Trentino and Alto Adige

Trentin und Südtirol

This northern part of Italy is part of the Alps with mountains between 3000 and 4000 m asl. The whole mountain range is called Southern Limestone Alps. The northern part are the Dolomites, named after the French geologist ExplainDéodat de Dolomieu. He discovered the difference between dolomite and normal limestone, when he travelled through the dolomites, from Innsbruck across the Brenner pass to Italy in 1788/89. He collected a few limestone rocks, and was astonished that it did not effervesce with weak hydrochloric acid, like normal limestone. He published these observations in 1791 in the well-known French science magazine Journal de Physique. In March 1792, the rock was named dolomie (or dolomite, in English) by Nicolas-Théodore de Saussure. And the mountain ridge was called "the dolomite mountains" or simply dolomites.

All the mountains here, except for the ridge along the border to Austria, consist of limestone. The limestone, of course, is karstified and riddled with caves. But there is only one show cave in the Trentino/Alto Adige area, the Grotta Parolini (Grotte Oliero). Other caves are in a semi-wild state.

As mentioned the northern ridges consist of crystalline rocks, metamorphic slate and gneiss, with many minerals and ores. Volcanic processes during the Alpine orogeny produced rich ore veins, there are numerous mines in this area which have a very long history. The Südtiroler Bergbaumuseum (Mining Museum South Tyrolia) operates four show mines. One of them, the Schneeberg mine, is the highest mine in Europe.

Then the area is riddled with bunkers, as it was the front during World War I, the Italians and Austrians were fighting high up in the mountains. The result of the lost war was the loss of Südtirol (South Tyrolia) to Italy, who renamed it Alto Adige (Upper Etsch Valley). Even after 100 years the locals still speak a German dialect, although they are all bilingual. With the 100-year anniversary of World War I numerous bunkers and fortifications of this war were renovated and opened to the public. Also, fortifications of World War II, the Vallo Alpino del Littorio, the Italian fascist alpine wall.

And finally there are numerous gorges, a result of the end of the ice age. The melting glaciers produced enormous amounts of melting water which cut deep and narrow gorges. With the development of Alpine tourism in the late 19th century, several gorges were made accessible with wooden trails and bridges.