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Irene Bollati et al.




Irene Bollati1, Paola Coratza2, Valeria Panizza3, Manuela Pelfini1

Department of Earth Sciences "Ardito Desio", University of Milan, Italy

Department of Chemical and Geological Sciences, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy
Department of History, Human Sciences and Education, University of Sassari, Italy

Manuscript received: March 6, 2018

Revised version: July 13, 2018

Bollati I., Coratza P., Panizza V., Pelfini M., 2018. Lithological and structural control on Italian mountain geoheritage:
opportunities for tourism, outdoor and educational activities. Quaestiones Geographicae 37(3), Bogucki Wydawnictwo
Naukowe, Poznań, pp. 53–73. 4 figs, 1 table.
Abstract: Mountain landscapes are generated by the interplay of endogenous and exogenous processes, whose recip-
rocal importance changes over times. The Italian relief reflects a high geomorphodiversity and an overview on iconic
mountain landscapes, representative of the lithological-structural diversity of the Italian relief, is presented. The study
cases, located along Alps and Apennines and in the Sardinia island, are exemplary for the comprehension of the role
of the substratum in shaping mountain landscapes and of the deriving risk scenario. Moreover, mountain landscapes
are characterized by a high potential for use in terms of: i) ideal open-air natural laboratories for multidisciplinary
educational purposes including geological-geomorphological, historical and ecological topics; ii) possibility of spe-
cific outdoor activities that take advantage of outdoor sports (e.g., climbing, canyoning, speleology). These feasible
and versatile opportunities favour the enhancement of such environments under different perspectives as well as the
involvement of local communities and the socio-economic return deriving from mountain geoheritage management.
Key words: Italian relief, lithostructural landscapes, geomorphosites, outdoor activities
Corresponding author: Irene Bollati,

Introduction and aims the range of a few kilometres in complex structur-

al contexts like those of the two main mountain
Italy is a country with a great variety of beauti- chains of the Italian peninsula, the Alps and the
ful and highly scenic landscapes deeply connected Apennines (Bigi et al. 1990). These two main rang-
with the lithological-structural diversity and the es are elongated spreading mainly from West to
long-term modelling action of exogenous and en- East and from North to South respectively, cov-
dogenous processes, whose reciprocal importance ering a great part of the national territory and be-
has changed over times (Soldati, Marchetti 2017). ing characterised by different climatic conditions,
The wide latitudinal extent of the Italian territory from the Alpine to the Mediterranean morphocli-
and the articulated altitudinal ranges are mainly matic environments. Since morphosculptures are
responsible for a marked climatic diversity which strictly controlled by geological structures and li-
plays a fundamental role in making Italy a country thology, on which surface processes act, being in
with such a great landscape variability (i.e. geomor- turn mainly climate related and/or climate condi-
phodiversity sensu Panizza 2009, see also Melelli et tioned, in the most sensitive areas climate change
al. 2017). Different lithologies may outcrop within impacts are very acute and play a fundamental

© 2018 Author(s)
This is an open access article distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license

doi: 10.2478/­quageo-2018-0025
ISSN 0137-477X, eISSN 2081-6383
54 Irene Bollati et al.

role in landscape shaping and evolution. Among look at the surrounding landscape, and hence
these sensitive areas, mountain environments are suitable for interpretation of scenery. Recent dec-
particularly vulnerable to disturbance and prone ades have witnessed an exponential growth of
to change, (Beniston 2003, Garavaglia et al. 2010, scientific interest and, consequently, of research
Reynard, Coratza 2016). Considering water action on geomorphosites located in mountain areas
in different physical states, it is possible to inves- (i.e. mountain geomorphosites) (Reynard, Coratza
tigate changes in the climate-related processes 2016, Bollati et al. 2017a, b), as part of geoheritage
along altitudinal transects on reliefs character- (sensu Osborne 2000).
ized by altitude variations. Areas at the higher Mountain environments, due to their peculiar
altitudes are mainly characterized by glacial and characteristics, provide key sites for the compre-
periglacial processes and landforms, while run- hension of Earth surface evolution through space
ning water action prevails in glacier forelands, and time (Reynard, Coratza 2016), while also of-
in areas at lower altitudes and characterized by fering a great potential for the development and
milder climate (e.g. Bollati et al. 2017a). Where promotion of tourism and leisure activities by
glacial and karst processes combine, some of the planning ideal outdoor laboratories with scien-
most spectacular landscapes are generated, like tific and educational purposes (e.g. Pelfini et al.
those characterizing the most eastern portion of 2016). Detailed analysis aimed at identifying and
the Alps (e.g. Cucchi, Finocchiaro 2017). Instead, quantifying different values characterizing geo-
at lower altitudes where, for example, widespread morphosites (see a review by Brilha 2016, Bollati
shales outcrop along the Apennines, badlands (i.e. et al. 2017b, Brilha 2018, Coratza, Hoblea 2018),
calanchi in Italian, Bucciante 1922) are common for the selection of the most valuable ones both
and popular, while on the Alps impressive earth for conservation and promotion purposes, are
pyramids have been modelled on glacial hetero- currently becoming mandatory. If the aesthet-
metric deposits (Bollati et al. 2017a) being distinct ic value represents the fundamental value for
features within the Italian landscape (e.g. Bollati raising interest towards the physical landscapes,
et al. 2016a). among the values usually assessed through spe-
Besides the main mountain ranges, Italian is- cific methodologies there are also the scientific,
lands are characterized by other kind of moun- including the ecologic support role, the cultural
tainous relief, often linked with active or relict and the socio-economic values.
volcanic activity (e.g. Mount Etna and Aeolian Moreover, potential for use of each site may
islands in Sicily, Giare plateaux in Sardinia), or include the possibility of practicing various out-
with large outcrops of granitic (Mount Capanne on door activities (e.g. climbing, canyoning or spe-
the Elba Island) and calcareous (Tavolara island in leology) (Bollati et al., 2016b, 2017b), linked with
Sardinia) massifs and where also the articulated geomorphological features and based on litho-
coastal landforms increase in importance (e.g. logical and structural variety. Outdoor activities,
Lucchi et al. 2017). field works, field trips are in fact considered very
Geosites are defined as portions of the geosphere important for getting in touch with Geosciences
that present a particular importance for the compre- (e.g. Sturani et al. 2018 and references herein).
hension of Earth history (Reynard 2004). Among Concerning climbing, this diversity deeply affects
the different type of geosites, geomorphosites routes styles and difficulty (i.e. climb-diversity;
(Panizza 2001), i.e. sites of special geomorpholog- Bollati et al. 2014, 2016b, García-Rodríguez et al.
ical significance, are often the most spectacular. 2017). As indicated by Gray (2013), rock climbing
Geomorphosites may be essentially single, isolat- sites – but this concept may encompass in gener-
ed landforms (e.g. a waterfall, an erratic boulder, al outdoor activities – may be considered, in fact,
etc.) or groups of landforms encompassing fairly producers of abiotic ecosystem services (i.e. 17.
large geomorphological landscape (Grandgirard Cultural services, Geotourism and leisure) deriving
1997, Reynard 2009a, b) and their outlines can from their geodiversity. In the case of canyoning,
take various forms and trends (Coratza and fluvial modelling and structural conditions allow
Hobléa 2018). Recently, Migoń and Pijet-Migoń the formation of different streams morphologies
(2017) proposed a new category of geosites, i.e. suitable for different types of canyon exploration
viewpoint geosite, as localities which offer a wider (Ortega-Becerril et al. 2017), while turbulence of
Lithological and structural control on Italian mountain geoheritage 55

