10th International Conference on Geomorphology
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Geoheritage linked to cultural and natural landscape value in the ophiolites of the Northern Apennines (Italy)

Andrea Ferrando1, Francesco Faccini1, Roberto Cabella1, and Paola Coratza2
Andrea Ferrando et al.
  • 1University of Genoa, Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, dell'Ambiente e della Vita (DISTAV), Italy
  • 2University of Modena and Reggio-Emilia, Dipartimento di Scienze Chimiche e Geologiche, Italy

Ophiolite outcrops, representing the remnants of an ancient oceanic lithosphere, are present in various mountain locations of the Northern Apennines, between the Italian regions of Liguria, Lombardia, Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany. They are characterised by high geodiversity, due to the associations of various lithologies and landforms: numerous geosites have been recognized in ophiolitic areas, with interests ranging from geomorphology to mineralogy, from petrography to geodynamics, from structural geology to ore deposits. They host very particular flora and fauna and are fragile ecosystems.

Ophiolites give rise to some of the most curious and impressive landscapes of these mountain areas. They contrast heavily with the surrounding landscape, shaped in weak sedimentary rocks; often, they emerge as huge rock formations, characterized by steep and craggy slopes, jagged crests and high cliffs. Their imposition on the landscape is further emphasized by the dark brown or dark green colour of these rock masses.

This research tries to pinpoint the great cultural significance of these rocks. Ophiolite crags are subject of numerous legends and tales that try to explain their origins: just to give some examples, some were believed to be meteorites (“Pietra Borghese”, Liguria), or stones thrown by the devil (“Sassi Neri”, Emilia-Romagna), some other were considered abodes of the gods (“Monte Penna”, on the border between Liguria and Emilia-Romagna).

The impregnability and difficult accessibility of many ophiolites favoured the presence of fortresses, castles and human settlements. The most ancient settlements (known as Castellari) date from the Neolithic, and the remains have been recognised by archaeologists in various locations of the Northern Apennines. Some notable medieval castles (e.g. Bardi and Rossena in Emilia-Romagna) have been built on ophiolite outcrops. The ophiolithic masses often contain Fe-Cu sulphide deposits exploited in some cases since the Copper Age (Monte Loreto mine in Liguria).

Because of their naturalistic and cultural significance, many ophiolites are included in protected areas. In the Northern Apennines, among them are the Aveto Natural Park (Liguria), the Monte Prinzera Natural Reserve (Emilia-Romagna), and the Monterufoli-Caselli Natural Reserve (Tuscany), just to name a few.

This study could provide insights on how geological and geomorphological features can influence (and become part of) the culture, the religion and the historical events of people who live nearby.

How to cite: Ferrando, A., Faccini, F., Cabella, R., and Coratza, P.: Geoheritage linked to cultural and natural landscape value in the ophiolites of the Northern Apennines (Italy), 10th International Conference on Geomorphology, Coimbra, Portugal, 12–16 Sep 2022, ICG2022-458, https://doi.org/10.5194/icg2022-458, 2022.