The Cansiglio, a plateau of Carniche Prealps placed between the provinces of Treviso, Belluno and Pordenone, stands with its outer slopes above the south and east of the Veneto and Friuli plain, while to the north it is bounded by the region of Alpago and to the northeast by the mountain group of the Cavallo; finally, at the west, the Val Lapisina separates it from the Col Visentin.
From the characteristic shape of a basin, is constituted in its central part by three depressions: Pian Cansiglio, Valmenera e Cornesega, where it reaches the lowest altitude (898 m).
The surrounding reliefs have an altitude around 1300 m, except at west and south-west, in the correspondence of Monte Millifret (1577 m) and Monte Pizzoc (1565 m); to the east the Monte Croseraz reaches the 1694 m.
The main valley furrows, from which you access the basin, are those of Campon (1050 m) to the north and that of Crosetta (1118 m) to the south.
The climate is cold temperate with cool summers. The cold air that descends from the internal sides stagnates in the basin giving origin to the characteristic phenomenon of thermal inversion: the temperature decreases proceeding from the surrounding reliefs at the bottom of the central areas. The extremes of the temperatures are included, although in exceptional condition, between 30° and -30° C.
Although the average annual rainfall is about 1800 mm, do not exists permanent water courses because of the Karst nature of the territory. The atmospheric humidity assumes high values almost the whole year and often the basin is filled by a thick fog whose formation is due to the strong thermal excursion.
The first written testimony in which Bosco d’Alpago is mentioned (as it was then called the Cansiglio forest) is a Diploma of the 923 century of Berengario I, crowned King of Italy with the aid of the ecclesiastical authority, by which the sovereign had donated the forest to the fief of the Bishop Count of Belluno.
In the following centuries numerous were the concessions of law of pasture to institutions and privates, but the pressure of human activities on the forest grew when, in the municipal age, the Cansiglio became the property of the Community of Belluno.
The fate of the forest will improve only starting from the first years of the XV century, when also the Bellunese territory asked for protection to the Republic of Venice.
The Cansiglio has assumed an enormous economic importance for the Venetian State: its forest rich of beech wood was used primarily in the production of the oars, timber from work and coal.
The governments of France and Austria followed, alternating with the Serenissima, but carried out a non attentive management, offering opportunities for revenge on forestry heritage to the contiguous populations until, after the birth of the Kingdom of Italy in 1871, the Italian Government declared the Cansiglio an Inalienable State Forest.
The recent history of the plateau is marked by the tragic happenings related to the second world war: in Cansiglio settled the headquarters of volunteers coming from adjacent areas that, with varying fortunes, joined the partisan struggle.
The visitor who arrives for the first time in Cansiglio is struck by the beauty of its forest, strongly characterized by the presence of beech trees (Fagus sylvatica), often very tall and with columnar trunks. Under the fronds, in the undergrowth, there grow species that tolerate the shade: the ferns, the wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa), the green hellebore (Helleborus viridis), the acetosella (Oxalis acetosella). The beech forest varies in beautiful colors with the changing of the seasons and suffers, as all the vegetation of the basin, of thermal inversion: consequently we find it distributed predominantly on the hills that surround the plateau, where the climatic conditions are more mild; at lower altitude beech joins to the silver fir (Abies alba) and spruce (Picea excelsa), forming a mixed forest that in March is permeated by the intense perfume of the stick flower (Daphne mezereum), small shrub from vivaciously colored flowers.
Lowermost, in proximity of the central recesses, there are instead pure woods of spruce in large part of artificial origin, in which the vegetation of the underbrush appears more poor. Finally on the bottom of the basin, where it is colder, extends a zone with herbaceous vegetation of natural origin which in time man has deeply changed for zootechnical purposes, not only broadening it to damage of the forest, but also doing a strong selection on the vegetable species. These wide open spaces are punctuated by variegated colors of seasonal blooming: suggestive those in springtime of the gentians (Gentiana verna, GentianaClusii) and crocuses (Crocusalbiflorus).