water-flow controls sport feasibility (Panizza, An overview on some iconic mountain land-
Manca 2006). Finally, in the case of speleology, scapes, that may be considered hot-spots of Italian
in presence of soluble bedrocks generating en- geomorphodiversity, will be presented in this pa-
dokarst systems, this outdoor activity, in the edu- per. The structural and lithological heterogeneity
cation perspective, may be very diversified (Schut together with the different types of climate, that
2006, De Waele 2010, Ballesteros et al. 2015). underpin such a diversity of landscapes and the
This possibility of educational versatile ap- development of a rich and varied tourist offer,
proaches, including outdoor activities, favours especially when linked with outdoor activities,
also the involvement and socio-economic return will be underlined. Their inclusion in the region-
for local communities coming from geoheritage al and national Italian geosites catalogues will be
management (Bollati et al. 2018). It is important to also analysed.
underline also that all these opportunities should
not disregard the risk scenario assessment due
both to active geomorphic processes, especially Italian geomorphological relief
when they are changing under changing climatic diversity and related services
conditions (e.g. Diolaiuti et al. 2006, Bollati et al.
2013), and to the practice of extreme sports (e.g. In this paragraph a selection of some of the
Panizza, Mennella 2007, Motta et al. 2009). most important Italian mountain landscapes is

Fig. 1. Location of the selected landscapes in the Italian context (the background image is courtesy of Google
Table 1. Summary of the analysed features of the proposed study areas.

Geomorphological features
Other form
Study Italian of official rec- Geosites Litholo- Outdoor
Code range/ Secon- Other relevant values
case Region ognition and Catalogues gy/ies Primary activities
region dary Landscape features
protection processes

A Mont Aosta Western Espace Mont ISPRA Granites Glacial & Chemical Steep slopes Climbing Cultural: transboundary area
Blanc Valley Italian Blanc, SIC gravity weathe- and alpinism history
Massif Alps IT1204010 action ring

B Mottaro- Pied- Western   Regione Granites Chemical Water Residual relief with Climbing Cultural and socio-economic:
ne Massif mont Italian Piemonte weathe- action tors and inselbergs cave and mines
Alps (for other ring

C Gallura Sardi- North Regional ISPRA Granites Chemical Water Residual reliefs Climbing, Cultural, archaeological, so-
nia Eastern protection on weathe- runoff, with inselbergs, canyoning cio-economic: quarries
Sardinia some specific ring gravity tors, rounded
sites blocks and tafonis
Irene Bollati et al.

D Grigne Lom- Central Regional ISPRA, Limesto- Karst Glacial Glacio-karstic ipo- Climbing, Cultural: Leonardo Da Vinci
Massif bardy Italian Park of the Regione nes and epi- landforms speleolo- artistic works, tradition of
Prealps Grigne Lombardia gy climbing

E Dolomi- Trenti- Eastern UNESCO / Dolomi- Gravity   Cryo- Towers and scree Climbing Cultural: painting, photogra-
tes no-Alto Italian World Heri- tes clastism, slopes  phy, poetry, history of Alpin-
Adige Alps tage List glacial ism; socio-economic: tourism

F Supra- Sardi- Central Regional ISPRA Limesto- Karst Gravity, Hypogeum and Climbing, cultural, archaelogical, socio-e-
monte nia Eastern protection on nes, dolo- flu- surface karstic spele- conomic
Sardinia some specific stones vio-karst landforms ology,
sites canyoning

Table 1. continued.

Geomorphological features
Other form
Study Italian of official rec- Geosites Litholo- Outdoor
Code range/ Secon- Other relevant values
case Region ognition and Catalogues gy/ies Primary activities
region dary Landscape features
protection processes

G Pietra di Emilia Northern National ISPRA, Sandsto- Selected Weaathe- Mesa, landslides Climbing Cultural: Dante Alighieri’s de-
Bisman- Roma- Apenni- Park of the Emilia ne erosion ring scription, history of Alpinism;
tova gna nes Tuscan-Emil- Romagna & gravity Archaeological: Bronze Age
mesa ia Apennine Region and early Iron Age settlements;
Ecologic support role: endemic

H Orcia Tu- Central UNESCO ISPRA (not Shales Water Gravity Calanchi, shallow   Cultural: Radicofani Castle;
Valley scany Apenni- World Heri- Radicofani runoff landslides Ecologic support role: endemic
nes tage List case) species

I Bardi Emilia Northern   ISPRA, Basalts Diffe- Gravity Steep slopes Cultural: Bardi Medieval
ophiolitic Roma- Apenni- Emilia and red rential Castle; Ecologic support role:
spur gna nes Romagna jaspers erosion endemic species

J Terra Pied- Western Veglia De- / Serpenti- Chemical Gravity Residual ridges Alpinism   
Rossa mont Italian vero Natural nite weathe-
Alps Park ring

K Pietra Emilia Northern Regional Na- ISPRA, Serpenti- Diffe- Gravity Monadnocks/Resi-   Ecologic support role: endemic
Parcel- Roma- Apenni- tural Reserve Emilia nite rential dual ridges species
lara gna nes Romagna erosion
Lithological and structural control on Italian mountain geoheritage

L Sasso del Lom- Central Serpenti- Diffe- Rocky cliff  Climbing

Drago bardia Italian nite rential
Alps erosion
58 Irene Bollati et al.

