Italian land and nature: Discovering Valcamonica

Sep 24, 2022 428

Valcamonica is a wide expanse of flat land that runs through the Central Lombardy Alps and the Provinces of Brescia and Bergamo. Crossed by the Oglio River, the Valley hosts one of the largest collections of prehistoric cave art in the world; it is so important that it was inserted onto the UNESCO World Heritage List as far back as 1979. To visit this terrain and all its pristine lakes, mountains and natural landscapes means taking a long trip back in time – that is, back 8,000 years to the period running from the Mesolithic to the Middle Ages.

Despite the fact that Valcamonica extends over approximately 56 miles, from Lovere to Ponte di Legno, the large part of the rock engravings are concentrated in the middle of the Valley, between the peaks of the Concarena and the Pizzo Badile Camuno. Our itinerary begins 12.4 miles north of Lovere, where we can see the first of eight thematic parks that focus on the carvings. The Communal Archaeological Park of Luine, in Darfo Boario Terme, holds some of the most ancient incisions in existence; they depict some hunting scenes, but above all, those most elaborate date back to the Bronze Age and center on themes of the labyrinth. 

Moving up along the River, we then transfer to the Archaeological Park of Asinino-Anvòia (in Ossimo) to see the splendid and historic rocks and slabs from the Copper Age. From here, we then travel another 12.4 miles to reach the biggest park in the area (at 290 hectares) that covers three communes, not far from Nadro: the Natural Reserve of Rock Incisions in CetoCimbargo and Paspardo. The Reserve preserves more than 400 stone engravings that span over a time period of 6,000 years, from the Neolithic to the Middle Ages. The figures are done in execution techniques and thematic styles that are very different one from the other. Afterward, Foppe di Nadro is a must-visit on our list – where we can immerse ourselves in a spectacular journey in discovery of the prehistoric and Medieval remains, as well as enjoy the historical reconstruction of an Iron Age village. 

We find three parks in Capo di Ponte, just 2.5 miles north of Nadro: the Naquane National Park of Rock Incisions, the National Archaeological Park of the Massi of Cemmo, and the Communal Archaeological Park of Seradina-Bedolina. Naquane contains inscriptions realized during a vast arc of time, from 6,000 B.C. up until the Roman domination. Wild animals, human figures, scenes of worship and village representations – the carvings in this zone testify to the progressive sedentism of the ancient Camuni, from which the name for Valcamonica derives.

The Park of the Massi (Rocks) of Cemmo is also site of rare glacial erratics with engravings from the Copper Age, while that of Seradina-Bedolina boasts extremely-interesting testimonies from the late Bronze Age and the Iron Age, which we can see via three different visiting itineraries.
Just a stone’s throw away (3.7 miles to the north) lies the Communal Archaeological Park of Sellero, location of the most (relatively) recent (2nd-1st Century B.C.) and elaborate incisions, including the famous Camunian rose, now the symbol of the Region of Lombardy. Our itinerary then concludes in the Communal Archaeological Park of Sonico, 12.4 miles north, on the right bank of the Oglio. In this Park we can observe the fascinating collection of protohistoric cave art: prominent are a few figures; stylized, circular or spiraled images; and topographical representations and others in ball shapes. All date back to the Copper, Bronze or Iron Ages.

Valcamonica has even more to offer as you journey through its prehistoric cave art. Between one visit and the other, do not miss the opportunity to stroll on the shores of gorgeous Lake Iseo, perhaps stopping to taste the typical gastronomic specialties, the likes of which include famous cheeses and olive oil produced locally. Those interested in history and modern art can also take an excursion to nearby Lake Garda - among the largest of the Italian lakes - where the splendid House Museum of the Vittoriale degli Italiani (Gardone Riviera) allows you to walk where celebrated poet Gabriele D’Annunzio lived. If it's relaxation you are after, you can choose from an array of terme or thermal baths, while those in search of sport and adventure can enjoy skiing and a number of other winter sports. 

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