From resin harvesters to war debris collectors, in search of the ancient trades of the Val di Sole
- 3 days
- June, July, August
- Art and Culture, Great War
The route we propose runs through one of the wildest and most pristine environments in the valley
From resin harvesters to war debris collectors, in search of the ancient trades of the Val di SoleVIEW MAP
DAY ONE 9.00 am Val Meledrio
The route we propose runs through one of the wildest and most pristine environments of the Val di Sole. Set out from Dimaro (772 m) along the main road n° 239 for Madonna di Campiglio. Take the forestry road dirt track, which starts at the first hairpin bend and runs along the Meledrio mountain stream. Before we recommend a number of stops along the route, we invite you to relax and take in the natural environment around you, first and foremost the gurgling water, and enjoy the pure, fresh pristine environment surrounding you all the way through the Adamello Brenta Natural Park.
The first point of interest you come across, just after entering the valley is a trip hammer driven by the force of the water, which brings back recollections of the ancient craft of working wrought iron. It was restored 2 years ago with the aim of reminding people how over the past centuries the forces of nature were exploited as a source of power to drive machinery to process raw materials.
Continuing along the forestry road you come across an old limekiln, a structure that was once fairly common in the mountains and bears evidence of one of the oldest trades of the local people, which was to produce quicklime from the limestone present in the surrounding area.
But this is not all...continue to climb through the larchwood which covers the slopes of the hillock known as Dosso di Santa Brigida (1353 m asl), where an ancient alms house stood. Interesting archaeological remains of it date back to the 14th century (visible opposite Malga del Doss). If you are tired at this point, we recommend a natural way to cool down: on the right side downstream of the Hillock, a narrow rocky gorge forces the Meledrio mountain stream to form a powerful waterfall, the Cascata del Pison, which can be admired from above, from the characteristic, recently-built larchwood bridge and from below, along a short, well-marked path.
Return to the starting point along the same forestry road, and follow the short educational-illustrated trail called Percorso della Trementina (Turpentine Route), which introduce an occupation that has died out over the years: harvesting resin. Here the work of the "largaioi", or resin collectors, can be seen. These earned a living by extracting pure resin, mainly from larch trees, from March to October. The crude oleoresin obtained was distilled to produce turpentine, or turps, which is used to dilute paints and varnishes and as a chest rub to aid breathing.
2 Tappa Itinerario Antichi mestieri Val di SoleVIEW MAP
2.00 PM - Malè
Follow the River Noce from Dimaro towards Malè (737 m asl), an important administrative and economic centre of the valley. This small, modern town has a large number of squares, highlighting its commercial and administrative functions.
A number of archaeological finds, such as a votive headstone from the 2nd century AD provides evidence of Roman settlement here.
Certainly worth visiting is the Parrocchiale dell'Assunta (parish church) located in the heart of the old town centre, reconstructed by builders from Lombardy at the end of the 15th century and embellished in 1531 by the addition of a Renaissance porch. Of the primitive Romanesque church only the impressive bell tower featuring single and double lancet windows and a little Christ Pantocrator sculptured headstone remain. The interior, which is divided into three naves covered by cross vaults, houses two magnificent seventeenth-century wooden altars- with canvasses by Polacco (1614) and Camillo Procaccini - and two marble altars from 1723. Next to the church stands the Chapel of St Valentine featuring a fifteenth century loggia and frescoes by Casarini (1938).
Near the old town centre of Malè, the ground floor rooms of an old Austrian barracks houses the Museo della Civiltà Solandra (Val di Sole Ethnographic Museum) certainly one of the most successful museums in the area. Farming implements, instruments and utensils are divided into sections: sources of livelihood (agriculture, cheesemaking, timber); traditional trades (carpenter, blacksmith, coppersmith, cobbler); spinning and weaving. Do not miss the highly detailed reconstruction of two rooms in a Val di Sole household: the kitchen and bedroom (known as stua). Moreover the entrance to the museum is dedicated to a famous Val di Sole mycologist, Don Giacomo Bresadola (1847-1929), with a display made up of original drawings, letters, articles from newspapers and periodicals, including the original edition of his main work, Iconographia Mycologica (an important treatise on mushrooms), printed in Milan between 1927 and 1933 and comprising 26 volumes.
Leaving Malè heading towards Val di Rabbi, at about 500 m from the Museum, stop for a visit to the Marinelli forge in Pondasio, one of only a few examples of hydraulic forge still working and still intact in the Alps. It dates from around 1600, and was one of many pre-industrial forges and mills in the Pondasio area that were powered by the water from the Rabbies mountain stream. The Marinelli forge houses a thousand-year-long heritage of technical knowledge and human experience, a treasure house of blacksmiths' secrets: including a trip hammer, double smithy and grinding wheel.
3 Tappa itinerario Antichi mestieri Val di SoleVIEW MAP
DAY 2 - 9.00 am, Val di Rabbi
The Val di Rabbi is a side valley branching off from the Val di Sole and is conveniently accessed from Malé. This striking V-shaped valley wends its way through the mountains for 19 km, maintaining its wild character of bygone days intact. The valley is part of the Stelvio National Park, the largest of Italy's historic parks and still the largest in the Alps.
