The approximately 70,000 hectares of the Orobie bergamasche Park represent one of the most extensive protected areas with high natural value in Lombardy. The Park includes a large part of the southern side of the Orobic Alps, with imposing mountain peaks rising over 3000 metres above sea level and extensive valleys crossed by the Brembo, Serio and Dezzo rivers, which respectively run through the Brembana, Seriana and Scalve valleys; the numerous side valleys offer unexpected and often unspoilt landscapes.
The territory is quite varied: extensive forests alternate with various types of grasslands that are home to extremely interesting flora and fauna, as well as cliffs and screes also populated by rare and often endemic species, meaning those exclusive to restricted areas.
This is a rich mosaic of natural settings, created by nature and humankind, which constitute habitats that are home to species protected by the European Union for their high naturalistic value.
The Orobie bergamasche Park is known as one of the areas with the greatest biodiversity on a regional, national and European level, owing to this important natural asset. Much of its surface area (around 80%) has been recognized as part of the Natura 2000 Network System, establishing Special Protection Areas (SPA) and Sites of Community Importance (SCI) now Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), designated to guarantee long-term maintenance of biodiversity at the community level.
Geology divides the Park into two sectors, separated by a system of fractures and thrusts known as the Periadriatic Seam: to the north of it rises the chain of the Orobic Alps, composed of crystalline rocks that are mostly acidic, dark and ancient, which reaches its maximum altitude with Pizzo Coca (3050 metres); to the south we find instead the mountain groups of the Prealps consisting of light-coloured, mainly calcareous and dolomitic rocks and therefore basic, of sedimentary origin and often karstic. One of the Park’s special qualities is its abundance of water: there are numerous alpine lakes, approximately one hundred, located primarily between the Seriana and Brembana valleys; just as numerous are the waterfalls, often truly impressive. The Serio Waterfall stands out amongst these, Italy’s highest and the second highest in Europe: from Piano del Barbellino located at the head of Val Seriana, the falls extend for three successive leaps from a height of 315 metres. In summertime during the planned openings, approximately 10,000 cubic meters of water fall roaring from the cliffs into an evocative mountain amphitheatre.
The abundance of water is also associated with the extremely high natural value of Val Sanguigno, one of the most beautiful and unspoilt areas of the Orobic Alps, habitat of animal and plant species of scientific-conservational importance. Plants include in particular the Lycopodiella inundata and Drosera rotundifolia, typical of peat bog settings; animals include the Zootoca vivipara carniolica, a quite localized lizard subspecies, and the rare Leucorrhinia dubia dragonfly, also linked to wetlands.
In the belt of the Prealps, the carbonate massifs of Mount Arera and the Presolana stand out for their unique beauty, precious treasure troves of biodiversity, populated by botanical species and exclusive invertebrates, a destination for enthusiasts from all over the world: the uniqueness of these mountains is confirmed in the scientific names of the Galium montis-arerae and Saxifraga presolanensis.
Due to a combination of climatic, geographical and geological factors, these mountains were an important place of refuge during the Quaternary climate changes; repeated and long-lasting conditions of reproductive isolation during glaciations, preceded and followed by great migrations of species towards and from warmer areas, have therefore determined favourable conditions for the emergence of new entities and the survival of relict species. Thus numerous stenoendemic species came into being, and are found nowhere else in the world. In addition to the Park’s naturalistic and landscape emergences, there are locations that are also significant from a historical-cultural perspective such as Val Taleggio, Valtorta and Val di Scalve. The latter, featuring much past evidence of mining and metallurgy, is linked to Val Camonica by the historic Via Mala, a suggestive road carved out of rock that crosses the ravine of the Dezzo stream.