Thursday, February 3, 2022

Cattedrale Vegetale of Oltre il Colle and Climate Change

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Cattedrale Vegetale (Oltre Il Colle) January 2022.Cattedrale Vegetale (Oltre Il Colle) April 2017.
Left: Cattedrale Vegetale (Oltre Il Colle) January 2022. Right: Cattedrale Vegetale (Oltre Il Colle) April 2017.


Today, we took a hike to Capanna 2000, again. The hike is a bit of slog and it's pretty only once you get up high just below Rifugio Capanna 2000. Capanna 2000 is really at 1969 meters, but who's quibbling?


The last time we were here in April 2017 there was snow, which made everything much more beautiful. This time, the mountains are mostly dry and brown and it's January! Where's the snow?

The hike takes place over what were once ski slopes (from the 1970s to the 1990s) and along up to Monte Arera and Capanna 2000 you pass traces of abandoned ski infrastructure. Changes in climate (less snow and unpredictability in when it comes) have shuttered the ski aspirations of this area. And it's not only on these slopes of Monte Arera that this has happened. Many nearby ski areas are suffering or teetering on the edge of bankruptcy because of climate change.

The Cattedrale Vegetale is a "feature" you pass by on your way up to Capanna 2000. We find it interesting. Unfortunately, our hiking companions aren't as enthralled with it as we are. On this warm Sunday, we find the cattedrale growing back. What? You see, it too was a victim in a way of climate change. In 2018, an unprecedented storm with unprecedented winds seriously damaged the cattedrale.

Let's break this all down to try and make sense of it and have an Italian vocabulary lesson at the same time.

Cattedrale Vegetale – "Tree Cathedral" is an approximate translation. The cathedral has 42 columns (colonne) divided into 5 aisles (navate). Each column is a beech tree encircled with a wooden support structure.
  • The cathedral was the idea of Giuliano Mauri (1938 – 2009), an Italian artist and proponent of "environmental art". "The cathedral was built according to the ancient art of weaving, which involves the use of flexible wood, stakes, ropes and nails."
  • There are two other tree cathedrals: one in Val Sella (Malga Costa) made of hornbeam trees and the other in Lodi, along the Adda river, made of oak trees.
  • The Lodi Tree Cathedral was also destroyed in 2019, by a different storm.
Capanna - means hut, cabin, or cabin. Rifugio Capanna 2000 is the mountain hut that is a popular hiking excursion just outside of Bergamo. In the Province of Bergamo there about 30 such mountain huts.

Oltre il Colle – The location of the tree cathedral we visit today is in the municipality of Oltre Il Colle in the Province of Bergamo, about 20 km northeast of Bergamo (Val Seriana). The town's name means "beyond the hill" because the town is nestled in a bowl between four mountains: Arera, Grem, Menna, and Alben. When hiking to Capanna 2000 (see Hike: Cattedrale Vegetale to Capanna 2000), you are on the southern flank of Arera.

Faggio – Beech trees (Fagus sylvatica) are the trees used in the Oltre Il Colle Cattedrale Vegetale. Abete – fir trees make up the "cage" that surrounds each tree. These cages are designed to break down over time and leave just the beech trees as majestic columns of a tree cathedral.

Nubifragio – A violent storm (nubifragio) destroyed the Oltre Il Colle Cattedrale Vegetale. The storm occurred on October 28, 2018 and is called Tempesta Vaia (in English Storm Adrian).
  • A synonym for nubifragio is tempesta violenta.
  • In researching this post, we found that you can pay to name a storm (at least in Europe). What!? This storm was purchased to honor Vaia Jackobs, a manage for a multinational mattress company. The gift was purchased by her brother. Let's just say we hope our siblings never honor us in this way.
  • Tempesta Vaia impacted Northern Italy. Besides record rainfalls, there were record winds, average and peak. Entire forests where literally blown over.
  • There are some drone shots and 1-year-later photos here that show the extensive damage.



Cattedrale Vegetale (Oltre Il Colle) sits on a spur with Monte Alben in the background.A majestic tree near Rifugio SABA Cà Arera.One of the early flowers in the Asteraceae fmaily, Tossilago farfara, commonly known as Coltsfoot.
Left: Cattedrale Vegetale (Oltre Il Colle) sits on a spur with Monte Alben in the background.
Center: A majestic tree that caught our eye near Rifugio SABA Cà Arera.
Right: One of the early flowers in the Asteraceae fmaily, Tossilago farfara, commonly known as Coltsfoot.

The hike tracks from Plassa to Capanna 2000.The mountains surrounding Oltre Il Colle.The last stretch of the "road" up to Capanna 2000.
Left: The hike tracks from Plassa to Capanna 2000.
Center: The mountains surrounding Oltre Il Colle.
Right: The last stretch of the "road" up to Capanna 2000.


Old ski infrastructure recalls the heyday of skiing between the end of the 1970s and the end of the 1990s. There should be snow in January.The pasture below Capanna 2000 looking west toward Menna.Two hikers talk on the way down from Capanna 2000 with Monte Arera in the background. Notice how brown everything is.
Left: Old ski infrastructure recalls the heyday of skiing between the end of the 1970s and the end of the 1990s. There should be snow in January.
Center: The pasture below Capanna 2000 looking west toward Menna.
Right: Two hikers talk on the way down from Capanna 2000 with Monte Arera in the background. Notice how brown everything is.

Monte Menna near Oltre Il Colle, Bergamo.Monte Grem near Oltre Il Colle, Bergamo.The trail up to Capanna 2000 is mostly paved.
Left: Monte Menna near Oltre Il Colle, Bergamo.
Center: Monte Grem near Oltre Il Colle, Bergamo.
Right: The trail up to Capanna 2000 is mostly paved.


Cheese plate at Rifugio Capanna 2000.Strudel at Rifugio Capanna 2000.Pizzocheri, a buckwheat pasta dish common to this area.
Left: Cheese plate at Rifugio Capanna 2000.
Center: Strudel at Rifugio Capanna 2000.
Right: Pizzocheri, a buckwheat pasta dish common to this area.


The pièce de résistance of the lunch: lo stinco di maiale.
The pièce de résistance of the lunch: lo stinco di maiale.

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