This sub-region – known also as Tesino basin – is a medium-altitude plateau in Eastern Trentino, near the boundary with Veneto, and precisely bordering with the province of Belluno. This area is located also on the threshold between Alps and Pre-Alps, at the south-eastern fringes of the Dolomites.
The plateau is surrounded to the south by the Lagorai group (2,754 m), while the northern range that encloses the sub-region is part of the Cima d'Asta massif (2,847 m); these latter mountains can be reached through the Val Malene. From the Cima d'Asta springs the Grigno stream, which meanders through the territories of the three municipalities that form the sub-region (Pieve, Castello and Cinte Tesino), creating a deep valley that goes all the way down to Grigno, where the torrent joins the river Brenta.
The southern side of the basin is delimited by the last ramparts of the Dolomites, which are also among the lowest (Monte Mezza and Lefre), separating the plateau from the underlying main valley – the Valsugana, of which the Tesino can somehow be considered an appendix. The eastern side, on the countrary, displays a more powerful relief that separates the sub-region from the province of Belluno and from the Vanoi valley; along this front is the peripheral side valley of Celado.
The first settlements of the Tesino plateau date to the Roman age. In fact, the Roman road known as Via Claudia Augusta Altinate – an important thoroughfare that used to link the port of Altino on the Adriatic coast with the German city of Augsburg (Augusta in Italian) – passed right through the region. Remnants of this important road were found in the area, in the vicinity of Castello Tesino.
During the Middle Ages the area feel under the dominion of the Republic of Venice, which further developed the settlement of Castello to turn it into its local outpost. During the following centuries the plateau was contended between the Prince Bishops of Trento and the Bishops of Feltre; it then followed the destiny of the rest of Trentino – until it was eventually annexed to Austria.
Given the proximity to the frontline, during WW1 this territory was heavily affected by war events; almost the totality of Castello Tesino was destroyed by a bombing raid that had started in Telve, in nearby Valsugana. Only at the end of the conflict did the region became part of the Kingdom of Italy.
During WW2, on the contrary, the area was roamed by Partisan brigades; namely, the operations of Battaglione Gherlenda and of Brigata Garibaldi "Antonio Gramsci" took place in the region.
Within the Tesino plateau there are three municipalities:
Castello Tesino is the main town, and it is situated in the easternmost section of the sub-region; Pieve is more centrally located, and it is the more commercially oriented, while Cinte is the smallest town, and it is spread along the slopes of Monte Mezza; the Grigno stream runs mainly through its territory.
The first economic activities that were developed in the area included cattle farming and carpentry – given the abundance of timber on the slopes of the surrounding mountains.
During the 17th century in the surroundings of Pieve Tesino a flint mine was being exploited, and the inhabitants started trading flint both towards Northern Italy and Central Europe.
After that, the production and commerce of prints bloomed in the area; it was mostly the case of religious depictions, and thanks to that trade the people of Tesino started to emigrate (a real ‘diaspora’, in fact); the positive aspect of this, though, was that the region started to have more connections with populations outside Europe.
In the aftermath of WW2 the first industries became established in the area; mostly they were dealing with timber trade, although with a few notable exceptions.
Currently, the economy of the plateau is mostly based on tourism, both in summer and in winter. As far as summertime is concerned, there is a wide choice of trails and treks to choose from, together with visits to the Arboretum (see below).
During wintertime, everything tends to revolve around skiing, as there is a small facility at nearby Passo Brocon, equipped also for night skiing.
In Pieve there is the Museo Casa De Gasperi, a Museum created inside the birthplace of politician Alcide De Gasperi. The Villa Daziaro is a red-brick building that mimics the shape of a Russian datcha; for the Arboreto del Tesino; see below.
Little known outside of Italy, Alcide De Gasperi was one of the foremost figures in the Italian life in the aftermath of the disaster of WW2; he was founder of an important political party that ruled the country for over 50 years, but he is also considered one of the forefathers of the EU. This fact is actually one of the main inspirations behind the “Giardino d’Europa” (‘The Garden of Europe’) in the Arboretum, which wants to promote the ideal of European integration.
In Castello Tesino there is also a modern Astronomic Observatory, which was inaugurated in 2010.
In terms of natural features, in the territory of Castello there is a karstic cave that develops for more than 450 metres in depth.
By the Passo Brocon (1,616 m) there is an interesting naturalistic itinerary (‘Trodo dei fiori’), along which it is possible to admire the typical Alpine flora of the Lagorai area.
On the plateau, the dialect of Trentino is spoken in its Eastern variant, although it is heavily influenced by the nearby dialects of Veneto. An ancient patois known as "dergo" has almost been completely forgotten, but this used to be the authentic language spoken in ancient times.
The Cima d’Asta massif
This small mountain group is mainly constituted of granite rocks, and this aspect distinguishes it from the nearby Lagorai range, mainly composed of porphyry. Nevertheless, considering the geographical proximity of the two mountain groups, the Cima d’Asta (2,847 m) is sometimes considered – by some geographers – as a sub-group of the wider Lagorai range.
The group is characterized by the presence of numerous small Alpine lakes of nival origin, recognizable by their typical circular shape. From one of them originates the Grigno stream, which later – after having crossed the Tesino Plateau – becomes an affluent of the Brenta.
The Cima d'Asta can be identified as a relatively wild and isolated mountain group, not reachable with skilifts or other technical devices. Not very distant from the summit there is a mountain hut, Rifugio Ottone Brentari, situated at 2,480 m, while right on top of the ridge one can find a bivouac – called Cima d'Asta-Gianni Cavinato – at 2,840 m of altitude.
