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:
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 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.
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
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.
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
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.