouac and the Rio Alba springs are obligatory visits for anyone wishing to experience the authentic essence of the reserve.

Natural Features, Flora and Fauna

The Val Alba lies in an area of great ecological value, in a transitional band between the Alps and Pre-Alps and between the Carnian and Julian Alps. The different and complex heights create a mosaic-like situation reflecting the rich variety of animal and plant species that manage to survive in such diverse chorological conditions. Thanks to these natural features, the reserve has been established as the “Cuc dal Bor Site of Community Importance”, part of Natura 2000 network.

Due to the physical and bio-geographical conditions, the tree line here runs at about 1,500 metres, thus offering a highly interesting variety of plant life. Here beech, fir, larch, rowan, Dwarf Mountain pine (Pinus mugo) and Black or Austrian pine (Pinus nigra) grow. There are also a few rare but very important species with limited geographical distribution, including White Buttercup (Ranunculus traunfellneri), Julian Alps' Poppy (Papaver alpinum) and Carniola Lily (Lilium carniolicum)

The abundance of fauna includes over 80 species of nesting birds, such as Snowbird, Peregrine Falcon, Golden Eagle, Black Woodpecker (emblem of the Reserve) and more than 50 species of mammals, as well as several kinds of amphibians and reptiles. These bird species are typical to this Alpine sector, which is also known for the presence of major ungulates and the migration of large carnivores (such as bear and lynx), straying from nearby Slovenia.   

Itineraries within the Reserve

The valley can be entered from three different charming villages situated on the mountain slope: Dordolla, Pradis and Ovedasso. Both trained hikers and families with children can enjoy the charm of the setting along the numerous trails, cobbled tracks and mule-tracks that cross the valley, immersed as they are in the silence of woods, and reaching as far as the top of the mountains.

For example, one can go for a gentle hike to the Vualt shelter and wood, or turn off towards the Bianchi bivouac, the Rio Alba springs or the remains of the old military refuge, discovering natural, historical and anthropic features along the way. There is a wide choice for experienced hikers too: they are sure to enjoy a climb up the Creta dei Russei, Cuel Brusat, or from Monte Crostis to Cuc dal Bor. The valley offers also plenty of opportunity for environmental education, with its dedicated paths around the Vualt shelter – as well as other recreational and tourist activities.


Nature, Culture and Landscape

Situated in the heart of Europe, in the Julian Alps and Pre-Alps lies an unspoiled area of high mountains and green valleys, thick forests and flowering meadows, crystal-clear waters and friendly villages, called the Trans-boundary Eco-region Julian Alps: a territory rich in nature and culture, history and traditions; a wilderness area shaped during the centuries by people living in harmony with the environment.

Here you can admire ancient fossils; meet chamois, ibex and eagles while walking in the mountains; astounded, you may see a rare flower as you casually sit down in front of a mountain hut  perhaps while enjoying a drink or tasting a piece of local cheese. It truly is a memorable experience, suitable for people of all ages, who can come here in order to capture the spirit of nature and – upon each visit – discover new emotions. The Julian Alps Eco-region is unique: this is an invitation to take a little time to find out just how special it is! 


The Trans-boundary Julian Alps Eco-region and Triglav National Park

The Triglav National Park, established in 1981, is the only Slovenian National Park. It is named after Slovenia’s highest mountain and national symbol, Mount Triglav (2,864 m). It is one of the oldest parks in Europe, and the first protection attempts date back to 1906. Today, the park covers nearly 84,000 ha – almost the territory of the entire eastern Julian Alps.

Besides nature protection  which is the primary aim of a National Park  the Triglav National Park objectives include conservation of both nature and culture, reflected in the pure waters, deep-cut gorges, remains of virgin forests, richness of mountain flowers and typical animals – as well as in the outstanding cultural and historical heritage –, which are the hallmark of the National Park, whose mission is to educate and raise public awareness, to carry out professional development and foster research work.

The Triglav National Park and the Julian Alps Natural Regional Park started to cooperate when the latter was established in 1996. Co-operation grew stronger when EU projects started, and neighbouring countries were looking for cross-border partners. This co-operation flourished and expanded beyond the initial project; eventually, in 2007 the idea of a Trans-boundary park was born. In 2009, the Federation Europarc officially proclaimed the Trans-boundary Julian Alps Eco-region – which also includes Slovenia’s Julian Alps UNESCO area.

Together, the two reserves can better confront the challenges of protection, and themes such as conservation of biodiversity; landscape and cultural heritage; monitoring of flora and fauna  within the context of EU projects – can be better managed. An important area is also that of environmental education (as for instance with the junior ranges project); other themes include exchange of staff and expertise; promotion of typical products; tourism and sustainable development.


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