The floristic heritage of Cansiglio (inside and outside the basin), together with that of the mountain group Cavallo-Col Nudo, is such as to have aroused deep interest in botanists since the first half of the Eighteenth Century. The group Cansiglio-Cavallo in fact during glaciations remained empty from the thick layer of ice, offering himself as a refuge to flora and favoring the survival of endemic species like the silvery Geranium (Geraniumargenteum). Of notable interest are the humid environments (ponds, bogs) that for their fragility and scientific importance are protected by the law.
The Cansiglio, area from which hunting is banned long since, offers shelter to many animal species. The mammals more easy to observe, especially at dusk, are the roe deer (Capreoluscapreolus) and the deer (Cervuselaphus), present in the forest in good number. These herbivores, together with the fallow deer (dama dama) introduced in the past by man, are in continuous expansion for the lack of natural predators, although in recent years have been reported the presence of the lynx (Felislynx) and the occasional incursions into the forest from the brown bear (Ursus arctos).
They live here many mustelidae, animals from habits crepuscular and nocturnal, as the marten and the stone marten (Martesmartes, M. foina), the badger (Melesmeles) and the weasel (Mustela nivalis), the smallest carnivorous existing on the entire national territory. The sole representative of canidae is the fox (Vulpesvulpes): mammal with eating habits very versatile, you may encounter on his return from the night hunt to the lair, hidden often at dolines and small little well; between the leporidae, instead, it is possible to see the common hare and occasionally the variable hare (Lepuseuropaeus, L. timidus).
Between rodents are frequent the agile squirrel (Sciurusvulgaris), the dormouse (Glisglis) and numerous voles and wild mouse, while among the insectivorous we find the hedgehog (Erinaceuseuropaeus), the mole (Talpa europaea) and the less known shrews. Many of this micro mammals provide food in abundance to diurnal and nocturnal birds of prey: among the first the most common are the buzzard, the kestrel, the goshawk and the sparrow-hawk, while only occasionally you may observe specimens of golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos); between the nightly we find the tawny owl, the pygmy owl, the boreal owl and the sporadic eagle owl.
Museum of Man in Cansiglio
The Regional Museum of Man in Cansiglio “Anna Vieceli” and the Ethnographic and Cimbrian Cultural Center (MUC) is situated in the locality of Pian Osteria.
In the years ’70, with the aid of the Cimbrian Community present in Cansiglio, the State Forestry Corps, started a collection of documents, relics and tools from work; the museum has been inaugurated in 1975. With the gradual transition of the State Forest from the State to the Regions, in 1997 the Museum was transferred to the Veneto region who entrusted its management to Veneto Agricoltura.
At present the museum develops on two floors and the new arrangement presents a comprehensive overview of the human presence in Cansiglio starting from Prehistory, with the finds from the Palaeolithic period up to our days.
The Roman period and the middle ages are still little known, while they are well known and supported by numerous archive documents the 250 years of domination of the forest from the Serenissima Republic of San Marco.
Some rooms are dedicated to the presence of the Cimbrian community on the plateau and of forestry activities from the nineteenth century to today.
Ecological Museum Zanardo
Born in the second half of the Sixties to the initiative of the then Forestry Inspector Zanardo G., the small yet comprehensive museum, managed by the State Forestry Corps, preserves inside naturalistic finds regarding the plateau.
In the central hall you can observe, inserted in environmental contexts artificially reconstructed, typical animals of the forest of beech, spruces and meadows, among which stands out the beauty of specimen of male deer.
An exhibition section is entirely dedicated to the copious poultry fauna of the plateau: in addition to specimens of birds of prey, nocturnal and diurnal, corvids, picids, of great interest are, among the Tetraonidae, the pairs of black grouse and grouse.
