Ugo Sauro: Highlights of some human adventures in a karst environment: the case of the Monti Lessini (Venetian Prealps, Italy)
The Monti Lessini, a mountain group located north of the town of Verona, has been the scene of many different human adventures, some of them related to the local karst environment and features. In particular, during the Late Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the Modern Age, interesting undertakings linked with natural monuments and peculiarities of the karst environment, have involved famous people, cultural leaders of the time, as well as local inhabitants. Amongst celebrities there are hints that: 1) during the XIV century Dante Alighieri visited some karst cavities in the mountains, 2) during the XV century the famous painter Andrea Mantegna painted an image of the Ponte di Veja, a natural bridge, in the Camera degli Sposi of the Ducal Palace of Mantua. Of contemporary cultural leaders: 1) in the XVI century the pharmacist, Francesco Calceolari, created one of the first Wunderkammer in the world in Verona, an exhibition of curious objects collected in the mountains, 2) in 1739 the local priest, Gregorio Piccoli, began a description of paleontological cave fillings, proposed an interesting and in some respects modern interpretation of the geological history of the mountains. The local inhabitants of the mountain have been able not only to solve some of the environmental problems caused by the scarcity of surface water, but also to exploit some of the unusual resources such as ice trapped in caves. They also developed a system of producing ice and of storing it in cylindrical warehouses inspired by the local karst shafts. They understood aspects of the functioning of the karst geosystem, including underground karst hydrology and the dynamics of the epikarstic zone. Thus, here in the Lessini existence of the epikarst was understood by simple people long before the modern researchers.
Key Words: Man and karst, understanding of the karst environment, exploitation of natural resources, Monti Lessini, Venetian Prealps, Italy.
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