Nature and culture: ecosustainability in the Ossola Valleys

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A sign of the civilization of a people must be their capacity to preserve the resources of their territory, regarding them not as an obstacle to “development” but as an opportunity for further growth.

To appreciate the unspoiled beauty of nature in places where man has settled without compromising the environment, a visit to explore the seven valleys of the Ossola mountains area to the north-west of Lake Maggiore is a must.

One of the valleys which has managed best to balance nature and human settlement is the Vigezzo Valley; the village of Malesco, for example, will delight you with the quaint streets of its historic centre, but the village is also one of the access points for the wilderness area of Val Grande, one of the largest in Italy. The village of Formazza, in the valley of the same name, is another example of a settlement perfectly set in its Alpine context of conifer woods, mountain pastures and steep rocky cliffs.

The ancient Walser people, who have for centuries lived in the Formazza and Anzasca Valleys, are a prime example of how to use nature’s gifts wisely; with the few materials available to them they created fine objects in stone, wood and metal, and built their stone-roofed chalets using the Block-Bau technique of interlocking wooden beams.

Another example of “natural settlement” is the Antrona Valley, where the villages of Viganella, Montescheno, Seppiana and Antronapiana, with their wooden and stone houses, blend perfectly into their mountain setting of woods and lakes.

The valleys of Lake Maggiore are a model of the modern concept of ecosustainability, in which nature and human culture coexist in complete harmony.