proposed, examining the relations existing be- used as a proxy for dating surfaces (Matsukura,
tween geological and geomorphological features Matsuoka 1991). In the Alpine climate contexts,
(i.e. scientific value) and the development of both like the one of the Mello Valley (Central Italian
some popular outdoor activities (i.e. potential for Alps), the granitic massif appears high and with
use) and other relevant values of geomorphosites steep slopes modelled by glaciers and gravity ac-
(e.g. cultural, socio-economic, ecological support tion, while in other regions of the Italian territo-
role). The selected cases are characterized by the ry, characterized by warmer climate conditions,
common high aesthetic value that represents the as in Sardinia, they undergo intense weathering
foundation for promoting tourism, leisure and that took place mainly during the humid-warm
also outdoor education ideas. In Figure 1 the dis- periods with the production of typical residual
tribution of the study cases is illustrated. For each formations like saprolite. This weathering mantle
lithological landscape type, after a general intro- has been subject to physical removal mainly by
duction, a brief overview of individual cases will water and gravity action, leaving residual land-
be provided, focusing on: forms (e.g. tors and inselbergs, castle koppies,
–– the most relevant processes and related land- tafoni and rounded blocks) (Melis et al. 2017).
forms as fundamentals in assessing landscape Hydrolysis and haloclastism, the last one espe-
scientific values, cially active in coastal areas, produces particular
–– the influence of geomorphic processes on other landforms too (i.e. honeycomb sculptures, tafoni,
assessment values and the peculiarities of each and many famous rock animal features like the
site considering these additional values (i.e. Bear of Palau, North-Eastern Sardinia). All these
cultural, socio-economic, potential for use), landforms, developing on granular rocks, may
–– the site potentiality for further opportunities have different dimensions, from the micro to the
in tourism, outdoor and recreational activities, macro spatial scale. García-Rodríguez et al. (2017),
–– the insertion in the national geosites catalogue focusing on climbing activities in protected areas
(ISPRA 2018) or in Regional geosites databas- in Spain, examined in detail how fractures and
es. morphology, due to unloading and exfoliation,
In Figure 1 granite landscapes are indicated in are common elements used for the climbing pro-
red, limestone and dolostone landscapes are in- gression. Moreover, granites, due to the granular
dicated in light blue and, finally, silt, sandstones texture and to differential weathering on quartz
and ophiolitic landscapes are reported in green. and less resistant minerals, have high grip prop-
In Table 1 data regarding the study cases are erty, requesting a precise and peculiar climbing
summarized. technique (Bollati et al. 2016b). Moreover, per-
fect fracturing of granites along great walls (e.g.
Granites landscapes Yosemite Valley, USA; Mello Valley, Northern Italy)
favours the progression along multi-pitch routes,
Granites produce very famous landscapes all using traditional techniques, well appreciated by
over the world (Migoń 2006). These magmatic the old-style climbers. In other cases, unloading
rocks generate in context of active plate bound- features are overcome through famous and fre-
aries and, successively, as a consequence of up- quently climbed vie ferrate, as at the Half Dome in
lift and exhumation of batholites formed in the the Yosemite (Pettebone et al. 2013).
depth, peculiar landscapes originate in corre- Granite-related geosites (e.g. Migoń et al.
spondence of their outcrop. The exhumation of 2017) are very famous and cultural aspects
batholites favours the development of extension- linked to granites (Migoń, Latocha 2008) may
al fractures (i.e. exfoliation) that usually set up change from one region to another, implying
following the structures of the magmatic rocks relationships with human settlements and terri-
(e.g. flow lines). Chemical composition of the torial boundaries. Moreover, their cultural value
most common families of granites allows for spe- increased, as recently underlined in literature
cific weathering processes (i.e. hydrolysis of feld- (see a review by De Wever et al. 2017), for the
spars) whose intensity may vary as a function of re-evaluation of exploitation of granites in the
the climatic context and the duration of the expo- framework of ornamental materials and resourc-
sure to the meteoric agents and it is in some case es of a territory.
Lithological and structural control on Italian mountain geoheritage 59

In the following paragraphs a comparison (case study B, Fig. 1) (Novara and Verbano-Cusio-
among granites landscapes in the Western Italian Ossola Province) represents a very significant spot
Alps and in Sardinia is proposed, delineating in this sense (Bollati et al. 2016b). The climbing
different features related to their own morpho- walls modelled within Permian granites, differ-
climatic context. ently from the Mont Blanc area, are equipped to be
climbed also by beginners. For this reason and for
Granites of the Western Italian Alps the easy accessibility of the walls, the Mottarone
(case study A and B) was considered in the framework of the Gekologia
The Mont Blanc Massif (case study A, Fig. 1, Fig. project (Bollati et al. 2018), an educational initiative
2a) is located at the border between Italy, France addressed to students of different ages and aimed
and Switzerland, in the Western Italian Alps and at using climbing to approach geology and geo-
it is famous for its most elevated peaks in Europe. morphology. Indeed, the Mottarone climbing wall
The Mont Blanc peak in particular, with its height underwent a quantitative evaluation (see Bollati et
of 4,810 m a.s.l., represents the highest European al. 2016b) to assess its global value and the poten-
peak. The granites of the Mont Blanc Massif are tial for use of the climbing wall in the perspective
intruded within the Helvetic Units crystalline of Earth Sciences education. Grip climbing, taking
basement, mainly made by paragneiss and am- advantage of granular structure of granitic rocks
phibolites, that underwent only a weak metamor- and of their differential weathering, is very popu-
phic imprint during the Alpine orogenesis. lar, a distinctive trait that is easily associated with
In this area, the aesthetic value is universal- this kind of rocks more than with, for example,
ly recognized by tourists that may visit the area smooth limestone cliffs. The climbing wall was
using a recently modernized cable-lift that al- scored among the most valued in the framework
lows to cross the massif from the Italian side to of all the climbing walls of the Verbano-Cusio-
the French side. Moreover, alpinism represents Ossola Province in Piemonte (updated to 2015)
an important attraction due to the relatively considering all the climbing walls of the Province.
long tradition. Every year thousands of alpinists According to the obtained results, considering the
from all over the world approach these areas for peculiarities of each selected climbing wall, a great
mountain ascents and climbing activities. involvement and improvement in Earth Sciences
The cultural value of the area has been recent- by students was achieved.
ly put under attention by the Transboundary Besides the typical pink granites of Mottarone
Cooperation Project between Italy, France and Massif, in the surroundings areas other varieties
Switzerland (Espace Mont-Blanc 2018). The of Permian granites, genetically related, crop out.
Mont Blanc Massif is inserted in the ISPRA cat- Among them, Montorfano granites are character-
alogue, even if, by now, only some elements of istically white, and also equipped for climbing,
its geo-history are considered: the moraines re- while the green variety outcrops in the surround-
lated to debris covered Miage glacier. The lat- ings of Mergozzo village (Boriani et al. 1988).
ter, that may be considered as a part of the very The Verbano-Cusio-Ossola Province district is
huge glacial system of the Mont Blanc Massif, is well known and relevant from a socio-economic
important due to the ecologic support role rep- and cultural point of view due to the presence of
resented by vegetation growing on the supragla- several and varied rock extraction spots, among
cial coverage (Pelfini et al. 2012, Bollati et al. 2013, which granites are very relevant (Cavallo, Dino
2015). Moreover, for this and others reasons, the 2014). Extraction of rock material offers, at first,
Glacial environment of the Mont Blanc Massif on resources for the territory, used as building and
the Italian side, in the western part, is labelled as ornamental stone for cultural assets (Fig. 2b) but
Site of Community Importance included under also, especially in recent times, cultural oppor-
the Rete Natura 2000 (SIC – IT1204010 – Région tunities. Indeed, ancient extraction sites are now
Autonome Vallée d’Aoste 2018). geotourism attractions (e.g. in the cited area:
On Alpine granites, many educational activities Baveno, Agrano, Alzo, Candoglia).
related to climbing have been already developed, The Mottarone massif is not included in any of
similarly to the already cited cases of Spain (García- the geosite list covering the Italian territory, but
Rodríguez et al. 2017), and the Mottarone Massif the Piemonte Region catalogue of naturalistic and
60 Irene Bollati et al.

