Vallecamonica: nature, rock carvings, churches, food

Vallecamonica, extending north of Lake Iseo, is one of the largest valleys of Italy and in Europe represents a unique combination of natural beauty and historical and artistic heritage.

The name, Vallecamonica means valley of the Camuni, and recalls the ancient people who lived there before the Roman conquest.

The mysterious Camuni, probably close to the Celtic culture, have left in this valley, a perpetual testimony, an impressive corpus of stone carvings ( over 300,000 figures so far discovered) that cover a vast time span ( about 10,000 years), a unique case in Europe. These representations are present along the axis of the valley for about 70 km, between 200 and 2000 meters of altitude.

In some locations, interpreted by scholars as prehistoric cultural sites, there are also clusters of hundreds densely stained rocks. Among them, the best known and most studied is undoubtedly the Parco nazionale delle incisioni rupestri (National Park of the petroglyphs) of Naquane of Capodiponte, which extends over an area of about 60 acres, with spectacular views of the valley at 500 meters above sea level on the slopes of the mount Pizzo Badile.

The national park was established, in 1955 and in 1979 was the first Italian site to enter in the World Heritage List by UNESCO.

The Park of Naquane is significant both for the particular beauty of the forest landscape in which it is immersed, and both for the importance and the artistic quality of the engravings themselves, among which the rock 70, which contains one of the few European depictions of the celtic god Cernunnos, and the rock 35 with numerous representations, including the famous ” running priest “.

Noteworthy is also the Riserva naturale regionale delle Incisioni rupestri di Ceto, Cimbergo e Paspardo (Regional Natural Reserve of Rock engravings of Ceto, Cimbergo and Paspardo), which presents a series of fine medieval engravings, including the so-called “St.Peter. ”

In the Augustan age Vallecamonica was conquered by the Romans, who have left numerous testimonies. In Cividate Camuno you can visit the Roman amphitheater and the Archaeological Museum which houses many relics of that era, while in Breno is visible in the Sanctuary of Minerva, dedicated to a local deity of the water treated by the Romans to the goddess Minerva.

There are also many medieval monuments, including the many castles (Castle of Breno, Castle Cimbergo) and the beautiful church of St. Siro Capodiponte, jewel of Romanesque architecture, perched on a rock overlooking the river below.

In Cerveno you can see the Santuario della Via Crucis (Shrine of the Stations of the Cross), who in the furrows of the Lombard tradition of the Sacred Mountains, is home to a series of chapels with natural size statues in wood and plaster that depict episodes from the Passion of Christ. The work was created between 1752 and 1764 by the local sculptor Beniamino Simoni, and includes 198 statues of impressive realism. A lasting testament to the devotion of the people of Cerveno, here every 10 years during the Holy Week is held a in costume re-enactment of the Via Crucis.

Below the glacier Presena there is the renowned ski resort and resort town of Pontedilegno, whose 80 km of ski slopes located at 1260m of height make it a popular destination for winter sports lovers.

And, last but not least, how can we forget the gastronomy of Vallecamonica, where, in addition to the local version of casoncelli Brescia (made ​​with peach kernel), we find a number of products made ​​from chestnuts (jams, cakes, cookies), cow cheese(the famous silter, the casolet) and goat cheese, and special dishes such as cus (stewed sheep).