The Val di Rabbi is one of the most characteristic valleys of the entire Province of Trento both in terms of its natural landscapes and the uniformity of man's intervention here. The landscape is rugged, featuring conifer woods that extend as far as the villages and an abundance of wonderful flowing waters. Its historic villages are Pracorno, San Bernardo and Piazzola. There is however hundreds of little hamlets made up of characteristic masi (small stone and timber houses with larchwood shingle roofs which families shared with their livestock) which dot the meadows creating a picture of a culture that has managed to combine usefulness with beauty. A maso was a small farming building, usually comprising a barn in the basement with a hayloft above it and was usually occupied only while the Alpine pastures were being grazed (May - September). They are little open-air museums, set as if by magic in an environment of bygone days.
Characteristic glimpses abound in all directions and some picturesque views can also be seen driving through the valley.
One of the main qualities of the Val di Rabbi is definitely its abundance of water: its bicarbonate-rich, alkaline and chalybeate mineral waters, which are highly carbonic and naturally sparking, are famous and the driving force behind the spa culture, which is deeply rooted here. Its therapeutic properties were renowned as early as 1650 and over the centuries many famous people (the Austrian rulers first and foremost) came here to take the waters. We can highly recommend a period of complete relaxation at the Terme di Rabbi spa.
In Val di Rabbi, one of the main sources of income was agriculture; therefore a visit to the Mulino Ruatti (mill) in Pracorno is certainly recommended. The mill is now a museum where you can see and appreciate how a miller in Val di Rabbi used to live. It was first mentioned in the 13th century, when the buildings were registered as part of the estate of the Prince-Bishops of Trent due to their economic importance. The mill was still in operation up until the last century, and is now open to the public. The mill building has been completely restored and the restoration project has placed a special emphasis on the milling techniques and equipment.
The Stelvio National Park has carried out a number of other important restoration projects in Val di Rabbi, including:
- the Segheria dei Braghje (sawmill), situated on the right bank downstream of the Rabbiés mountain stream in Rabbi Fonti, a short distance from the old spa building.
- the Segheria dei Bègoi (sawmill), on the edge of the meadows at the head of the valley in Plan.
Both sawmills are still operated during presentations made by the Park staff to cut wood. The planks produced are used in maintenance work.
4 Tappa Itinerario Antichi mestieri Val di SoleVIEW MAP
DAY 3 - 10.00 AM PASSO TONALE
Another stop-off in the highest village in Val di Sole (1884 m asl). Passo del Tonale is the oldest place name in Val di Sole. The first documentation dates back in fact to 774, when a diploma issued by Charlemagne conferred Val Camonica as far as the "vocatur Thonale" boundary. The name probably originates from Giove Tonante, a place consecrated to the god Jupiter because of the formidable thunderstorms that occur here, especially in summer. At the crossing place stands an ancient alms house, with an adjoining little church dedicated to St Bartholomew, now abandoned, mentioned for the first time in 1127. This has been one of the most popular crossing places in the Valley since ancient times and transhumance was practised for centuries on the pastures around Tonale by shepherds from both Val di Sole and Val Camonica.
The mountains surrounding Passo del Tonale were the scene of fighting during the First World War: a monumental shrine contains the remains of over 800 Italian and Austro-Hungarian soldiers who fell in the vicinity of Passo.
Last summer the "Galleria Paradiso" was opened to the public. Situated at the top of the Pass (easily reached by cable car, from Passo) on the border bitterly contended by the Austro-Hungarian and Italian armies during the long war years. The Galleria, a long cavern hewn out of the granite during the war, served as a temporary shelter for the soldiers from the cold, suffering and artillery. It now houses a multimedia display entitled "Suoni e voci della Guerra Bianca" (Sounds and voices of the White War) and exhibits a selection of war relics and brief notes on the military events and conditions of the soldiers living on the glacier front. A sound track completes the exhibition by creating an evocative atmosphere of sounds and voices of war, after which the exhibition is named. These are fragmentary and muffled, as they would have been heard by the soldiers cooped up in the cavern: echoes of fighting and explosions, the laments of the wounded, voices of refugees, but also moments of cheerfulness and comradeship between the soldiers.
At Passo Paradiso you can have lunch at the Ristorante Passo Paradiso (for info 0463/890345), next to the cableway station. The breath-taking panorama (over the Presena glacier and, on the opposite side, over the Ortles-Cevedale mountain range) will provide a stunning backdrop against which to sample typical dishes.
2.00 pm FORTE STRINO
Forte Strino, once a strategic border between Italy and Austria, towers above the road just 7 km below Passo del Tonale, in the direction of Val di Sole. Forte Strino houses displays of relics and mementoes of the Great War from private collections (uniforms, weaponry, camouflage battle dress of the Alpini skiing soldiers). Here the war debris collector played an important role, recovering war relics and debris containing iron, copper and brass to sell on. This provided an alternative source of income during those times of hardship.
Various initiatives are held at the Fort during the summer months: art exhibitions, theatrical performances and shows based on the subject of the war. On request, guided tours of the Fort and the other Austro-Hungarian forts in the Tonale area (Forte Zaccarana, Forte Mero, Forte Pozzi Alti or Presanella) can be organised.