Fig. 2. Comparison among Italian granites landscapes characteristic of the Alpine areas and of the Sardinia island.
a) View on the Mont Blanc Massif (case study A, Fig. 1) taken from the debris covered surface of the Miage Glacier in
the Veny Valley, b) San Giovanni Battista Church (V century B.C.) in the Montorfano village (Verbano-Cusio-Ossola
province) and a detail of pink and white granites extracted in the surrounding areas and used also for buildings in
Milan city centre (e.g. San Carlo al Corso Vittorio Emanuele), c) the inselberg of Mount Pulchiana with, in the fore-
ground, a tafone used as a shelter (Aggius, North Eastern Sardinia) (case study C, Fig. 1), d) climbing on the granitic
walls and tafonis of Capo Testa (North Eastern Sardinia) (case study C, Fig. 1), e) columns and blocks defined by
erosion along the net of fractures in the granite of Capo Testa (Gallura, North-eastern Sardinia), f) a big tafone in the
area of the Bear of Palau where, inside the most hidden cavities, the granite is altered by hydrolysis.
Lithological and structural control on Italian mountain geoheritage 61

cultural assets within the Regional Landscape the relief (Fig. 2e) has become part of daily life,
Plan contains other naturalistic sites (i.e. peat- socio-economic needs and human imagination.
bogs) located within the massif. Natural cavities have always been a geographic
factor accompanying people throughout history,
The granitic Gallura region (North Eastern serving as shelters, burial sites or stabling for an-
Sardinia) (case study C) imals (Fig. 2c).
The Sardinian granitic batholith widely crops Peculiar geographical and geomorphological
out along the eastern side of the island. It was features of Sardinia granitic region offer oppor-
intruded in the poly-deformed and metamor- tunities for active tourism like climbing (Fig. 2d)
phosed Palaeozoic basement during the Variscan and canyoning. One of the advantages is the pos-
Orogeny, from 350 to 290 Ma BP (Carmignani sibility of practising climbing on granite, all over
et al. 2001, Rossi et al. 2009). During this long the year. In particular, specific geomorphological
time period, changes occurred in the geodynam- characters of the Sardinian granitic environment
ic framework, leading to a great diversity in the allow for outdoor activities like bouldering, on
structural and compositional characteristics of the many rounded blocks resulted from progres-
the various intrusions. Uplift of the Variscan sive erosion along fractures, and canyoning. The
chain provoked the dissection of the granite latter is practised along the representative granit-
basement and led to partial erosion of the granite ic stream valleys, characterising the highest parts
plutons. Later, the Oligo-Miocene anticlockwise of the area and incised in the solid rock. In the
rotation movement of the Corso-Sardinian block Sardinia context, researches focused on method-
and the Alpine collision, produced major faulting ology to quantify geomorphological hazard on
and tilting in the granite batholith. climbing walls (Panizza, Mennella, 2007). These
The granitic Gallura landscape is character- kind of information, like a correct knowledge of
ized by jagged profile reliefs following the major the rocks different behaviour towards weather-
fractures lines, rounded and often isolated land- ing, could be considered an educational resource
forms, wide depressions, horizontal or gently with the aim of raising awareness in people on
inclined plateaux determined by tectonics and the way to approach to outdoor activities.
by the alternation of morphogenetic processes, Currently some of the Sardinian granitic land-
also in relation to different climate conditions. scapes are protected and included in official re-
Along the dense joint network, intense model- gional lists of protected areas. The inselberg of
ling of relief took place, giving the landscape its Monte Pulchiana (Aggius) is the only granitic land-
characteristic features, modelled at a small to me- form included in the Geosite database of ISPRA.
dium scale by physical and chemical processes,
giving rise to inselbergs, rounded boulders, tors Limestone and dolostones landscapes
and tafoni (Fig. 2e). The main modelling of the
granitic basement occurred during past periods Limestones and dolostones are rocks dif-
of intense weathering, mainly related to climat- ferently susceptible to chemical dissolution.
ic context (Melis et al. 2017). Currently, chemical Limestone is particularly prone to dissolution of
and physical processes act at a lower intensity, calcium carbonates in hypogenic and epigenic
but their activity can be tested inside the cavities conditions, favoured by high temperatures and
within blocks and tafoni, where the granular sur- availability of water. The content of CO2 in water,
face often appears wet and weathered (Fig. 2f). also varying for the mixing from different sourc-
Granitic relief of the Gallura region has always es, is another factor, together with secondary po-
been strictly interconnected with culture and life rosity, that allows faster and more efficient chem-
of the local communities, giving this area high ical reactions. Besides these aspects, vegetation
cultural significance through time. Strong rela- coverage may favour the process too (i.e. biodis-
tionships have always occurred between people solution). The specific term of karst is currently
and granitic landscapes. Resistant building ma- used to refer to landscapes generated by dissolu-
terials, often already available in blocks isolated tion of calcium carbonates and characterized by
by the joint network, were of great importance to hypogenic (e.g. caves) and epigenic landforms
the local population. Also the impressiveness of (e.g. different karren types, sinkholes, uvalas)
62 Irene Bollati et al.