Of particular relevance are the collections of invertebrates and reptiles that inhabit the area of Cansiglio- Cavallo, gathered in another small room. Likewise worthy of attention is the section devoted to the geological history and geomorphologic, in which are collected, together with some fossils, illustrative panels of the pasts processes that have originated the Cansiglio and the karst phenomena that characterize present landscape.
For information and reservations phone to:
CFS Headquarter Pian Cansiglio Tel: 0438 585301
Tourist office Tambre Tel: 0437 49277
Tourist office Vittorio Veneto Tel: 0438 57243
The Alpine Botanical Garden
The Alpine Botanical Garden, designed in 1972 by the will of professor G. G. Lorenzoni of the University of Padua and of the Forestry Inspector Zanardo G., has been expanded in recent years during the management of the former Regional Company Forests of Veneto, now Veneto Agricoltura.
In this place are collected about 500 species of plants present in the area of Cansiglio-Cavallo, organized by ambient: in a little space, approximately one hectare and a half is reunited the vegetation of the forest, of the shrubs, of meadows and pastures, screes and niveal valleys, of rocks and other types vegetation.
Of great interest are the humid environments: the ponds and the two peat bogs which are also hosts to numerous species of amphibians and insects. During the visit to the garden, even the visitor less expert can at the same time observe the characteristics of the individual species and understand the complexity of the landscape that surrounds it. Moreover a small collection is dedicated to officinal species, that is plants that are used in the preparation of drugs. At the educative intent are flanked the scientific sector and conservative: in fact it is possible to study the many aspects of the flora in the complex ecological relations and at the same time cultivate and reproduce the species most threatened with extinction.
The activities of the garden are incurred by the technical cooperation and scientific of the Botanical Garden of the University of Padua and, since 1993, from the contribution of the voluntary association “Friends of the Alpine Botanical Garden of Cansiglio”.
The historical origin of the Cimbri (from the cimbrian vocabulary “tzimbar” which means wood craftsman) dates back to groups of settlers of German language which , around 1100-1300 centuries, journeyed from a zone comprised between the Tyrol and Bavaria for descend in Italy, where some feudal lords needed workers skilled in forestry activities.
The Cimbri they arrive in Cansiglio as seasonal woodsmen leaving probably in the XVIII century Roana, one of the seven municipalities of the Asiago Plateau, where it is still present a strong community that still speaks the Cimbrian idiom. Subsequently, in the course of 1800, they built villages, that in part still exist (Le Rotte, Vallorch, I Pich, Canaie, Campon, Pian Osteria), in which they transfered the families and where there still exist some typical “casoni” (big houses), with wooden structure resting on stone elevation and with coverings in “shingles” of fir. The rich beech forest of Cansiglio gave work to them as woodsmen and craftsmen, providing in abundance timber for the production of “scatoi”, slats of length and thickness variables directed at the construction of sieves, of bands for the forms of cheeses and other household objects, which were appreciated in inhabited villages outside the forest.
At present some descendants of the Cimbri still live in Cansiglio, but most of them, following the socio-economic changes after the Second World War, settled in the surrounding villages (Spert, Tambre, Fregona), where in part they still practice activities related to the forest or has emigrated. The Cimbri of Cansiglio are recognized as an ethnic minority of Veneto Region and are represented by the Cultural Association Cimbri of Cansiglio with headquarters in Pian Osteria (tel / fax +39 0437 472095), which takes care of historical research, promotion and divulgation, also with publications , of the Cimbrian language, traditions and culture. In this context it is worth visiting the Museum of Cansiglio and Cimbri of Pian Osteria, the museum area of the ancient village of Pian Canaie Vecio, the typical “Huta” work shed, located outside the Pian di Ladro-Baldassarre Reserve and villages scattered in the forest.
On the first Sunday of August, in the village of Pian Osteria, the feast of St. Osvaldo, patron of the Cimbri, is renewed, with the re-enactment of their ancient crafts.
Texts by Letizia De Martin and Vittorio de Savorgnani