A Trip to Prehistoric Times in Valcamonica
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 and was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list more than 30 years ago. 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, a 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. About 12 miles north of Lovere, visitors can spot 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 and the most elaborate date back to the Bronze Age and center on themes of the labyrinth.
Moving up along the river, visitors will encounter the Archaeological Park of Asinino-Anvòia in Ossimo which features historic rocks and slabs from the Copper Age. About ten miles from here is the biggest park in the area which covers three communes: the Natural Reserve of Rock Incisions in Ceto, Cimbargo 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-see, as guests embark on a spectacular journey in discovery of the prehistoric and Medieval remains, as well as enjoy the historical reconstruction of an Iron Age village.
There are three parks in Capo di Ponte, 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 discovered 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 of Cemmo is the 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 one can see via three different visiting itineraries.
Just a stone’s throw away lies the Communal Archaeological Park of Sellero, the site of the most recent (second-first century B.C.) and elaborate incisions, including the famous Camunian Rose, now the symbol of the region of Lombardy. Also nearby is the Communal Archaeological Park of Sonico, where visitors can observe the fascinating collection of protohistoric cave art. Prominent are a few figures, as well as stylized, circular or spiraled images and topographical representations and others in ball shapes. All date back to the Copper, Bronze or Iron Ages.
Though it is the main draw to the area, Valcamonica has more to offer through its prehistoric cave art. Guests should 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 Gard— among the largest of the Italian lakes—where the House Museum of the Vittoriale degli Italiani (Gardone Riviera) allows you to walk where celebrated poet Gabriele D’Annunzio lived. Those looking for relaxation can choose from an array of thermal baths, while those in search of sport and adventure can enjoy a number of outdoor hikes and sports.