developing at different spatial scales. In some modelling (during the Late Glacial Maximum),
cases, other processes combine with pure karst: mainly exharation, allowed for the formation of
for example, spectacular glacio-karst landscapes glacio-karst landscape, somewhere reworked
derive from the interplay between chemical dis- also by the currently active processes linked with
solution and glacial exharation that were, or are running waters or snow activity, the last one cur-
still active in mountain areas. Where carbonates rently effective during a few months in the year
are less susceptible to chemical dissolution, like (Santilli et al. 2005). The Moncodeno area (Fig.
in dolostones, and fracturing is significant due 3a), in particular, is the most famous part of the
to cryoclasty, typical wide talus slopes develop Massif concerning hypogenic aspects. The deep
generating peculiar landscapes, usually referred karst systems formed in the past and successive-
to as dolomitic landscape. ly cut by Quaternary glacial erosion, are famous
From the outdoor activities point of view, from a speleological point of view and this kind of
limestones and dolostones provide a double offer activity is common among the amateurs. Among
addressed to different tourist and sport targets. the deepest and most famous caves, there is the
Concerning the epigenic modelling, limestone, Abisso W le Donne (1,160 m deep). In some of these
especially when not smoothed by the frequent caves, ice is still present and it has been investi-
passage of climbers, is a really appreciated rock gated for δ18O and ionic content relative to depth
for climbing activities. Karst landforms like fur- (Citterio et al. 2004). The ice presence inside the
rows known as rinnenkarren or small hollows re- caves represents a peculiar feature, reported first-
quire a high technique degree and precision: very ly by Leonardo Da Vinci. He also represented a
impressive are the landforms of the Carso pla- particular of the Grigne in a beautiful painting
teaux in the North Eastern Alps (Bini et al. 1998), (e.g. Vergine delle rocce, 1483–1486) and in draw-
an area from which the name of the modelling ings included in the Codice Windsor (e.g. code
process (i.e. karst) derived (Cucchi, Finocchiaro 12410) adding cultural value to this landscape.
2017). Speleology is the second kind of outdoor The Grigne Massif that, moreover, is only 1,5
activity based on the presence of limestone land- hours by car from the Milan metropolitan area, is
scapes. The development of more or less articu- defined by Corti, Anghileri (2003) as a open-air lab-
lated hypogenic karst systems provides oppor- oratory for styles and ethics in climbing. Indeed,
tunity of exploring a subsurface territory with the Grigne Massif, and in particular, the Southern
different degree of difficulties. Grigna, represented the object of interest for sev-
Geosites, modelled in limestone and dolos- eral generations of climbers who, starting from
tones, may vary widely in a spatial scale in terms the second half of the XIX century, equipped hun-
of both hypogenic and epygenic landforms (e.g. dreds of traditional and alpinist climbing routes.
De Waele et al. 1998, Soldati 2010, Coratza et al. The Ragni della Grignetta Sport Group and School,
2012). Two cases from the Central and Eastern born after the Second World War, has contribut-
Italian Alps, together with a case in Sardinia, will ed significantly to the development of alpinism in
be described in the following paragraphs. this calcareous massif. Indeed, this long tradition
resulted in 30 equipped rock pillars with routes
The Grigne Massif (case study D) of different difficulties both for beginners and
One of the most representative and well known expert alpinists, where some of the most famous
glacio-karst landscape of the Central Italian alpinists (e.g. among the others Riccardo Cassin)
Prealps characterizes the Grigne Massif, located had herein trained during times. Besides the po-
on the eastern side of Como Lake. The Triassic tential for use deriving from linking Geosciences
Esino carbonatic platforms of the Grigne Massif and sport activity, this feature represents an ad-
(Upper Anisian–Ladinian), thrusted along struc- ditional cultural-historical heritage.
tural planes visible also in the landscape, forms The regional geosites catalogue of Lombardia
two most important peaks (Grigne): the Northern and the interregional list (Various Authors 2008)
(2,399 m a.s.l.) and the Southern Grigna (2,181 m considered the area for its stratigraphic and gla-
a.s.l.). The landscape is typically characterised ciokarstic importance. Also the ISPRA catalogue
by karst landforms at different scales: sinkholes, includes the Moncodeno hypogenic system as
hills and depressions, karren. The past glacial geosite.
Lithological and structural control on Italian mountain geoheritage 63

Fig. 3. Selection of Italian limestone and dolostones landscapes in Alps and in Sardinia island.
a) Moncodeno karst landscape (case study D, Fig. 1), towards North, taken from the Brioschi Hut on the Northern
Grigna (2399 m a.s.l.) (Central Italian Prealps), b) panoramic view of Sasso Lungo Group (Val Gardena, Dolomites,
Eastern Italian Alps) (case study E, Fig. 1), c) canyoning down the Flumineddu river (Supramonte, Central Eastern
Sardinia) (case study F, Fig. 1), d) Erosional landform down the Doronè canyon and stream (Supramonte, Central
Eastern Sardinia) (case study F, Fig. 1).
64 Irene Bollati et al.

The Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage verticality, variety of forms, monumentality and
Site (case study E) colour contrasts, and it is also responsible for
The juxtaposition of contrasting lithologies the socio-economic interest in the landforms. In
and geological structures, such as dolomite rocks fact, the Dolomites are one of the most attractive
overlying clayey rock types, undergoing cryo- mountainous areas in the world, enjoyed by thou-
clastic and gravity processes, is responsible for sands of visitors every year (Gianolla et al. 2009).
the peculiarity of the Dolomites Massif (Eastern The dense network of climbing and hiking paths,
Italian Alps). In 2009 UNESCO recognised 9 developed during the last decades, makes this
different mountain systems, contained in an ap- range one of Europe’s most complete and var-
proximately 142.000 hectares, as a serial prop- ied destinations for mountaineers and climbers
erty to be included in the World Heritage List (Panizza 2009, Soldati 2010, Marchetti et al. 2017).
(Giannolla et al. 2009, Soldati 2010). Besides their Dolomites are particularly famous for providing
universally recognised outstanding aesthetic val- some of the longest traditional multi-pitch and
ue, the Dolomites are a site of exceptional scien- sport climbing routes in the world. Moreover,
tific value from a geological-stratigraphic and ge- several hiking trails and fixed-rope routes, rang-
omorphological viewpoint. The geomorphology ing from easy to demanding, are offered as well.
of this mountain range is the result of different These peaks, hosting about 170 historic vie fer-
morphogenetic agents that have acted in shap- rate, has the highest concentration of this kind of
ing the landscape through time. Tectonics has routes in the world. The majority of these climb-
strongly affected the sedimentary sequences of ing routes, now popular tourist attraction, were
limestones and dolomites, generating large syn- equipped by both the Italian and the Austro-
clines and anticlines. Monoclinal reliefs are also Hungarian armies, to defend key position during
a distinctive feature. Depending on the lithology, the First World War (Rushforth 2014). Concerning
different litho-structural landforms have devel- the cultural value, in art, both in painting and
oped: dolomitic outcrops have been highly frac- photography, as well as in poetry, music and oth-
tured under tectonic pressure, developing large ers arts, the shape of these mountains has inspired
and deep valleys that cut through the massifs, many visions (Panizza, Piacente 2017).
and a dense network of several fracture systems,
that amplify cryogenic processes. Limestones The calcareous massif of Supramonte (Central
have been mainly subject to karst processes that Eastern Sardinia) (case study F)
have created wide surfaces sculptured by karren Supramonte is one of the most important karst
(mainly solution runnels and toothed blades), es- areas in Sardinia, with high naturalistic and his-
pecially on the top of structural surfaces of strata, torical value recognized at national level. It is a
but also on roches moutonnées and on landslide carbonate massif covering a surface of 170 km2
blocks. Valley glaciers, which have repeatedly and constituted by dolostones and limestones of
occupied the area starting from the Pleistocene, Middle Jurassic-Upper Cretaceous age. The car-
have left their clear signs with frontal moraines, bonatic cover lies on the peneplained Variscan
scattered drift, roches moutonnées, glacial lakes metamorphic and granite basement (Carmignani
and depressions of glacial erosion, the latter re- et al. 2001). The metamorphic rocks prevalently
shaped most of the times by karst action. The most crop out along the western and south-western
common and widespread Quaternary deposits in borders of the Supramonte while granites char-
the area are talus cones and talus slopes, locat- acterise most of the entire eastern border.
ed at the base of dolomite cliffs and on the top The Supramonte area covers a range of land-
of the mountain groups. Important phenomena scapes that goes from the characteristic eastern
are landslides of different type and size related rocky coast to the inland mountainous relief to-
to the indirect effect of glacier retreat combined wards the west, reaching heights of more than
with the lithological, stratigraphic and tectonic 1,000 m a.s.l. (Mt. Corrasi, 1,463 m a.s.l.). Intense
conditions of the mountain range. karst processes have generated spectacular hypo-
This area, besides its outstanding scientific and epigenic landforms and have developed,
and educational value, has important additional mainly controlled by tectonics, during the Eocene,
values. The aesthetic value is mainly linked with with the emersion of the Mesozoic sediments,
Lithological and structural control on Italian mountain geoheritage 65

