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Trentino Alto Adige - The Natural Environment

Morphologically, Trentino-Alto Adige includes the mountains of the Adige basin, the whole Sarca basin (flowing into Lake Garda) and the upper basins of the Chiesa and Brenta rivers. The terrain is largely mountainous: the northern area stretches from the Ortles group (3,899 m.) along the Venoste, Breonie and Aurine Alps to the Vedrette di Ries (3,435 m.).

Directly south, between the Merano dip and the Rolle Pass, stretch the porphyric Alto Adige plateau and gentle hills that contrast with the rugged mountains to the north. With the exception of the Monzoni group and the Adamello-Presanella and Cima d'Asta massifs, the whole south of the region is Mesozoic and Cenozoic rock mainly dolomitic and calcareous. Here rise some of the most famous Dolomites such as the Marmolada (3,342 m.), the Catinaccio and the Brenta group.

The most important river in this region is the Adige, which rises near the Resia Pass, flows along Val Venosta to Merano, touching Bolzano (where the Isarco feeds it with the waters of the Rienza); the Noce flows into it from the right (Sole and Non valleys) and the Avisio River (Fassa, Fiemme and Cembra valleys) from the left. The Adige flows through Trent and into Val Lagarina. The northern tip of Lake Garda belongs to this region. Other lakes of glacial or morainic origin include Molveno, Ledro, Levico, Caldonazzo, Braies, Carezza and Tovel. Large glaciers cover the sides of the highest mountains. This region is characterized by widely varying climatic conditions resulting from the lie of the valleys, and the range of altitudes and exposures.

Places such as Lake Garda and some of the more protected hollows, such as Merano, have sub-Mediterranean conditions, while the elevated zones have typically medium and high-altitude temperatures, with cold, snowy winters, cool ventilated summers and sharp differences in daily temperatures. Precipitations vary greatly from zone to zone and are more abundant in the higher parts of the south and south-west, more exposed to the wet winds from the plain, though much lower in the wide sheltered hollows.

There are 604,000 hectares of woodland, accounting for 44% of regional territory (after Liguria, Trentino-Alto Adige is the most heavily wooded region in Italy). The most common trees are oak and chestnut, giving way at higher altitudes to beech and conifers (mainly Norway spruce, then larch, stone pine, white spruce, etc.). Higher up, alders and dwarf pines form tangled masses of bush-forest. The most interesting flowers include the twinflower, wall germander, glacier crowfoot and martagon lily. The banks of Lake Garda and the sunny hollows of Bolzano and Merano are the habitat of many Mediterranean-type plants (laurel, rosemary, etc.).

The fauna of the region is characterized by chamois, roe deer, red deer and ibex, found mainly in the Stelvio National Park, the largest in Italy (137,000 hectares), partly in Lombardy. Established in 1935 to protect the natural environment of the majestic Ortles-Cevedale mountains, there are visitors centres at Silandro, Rabbi and Cogolo. Natural parks have also been instituted to protect the fauna and flora of the region (Adamello-Brenta, Paneveggio-Pale di San Martino, Sciliar, Puez-Odle, Gruppo di Tessa), and there are several protected areas.

One of the greatest characteristics of the region is the Dolomite area-almost vertical walls, hundreds of metres high, such as the Sella, the south side of the Marmolada, high sharp peaks like the Madonna Peak in the Pale di San Martino, and the needles and towering rock of the very famous Torri del Vaiolet and the equally renowned Campanile Basso di Benta, all examples of the variety of forms and appearance of these mountains.

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