The best way to access the area and its summits is through the Val Malene (from Pieve Tesino), but the mountain range can also be reached from the Vanoi valley, either from Caoria or from Canal San Bovo. From the Ottone Brentari Alpine hut one can quite easily access the highest portion of the mountain, from which a vast panorama can be enjoyed on the underlying valleys and on the Lagorai range, as well as on the nearest Dolomites – such as the Latemar and the Pale di San Martino.
The Tesino arboretum
In the heart of Tesino, immersed in a vegetal landscape that still holds the peculiar characteristics of this territory, a set route of the overall duration of about 1h30 meanders among meadows, wetlands and woodland, offering an interesting alternative for whoever desires to delve into Nature without having to face the most difficult or demanding excursions that the uplands require: this is what the arboretum of Tesino is about.
The arboretum extends over about 14 hectares at an altitude between 800 and 845 metres; therefore it is quite level. It is localited in Campagnola, in the side valley of Rio Solcena – a small affluent of the Grigno stream, on the north-easterly slopes of Col Dané, in the territory of the municipalities of Pieve and Cinte Tesino, in the province of Trento.
The barycentric position between the two communities makes the arboretum easily visible from both towns, and it can be accessed on foot from the road that connects them, as well as from the bridge on the Rio Solcena – which also links the arboretum to the road to Castello Tesino.
The wide central meadow that hosts the proper arboretum is a gentle slope which, in its lower part, has a roughly trapezoid shape; it is constituted by an area that was traditionally dedicated to grazing and by a small lake. In the upper section there is an area of irregular triangular shape which is covered for a good part by a woody type of vegetation, mainly composed of alder, maple, hazel and other broadleaved, with the sporadic presence of conifer patches (Norway spruce) as well as a marshy part of 3,8 ha, which is protected as a ‘biotope’ called Campagna. The whole area is being crossed by paths and delimited by typical countryside hedges.
Going into more detail, plant lovers and the most attentive visitors alike will be able to find – and to visit safely through a network of boardwalks and guided trails – the following sections:
The mixed mesophilic woodland displays a prevalence of alder, and it is rich in herbs typical of a humid understory and showy ferns; this section is dominated in parts by the colourful blossoms of Spiraea japonica, a garden escape that became naturalized here. The woodland is subdivided ideally into three sectors – superior, middle and inferior, which connect the marshy part to the pond.
The conifer woodland is mostly of Norway spruce and of man-made origin, as it is constituted by the leftovers of an old forestry nursery, while the marsh is rich in interesting and rare hygrophilous plants such as water trefoil and Parnassia palustris, carnivorous plants such as the Drosera; it also displays an islet in which one can admire the rich blossoms typical of pasture lands – as well as a splendid panorama. The Rio Solcena leads to a small pond, where there are also interesting hygrophilous and waterside plants, with a small stream running nearby.
Continuing the visit, one then encounters some shrubby species and some trees that characterize the different vegetation bands of the Tesino area, as well as the main European tree associations (that is, woodland formations with beech, fir, spruce, larch and Arolla pine). Then follows a collection of exotic plants coming from other parts of the world (namely Asia and North America); this section is delimited by a typical mixed countryside hedge, constituted of about ten different spontaneous species. Nearby is an orchard with local varieties of fruiting trees, mostly from the Rosaceae family; the hedge also screens off this part of the arboretum from the provincial road Pieve-Cinte.
The arboretum was created in year 2000 as part of a project looked after by the “Servizio Conservazione della Natura e Valorizzazione Ambientale della Provincia di Trento”, on the basis of a study originally carried out by the Tuscia University at the end of the 1990s, with the collaboration of the municipalities of Pieve and Cinte Tesino.
At the time, routes were traced in order to visit the woodland area, together with passages (on boardwalks) in order to access the marshy area and the pond with the stream. Here were placed the first panels to assist visitors, as well as to help with the recognition of the most common tree species to be seen around the grounds.
Today the arboretum displays also a visitor centre and equipped areas along the different trails. In order to contribute to further enhancement of the naturalistic and historical values of the Tesino area, in these last few years there has also been the realization of a small didactic farm with an orchard, of a ‘roccolo’ (traditional structures for bird hunting – of course the reconstruction here is not being used, and it has only educational purposes), a labyrinth and the “Giardino d’Europa” (‘The Garden of Europe’), stemming from the legacy of Alcide De Gasperi; see above.
In order to combine nature and literature, along the trails one will find also some panels containing excerpts from texts of Mario Rigoni Stern. In his book Arboreto Selvatico ('Wild Arboretum'), the writer from Asiago talks of his relationship with nature; he had gathered a small tree collection around his home, and as he watched the trees grow over the years he wrote a number of considerations.
The informatic system of the arboretum includes fixed identifying labels for the tree species, a ‘mobile’ labeling system for the summer flowering plants and also standing boards in order to interpret the different habitats – as well as panels situated at the entry points in Pieve and Cinte Tesino with a general overview of the grounds, information on the area and regulations for its visit.
The arboretum offers an easy chance for excursions in a pleasant setting, as it is suitable for everybody, thus allowing the visitor to acknowledge him/herself with the plants, the environments as well as the culture of this territory.
The entire area is run by the three municipalities of Tesino and the “Servizio Conservazione della Natura e Valorizzazione Ambientale della Provincia di Trento”, who conjointly look after the maintenance of the site as well as its further development, always with the technical support of the Tuscia University and the “Centro Studi Alpino"; both institutions have been present in this territory for years.
During the summer months care of part of the collection and of some natural environments – as well as the divulgation activities – are entrusted to students that can spend here part of their formative years.