during the Oligo-Miocene tectonic phases, and in rocky relief and high vertical cliffs, controlled by
the course of Middle Pleistocene in more wet and tectonics and lithology, are widely known and
warm interglacial periods. The karst processes frequented by climbers from all over the world
are still active, but the more intense phases and during all the year. A multipitch and very difficult
deepening of many canyons characterizing the route (Hotel Supramonte), very famous all over the
surface hydrographic system, took place with world and located in the Gola di Gorroppu, was
the beginning of the Mio-Pliocene sea regression, opened in 1999 and the name was assigned taking
about 5 M years BP (Antonioli, Ferranti 1992). inspiration from the song of one of the most ap-
Supramonte as a whole constitutes a unique preciated Italian artist (Fabrizio De Andrè).
landscape unit in which natural aspects largely Along the many gorges, canyoning outdoor
overrule the human imprint on the environment activity is largely practised. The prevalent un-
and its great naturalistic value has been recog- derground water flows, and the climate, make
nised at a national level. The area was inserted this area suitable for canyoning during quite all
in the National Park of Gennargentu, legally de- seasons of the year. Several guide books con-
fined but unfortunately never put into practice. cerning canyoning and climbing in this area of
Nowadays, Supramonte is a mountainous Sardinia are published and frequently re-edited
uninhabited region bordered by small villages. and updated.
Nevertheless, many signs of past and recent hu- Many of the underground and surface forms
man presence are found all around the region. of this territory undergo different kinds of region-
The archaeological research discovered traces al protection. The Supramonte of Oliena, Orgosolo e
of ancient settlements going back to the Upper Urzulei – Su Suercone, for example, is one of the
Paleolithic. Among the many sites of interest, Sardinian Rete Natura 2000 Sites. We find some
many caves can be mentioned: Sa Oche, Corbeddu, of the most spectacular surface and underground
Tiscali. Witnesses of Nuragic Age settlements are landforms also in ISPRA geosites catalogue.
the rests of several towers spread all over the ter-
ritory. Due to the geomorphological character of Sandstones, clays and ophiolites landscapes
the area, traditional use of land and soil is mainly
pastoral. Many sheepfolds are present, some of Sedimentary rocks, characterized by differ-
them still utilized, others restored for tourism; ent grain size components, allow for the devel-
they are originally made of calcareous stones, opment of different landscapes mainly related
covered with juniper and used seasonally by to their different susceptibility to erosion. Water
shepherds. The very known value of the region, runoff on clays is responsible for the generation
both from a cultural and from an environmental of disordering in drainage systems, mainly char-
point of view, is increased by the concentration acterized by networks of rills and gullies named
of underground and surface landforms of high calanchi (i.e. Italian term for badlands) (Bucciante
scientific significance and connected with karst 1922). Sandstone, characterized usually by thick-
processes. The Supramonte karst area includes er stratification patterns and by systems of joints
some of the most important underground sys- and fractures, allows for the development of
tems in Italy, like the one of Codula Illune. The flu- landforms evidently controlled by structure,
viokarstic net of the Supramonte massif is charac- with the contribution of gravity action (e.g. me-
terised by deep and narrow canyons (Fig. 3c, d); sas). These kinds of granular lithologies, espe-
the runoff waters draining the calcareous massif cially when feldspar components are abundant,
are diffusely captured along the streams by sever- undergo to modelling processes similar to those
al sinkholes and return to the surface in a series of affecting granites generating analogue landforms
springs (Cabras et al. 2008). The drainage pattern (e.g. Ayers Rock, Australia).
is probably inherited from wetter and warmer pe- Climbing activity on sedimentary rocks, par-
riods and it is strongly guided by tectonics. ticularly on conglomerates and sandstones, is
The rich diversity of surface and subterranean popular especially if accompanied by scenic
landforms and the quite wilderness of the whole and/or cultural features like religious spots (e.g.
area, make it a strong call for the lovers of the ac- Montserrat in France and Meteora in Greece (Della
tive tourism and of some extreme sports. The harsh Dora 2012).
66 Irene Bollati et al.

Pure clays are usually affected by intense wa- The Pietra di Bismantova mesa (case study G)
ter runoff and, for this reason, stability problems The Pietra di Bismantova is a wide biocalcaren-
are common along slopes. Nevertheless, in some ite rock slab overlying marls and clay shales, and
cases in Central Italy, historical settlements asso- represents an iconic landmark of the National Park
ciated with these geomorphological settings and of the Tuscan-Emilia Apennine (Conti, Tosatti
relevant cultural assets are located on the slopes 1994). This unique morphologic feature in the
(e.g. Monte Oliveto Maggiore Abbey) (Bollati et al. Emilia Apennines encompasses significant scien-
2012). tific, cultural s.l. and socio-economic values. The
Besides the local outcrops of ophiolites in general morphology of this area is strongly con-
the Alps, representing the remnants of ancient ditioned by lithology, stratigraphy and tectonics
oceans obducted within mountain ranges dur- and consequently by differential erosion on out-
ing orogenic phases, big boulders of these ul- cropping formations. The Pietra di Bismantova
tramafic rocks are often spread within marine is a representative example of a mesa. The sum-
clays (i.e. olistolithes) in the Apennines. In the mit level surface of this rhombohedral-shaped
latter contexts, the scattered kilometric ophiolitic calcarenite rocky slab is due to high resistance
boulders are usually highly resistant to erosion of caprock. It is bordered by sub-vertical cliffs,
and isolated monadnocks emerge from the less pervasively affected by systems of vertical joints
resistant surrounding clays (Pellegrini, Vercesi and intensively remodelled by ongoing degrada-
2017). These rocks have a high scientific value tion processes (Fig. 4a). Intense jointing, severe
from a paleogeographical point of view. Locally, weathering processes, that affect the rock slopes
the modelling of these rocks favours the devel- since the end of the last glaciation (GSUE 1976),
opment of blades, following the schistosity, or and high relief energy have favoured the onset
of hollows of different dimensions and shapes, of almost all landslide types in the area (Borgatti,
while chemical weathering of femic minerals re- Tosatti 2010). Particularly hazardous, in terms of
sults in the origin of a peculiar red coloured pat- velocity, are rock-falls, the last one occurred in
ina due to ferric minerals oxidation. Ophiolitic February 2015, posing serious problems for the
walls morphologies (i.e. hollows and blades), de- conservation of this geosite and for the safety of
riving from the ultramafic rock weathering, may visitors, settlements and infrastructure.
represent suitable elements that favour climbers, From a cultural point of view, the Pietra di
especially the beginners. From a scientific point Bismantova and its surroundings have received
of view also the ecological value is relevant since high degree of attention since long time ago and
the colonization of particular ecosystems is fa- remains of early human settlements are dat-
voured (Roberts, Proctor 2012). Cultural aspects ed back to the late Bronze Age and early Iron
are in some case linked with the development Age. The verticality and monumentality of this
of legends and particular names conferred to slab, clearly visible even from plain, have in-
ophiolites localities. As geosites, ophiolitic rocks spired many artists through the centuries. The
have always represented attractive features (e.g. Dante’s description of his ascent to the mount
El Hadi et al. 2011) and their scientific value is of Purgatory, compared to the trail going up the
high, as previously explained. The same hap- Pietra di Bismantova, can be quoted as an exam-
pens for calanchi landscape in Italy (Bollati et ple. The Pietra is also characterised by high value
al. 2016a) and all over Europe (Zgłobicki et al. for the history of alpinism: the first ascent is dated
2017). Sandstones, especially pillars, isolated or 1922 along the path called Via degli Svizzeri (Motta
in group, as the impressive Ayers Rock (Uluru for et al. 2009). Nowadays the site is one of the highly
the natives) in Australia (Joyce 2010), enriched appreciated popular and challenging rock climb-
with culture and traditions features, or the sand- ing routes of the Emilia Apennines, as confirmed
stones pillars of Chinese geoparks (Yang et al. by the organization of climbing competitions,
2011), are also considered frequently for valorisa- which draws top climbers from all over northern
tion and geoconservation (Alexandrowicz 2008). Italy and beyond. In total there are around 250
The study cases illustrated in the following par- routes extending for 130 meters from bottom to
agraphs are located both in the Apennines and top, both for beginners and expert climbers. Here
in the Alps. there are some long bolted multi-pitch climbing
Lithological and structural control on Italian mountain geoheritage 67

