Protected Area

Identity Card

  • Land Surface Area: 318.00 ha
  • Regions: Lombardia
  • Provinces: Como
  • Municipalities: Valsolda
  • Establishment Measures: D.C.R. VIII/355 13/03/2007
  • PA Official List: EUAP1209




From Regional Forest to Nature Reserve

Regione Lombardia owns 318 hectares of woodlands in the valley of the stream Soldo and, in small part, in the valley of the stream Rezzo. The area is one of the 20 Regional Forests of Lombardy. It is a very interesting place for its extreme natural features, the landscapes made harsh and wild by the calcareous outcrops, and its thick and varied woodlands.
Valsolda Forest has a valuable wildlife and botanic heritage. In 2004 it was included in Natura 2000 sites of Community interest as Special Protection Area (SPA) since it has demonstrated to preserve rare habitats scarcely influenced by man and a valuable and varied fauna, in particular as far as birds are concerned. Subsequently, in March 2007, the whole Forest was declared Nature Reserve, in order to guarantee a better and specific safeguard regime to preserve its important natural features, its endemic species, and its rich fauna.
The management of the Reserve is currently entrusted to ERSAF (Regional Authority for Services to Agriculture and Forests), a body which has inherited the competence and management activities of ARF (Regional Forest Authority) since 2002. The management policy aims at protecting the naturalistic value of the Forest and, at the same time, at enabling its compatible use. To this aim, the Nature Reserve has been divided into two different areas:

  • "Riserva Naturale Orientata" (Sustainable Management Oriented Nature Reserve): it includes the southern section of the valley (about 90 hectares) and is safeguarded with less restrictive constraints in order to enable a sustainable tourist cultural-environmental use. Here you will find equipped trails and picnic areas.
  • "Riserva Naturale Integrale" (Strict Nature Reserve): it includes the rest of the territory (about 228 hectares); the constraints are extremely restrictive. The aim is to set to zero the human influence, so that the forest can be dominated again by natural balance.
Valle Fiorina
Valle Fiorina
Alpe Serte picnic area
Alpe Serte picnic area
Bocchetta di Regagno
Bocchetta di Regagno


Limestone Gray...

Valsolda: a striking place for its strength, primitive harshness, variety of environments. From imposing and compact vertical walls to gentler slopes covered with woods, to decomposing indented pinnacles and ravines. Perhaps the latter are the most characteristic and charming environments: pinnacles and ridges challenging the law of gravity. This tormented landscape is the result of various factors:

  • the nature of its rocks: limestone and dolomite, both easily corroded by atmospheric agents. These rocks derive from the seabed of an ancient Triassic sea subsequently outcropping because of the alpine orogenesis, which gave birth to the complex of the Alps and southern calcareous Prealps. The main formations are Zorzino Limestone and Main Dolomite, characterized by the presence of mainly bivalve and gastropod fossils (Wortenia confabulata COSTA and Megalodon gumbeli STOP). In the lowest part of the Reserve, near Alpe Pessina, there are limited outcrops of argillite (Argillite of Riva di Solto)
  • the steep slope of the mountainsides
  • the watercourses efficiently shaping the rocky substratum. The stream Soldo, with an irregular and branching course, dug a deep valley, and similarly did the other two streams, Fiorina and Rezzo, the latter running in a real ravine.

The harshness of the rocks alternates with the charming landscape you can enjoy over the blue and far waters of Lugano Lake, Piano Lake, and Como Lake.

Photo by GeologyCalcareous pinnacles
Calcareous pinnacles
Torrent Soldo
Torrent Soldo

Vegetation and Flora

... and the Green of the Woodlands

Valsolda is characterized by a great floristic and vegetational biodiversity. The basic, or little acid, substratum has enabled the development of a rich and varied forest. At lower altitudes, slopes are dominated by a vegetal formation living in warm places and characterized by Hop Hornbeam, Flowering Ash, Mountain Ash, Sycamore Maple, and Hazelnut Tree. The coolest areas are dominated by Beech Tree creating in some areas almost pure formations which can be considered strips of the old beech wood covering in the past the whole prealpine area. However, the wood is relatively recent. It is about 30-40 years old, the necessary time to "reconquer" the soil previously exploited by breeding activities. The conifers, plants we usually associate with a mountain environment, are represented in the Reserve only by artificial woods with Larch, Spruce Fir, and Black Pine planted immediately after World War II near the old grazing lands (Alpe Serte, Fiorina, and Pessina).
At highest altitudes we find the most important features of the Reserve: localized but important formations of Mountain Pine and Rhododendron, belonging to Natura 2000 protected habitats, and, above all, a rocky flora rich in endemic and rare species. Concerning this, we have two significant data: the percentage of endemic species out of the total of the species living in the Reserve is 10.9% vs 2.5% of Lombardy. Moreover, the species protected by at least one restriction and therefore "precious" are 45 out of 254, an extremely high percentage.
Let's finally consider occasional species, that is plants spontaneously growing in territories different from their original distribution area: they are not present in the area. This demonstrates that human pressure is unimportant in the area. For this reason, the choice of the Park Authority to transform the upper part of the Reserve in strict nature reserve to safeguard its rare and precious natural features has been extremely relevant.

Photo by Vegetation and FloraPhoto by Vegetation and Flora


A Life Explosion

The variety and good health of the environments characterizing the Reserve enables the existence of a fauna rich in species and individuals, as far as entomofauna, Reptiles, Birds or Mammals are concerned.
The characteristic species of the prealpine environment live and can be easily sighted here: in particular Chamois, Deer, and Roe Deer. The former lives here thanks to the reintroduction activities carried out during the last years. Deer and Roe Deer are more abundant, they are about thirty heads. In the Reserve there are also a few specimens of Wild Boar.
Recent studies have confirmed that Badger, Beech Marten, Fox, and Least Weasel belong without a doubt to the Reserve wildlife. The presence of these carnivores, together with diurnal and nocturnal Birds of Prey (Golden Eagle, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Kestrel, Peregrine, Honey Buzzard, Tawny Owl, and Boreal Owl), guarantees a balanced ecosystem, with a well-structured food pyramid. Interesting also the recent data about the presence of at least 5 species of chiropters in the Forest.
The Golden Eagle nesting in the area is relatively easy to sight, while at the sunset it is almost always possible to listen to the Rock Partridge singing.
A final remark regards the tick, a usual parasite of ungulates: it is possible to become guests of it in case you do not follow the trails and walk in the undergrowth or in tall grass.

Araneus diadematus
Araneus diadematus
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