Fig. 4. Sandstones, clay and ophiolites Italian landscapes in Apennines and Alps.
a) Northern slope of Pietra di Bismantova rock slab (case study G, Fig. 1), b) calanchi and shallow landslides charac-
terizing the surrounding of Radicofani in the Orcia Valley (case study H, Fig. 1), c) Bardi castle (Parma Apennines)
build on ophiolite outcrop (case study I, Fig. 1), d) “Sasso del Drago” climbing wall (case study L; Fig. 1), e) Punta
Terra Rossa (or Waserhorn) from Bocchetta d’Aurona/Kaltawasser Gletcher (Verbano-Cusio-Ossola Province, West-
ern Italian Alps; photo courtesy of E. Zanoletti) (case study J, Fig. 1), f) Pietra Parcellara (Trebbia Valley, Northern
Apennines) (case study K, Fig. 1).
68 Irene Bollati et al.

routes of which, the majority extend between 1998) and response of arboreal vegetation to stress
100 to 150 m of length. Several are also the single induced by intense erosion (Bollati et al. 2016a).
pitch sport routes. In order to increase the safety The Orcia valley includes geosites inserted in
of this world-famous tourist area, analysis and the ISPRA database and representative of erosion
modelling of possible rock fall trajectories have processes but the Radicofani area is not consid-
been recently developed (Migliazza, Giani 2005, ered, even if particularly relevant (Bollati et al.
Borgatti, Tosatti 2010). Moreover, a monitoring 2016a).
system has been put in place and detailed studies
for the quantitative hazard and risk assessment Ophiolitic cliffs, ridges and olistholites in the
and zonation of the whole area is being carried Alps and Apennine as remnants of ancient
out (Corsini et al. 2016). oceans (case study I, J, K, L)
The Pietra di Bismantova is part of the terri- Ophiolitic green coloured rocks associated
tory of the National Park of the Tuscan-Emilia with deep-sea sedimentary rocks, the latter less
Apennines and its importance as geosite is recog- resistant to erosion, offer unique and impressive
nised at national and regional level, being listed mountain landscapes in Northern Apennines (case
in both the ISPRA and Emilia-Romagna region study I, K Fig. 1; Fig. 4c and 4f). In this context, the
geosite lists. differential erosion between ophiolites and soft-
er sediments is particularly evident. The stability
The Tuscany “calanchi” landscape (case study H) and difficult accessibility of the ophiolitic ridges
The Orcia Valley is one of the Italian sites in- favoured the presence of human settlements and
serted in the UNESCO World Heritage List due strongholds, as they could be easily defended.
mainly to its cultural value. It is located in the This can be deduced from some local place names:
Siena Province (Central Apennines). Inside this petrum (Pietramogolana) or saxum (Sassomorello);
area, clayey outcrops, related to the Pliocene ma- rauca or roca (Roccaprebalza, Roccamurata); or, fi-
rine transgression phases, are predominant. They nally, castrum after castle or fort (Sasso di Castro).
are modelled generating spectacular calanchi The Rio Ceno valley, in the province of Parma, is a
landscape (Fig. 4b). Locally, the witnesses of the still unspoiled environment, dominated by medi-
widespread Quaternary volcanic activity, relat- eval castles and military forts, most of them rising
ed to the Monte Amiata volcanic complex, are on top of ophiolitic cliffs. Among these, the Castle
represented by upstanding landforms like the of Bardi (case study I Fig. 1; Fig. 4c) is worthy of
Radicofani neck. It is a more resistant relief in re- note: strategically placed on a rise made up of ba-
spect to the surroundings clays and it is character- salts and red jaspers, it is still a lofty stronghold at
ized, at the base of the slopes, by deposits related the junction of roads linking the Ligurian western
to rock-falls and lateral spreading processes. On coast to Via Emilia (Bertacchini et al. 2002).
the neck, a castle and a village were built. This Where the ultramafic rocks outcrop as elongat-
kind of human settlements adds a cultural value ed stripes, superficial modelling generates pecu-
to the Radicofani area. The village and the castle liar mountain shapes like extended ridges. This
dominate from above the surrounding landscapes kind of rocks, undergoing typical weathering that
characterized by calanchi (Fig. 4b). The water run- favours the development of a red coloured pat-
off, since recent times, is leaving space to the ac- ina, supports impressive landscapes in both the
tion of gravity as testified by the development Alps and the Apennines. In the Alpine context,
of shallow landslides. This reflects the interplay an evident example is represented by the ridge of
with human settlements and land use policies the Terra Rossa ridge (case study J, Fig. 1; Fig. 4e),
that may influence soil erosion rates (Aucelli et al. whose place name derives from the peculiar col-
2016). Since this landform transformation across ours due to weathering of ultramafic rocks. It is lo-
times (from gullies to shallow landslides; Fig. 4b) cated in the territory of the Veglia-Devero Natural
is very evident, the educational and geodiversi- Park, in the Western Italian Alps at the border
ty value of the site is high. Moreover, in the area between Switzerland and Italy. Nevertheless, it
specific researches on the ecologic support role is not inserted in any of the geosite catalogues
of these morphologies were performed in term covering the Italian territory. Another famous
of presence of endemic species (Maccherini et al. ridge constituted by ophiolites in the Northern
Lithological and structural control on Italian mountain geoheritage 69

Apennines is the Pietra Parcellara ridge, in Emilia geodiversity of the Italian mountains and they
Romagna (case study K, Fig. 1; Fig. 4f). Within the clearly show the important role played by lithol-
hydrographic basin of the Trebbia River, where ogy, stratigraphy and tectonics, in conditioning
the Pietra Parcellara site is located, fluvial mor- the superficial modelling and, as a consequence,
phologies are strictly controlled by the alternating the development of leisure and sports activities.
lithologies (Pellegrini, Vercesi 2017), changing in They are surely not exhaustive of the geodiver-
a few kilometres, becoming very peculiar from sity and geo-richness of the Italian territory, but
the educational point of view (Bollati et al. 2011): the recent researches performed at these sites al-
e.g. entrenched meanders in correspondence of low to evidence the importance of the geologic
the Ponte Barberino ophiolitic spur transform to and geomorphologic support for promoting ge-
braided and sinuous patterns where clays prevail. osites, sites of cultural interest, opportunities for
Chemical composition of serpentinite outcrop- outdoor (sport and leisure) and educational ac-
ping at Pietra Parcellara allows for the coloniza- tivities in the field (Pelfini et al. 2016).
tion of an endemic flora (Vercesi et al. 2005), un- The presented sites have been recognized, un-
derlining its high ecological support role. Indeed, der different modalities, as part of the cultural
a special Natural Reserve was set in the area in heritage (Panizza, Piacente, 2003), that takes into
virtue of this peculiar vegetation and the site is consideration the geological and geomorpho-
listed in both the ISPRA and Emilia-Romagna re- logical context of the Italian territory (Soldati,
gion geosite lists. Marchetti 2017). Two of them (i.e. J – Terra Rossa
Serpentinoschists outcrops are scattered in- peak; K – Pietra Parcellara) are included within
side mountain chains and the recurrence of re- protected areas, two others (i.e. E – Dolomites; H
lated climbing walls is rare. A spot located in the – Orcia Valley) are UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Central Italian Alps has been selected as very rep- and one (i.e. A – Mont Blanc Massif) is considered
resentative (case study L, Fig. 1; Fig. 4d). It is the for Transboundary initiatives of valorisation and
Sasso del Drago – Drake Spur (Chiavenna Valley, the associated glaciated environments are part of
Central Italian Alps). It has an evocative name, as a SIC within the Rete Natura 2000. The selected
it often happens in the case of serpentinoschists sites allow to describe the most meaningful val-
rocky cliffs, and as mentioned before, this is one ues considered in geosite assessment procedures
of the rare examples where climbing activity is (Brilha 2016). Besides the scientific value, the so-
practiced. The climbing spot is very accessible cio-economic attribute is relevant, where rocks
and it offers the possibility of climbing on several are exploited as building and ornamental mate-
routes of different difficulty. The lower portion rials as in the Mottarone Massif case (i.e. B), where
is constituted by ultramafic rocks (Fig. 4d) of the also the cultural value of the extraction techniques
Chiavenna Ophiolitic Complex that are folded is being more and more recognized through time
within the gneiss of the Tambò Nappe (Pennidic (Cavalli, Dino 2014). Cultural value characterizes
Domain). In this lower portion of the climbing also sites where litho-diversity, due to contact be-
wall, climbing routes are suitable for beginners, tween differently competent rocks, has allowed
while in the upper and northern portion of the the development of typical landforms like mesas
climbing wall, where it is incipient the presence (i.e. G - Pietra di Bismantova) or monadnocks (i.e.
of gneisses, routes present higher difficulty. This K – Pietra Parcellara), rocky spurs, that in some
spot, even if it is not considered as geosite in any cases were chosen for human settlements and es-
catalogue, represents a good and rare site for get- pecially castles (i.e. H – Radicofani, I – Bardi Castle).
ting in touch with geology and geomorphology Locally, lithology may favour the increase of the
of rocks of oceanic origin through an outdoor ecological value of geomorphosites as in Trebbia
activity. and Orcia valleys where endemic flora corre-
sponds to peculiar morphologies and substrates
(i.e. H – Radicofani; K – Pietra Parcellara).
Discussion and conclusions The focus of this landscapes collection has been
actually put towards geomorphodiversity as
The 12 iconic selected landscapes, here illus- support to different types of tourism (i.e. cultur-
trated at different scale, are representative of al, naturalistic, linked with sport and educational
70 Irene Bollati et al.

activities) which may provide a socio-econom- and school activities is very high. All discussed
ic return for local communities deriving from sites, analogously to innumerable others in Italy
geoheritage management. Cultural tourism is and worldwide, are generally characterized by
linked for example with the cited castles (i.e. F – different kinds of fruition (cultural, sport activ-
Radicofani, I – Bardi Castle), while sport tourism ities, naturalistic). All the landscape features, as
is more linked with rock-walls, rivers and slopes a whole, allow us to better understand concepts
features as we have described above: like time and space in relation with landscape
–– climbing routes difficulty is linked with cliffs evolution and human presence helping in over-
morphologies depending on structures or coming the concept of the immutability of the ge-
minerals weathering (i.e. A, B, C, D, E, L study ological landscape and to get in touch with its dy-
cases), namicity. Moreover, this has a great importance
–– canyoning is linked with riverbed character- for developing Geosciences education strategies
istics and water discharge (i.e. F study case), as it allows to get in touch with Geosciences in
–– speleology is related to the morphology of hy- an appealing way, to know and understand the
pogenic karst once again to be put in relation control role of lithology in the modelling of the
with water discharge or glacial exharation (i.e. landscape and to get awareness about the active
D study case). geomorphic processes, including Man-triggered
Each one of these outdoor activities, linked ones.
with geological-geomorphological features, Finally, the selected examples are represent-
is considered of great importance both for ative of the possibility of enhancing of such en-
Geosciences and Physical education favour- vironments under different perspectives, not dis-
ing multidisciplinary educational approaches regarding the involvement of local communities
(Bollati et al. 2018), as described in the case of the and, for this reason, favouring the socio-econom-
Gekologia Project (e.g. Pelfini et al. 2016, Bollati et ic return deriving from mountain geoheritage
al. 2018). Potential for use and educational exem- management.
plarity of proposed sites, related to outdoor edu-
cational activities is hence high. Acknowledgements
Moreover, where ecological support role and
cultural values are high, multidisciplinary edu- The authors are very grateful to the anony-
cational projects addressed to schools of differ- mous reviewer for the useful comments and to
ent level may be successful too. Nevertheless, Piotr Migoń for his careful and meticulous read-
geological characteristics as well as geomorpho- ing of the paper. We are grateful as well as to all
logical processes are responsible also for poten- the colleagues that collaborated during scientific
tial hazard, generating risk for users (Motta et researchers at the illustrated sites. The present re-
al. 2009 for climbing sites) and also for geosites search was presented at the 3MG – International
themselves (Pelfini, Bollati 2014). However, at Conference on Managing Mediterranean Mountain
the same time, outdoor activities may become Geoheritage, Manteigas (Portugal), 6–7 May, 2017
key situations for risk education, carried out in and the participation was supported by a grant
safety conditions, as mentioned for the Sardinia kindly assigned to the corresponding author by
and Emilia-Romagna study cases (Coratza, De the Association Aspiring Geopark Estrela.
Waele 2012, Bollati et al. 2017b).
In conclusion, the hot spots of the Italian re-
lief geomorphodiversity presented here under- References
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diversity in combination with climate influence. acquea e considerazioni paleoclimatiche sul settore com-
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