Conservation, adaptation, ecosystem, habitat, species, and evolution: these are just a few of the key terms relating to biodiversity. These are basic concepts that, given the complexity of the subject, must be understood and assimilated by everyone. For this reason, one of the principles underpinning our approach to "creating tourism" is the respect for our surrounding environment. Lake Lugano, together with its flora and fauna, offers spectacular displays of nature on a daily basis.
But what is biodiversity? It is the current network of elements, connections and functions which make up life, including that of mankind, as a result of billions of years of evolution.
It exists everywhere: on earth, in water, and in the air. Each species, including our own, has its own, unique evolutionary history. This is the intrinsic value of biodiversity.
Guests at the Parco San Marco are fortunate to have chosen to spend their holiday in a place that is perfect for the life and development of some of the most important species of mammals and birds of prey in the Alpine foothills.
That is why we want to give our guests the opportunity to connect with the natural beauty that surrounds us in the Lugano pre-alpine area by offering a brief introduction to the species that live in our 30,000 m2 of parkland, and in the 200,000 m2 of mountain forest that is managed and cared for by our team.
A WWF study identified our magnificent region as having great importance for biodiversity. As a result of the study, an action plan for biodiversity was implemented, in particular by the Italian-Swiss branch, in the Sottoceneri - Alto Lario – Alto Varesotto region and the area around three Italian lakes: Lake Como (also known as Lario), Lake Cersio (Lugano) and Lake Maggiore.
The study shows that around Parco San Marco there are many areas of fundamental importance for the environment and for the conservation of natural habitat. The most significant of these are the nearby Valsolda Regional Forest, the Lake Piano Nature Reserve and the Monte San Giorgio.These areas, known as the "emerald sites", are part of a much larger project aimed at the protection of all alpine and pre-alpine regions, having been designated as priority ecoregions. In fact, these areas are home to a vast number of natural treasures: 13,000 plant species and 30,000 animal species, some of which can even be seen within our park. This includes the spotted salamander (many may not know that the presence of this amphibian is synonymous with a clean and healthy environment).
Who would have thought that during the Triassic period (about 250 million years ago), the Parco San Marco area was a tropical environment? Yes, fossils dating back to this historical period have been found at Monte San Giorgio, which has been a UNESCO heritage site since 2007. Monte San Giorgio, only 30 km from our resort, is an example of good conservation work and paleontological research. During exploratory excavations, perfectly preserved fossil specimens were found among its rocks. The reason for this richness is the presence during the Triassic period of a tropical lagoon with a rich coral reef. In addition to the large number of marine fossils, there are also many examples of land-based fossils thanks to the lagoon’s proximity to the mainland.Studying the findings from Monte San Giorgio, experts were able to trace the story of five fossil formations covering a time period of about 15 million years. The most important fossils found were those of Sangiorgiosaurus, Ceresiosaurus and a complete skeleton of Ticinosuchus, from the archosaur family.You can observe these wonderful examples of "dinosaurs of the mountains" in the recently-renovated Meride Fossil Museum. Directly opposite the Parco San Marco is another area rich in fossils; a marine fossil Ostenocaris cypriformis that lived about 190 million years ago was found in a field in the village of Osteno.
The Valsolda Regional Forest, just a few minutes’ drive from our resort, belongs to the region of Lombardy. In April 2007 the whole area was declared a nature reserve, but it had already been designated as a Special Protection Area by the European Community in 2004.
It covers an area of 318 hectares and is divided into two protective nature reserves: one encloses the central and the northern part of the forest and protects its wildest environment, the other is located in the southern part of the forest where educational tourism activities are carried out, helped by the presence of trails and paths.
The mountain region of Valsolda is characterized by a very rugged landscape (like the mountains behind our resort) with the presence of rocks, walls, carved valleys and small plains. In the shadier areas of the ridges and valleys there are several forests almost entirely of beech, whereas close to the mountain pastures there are plantations of larch, spruce pine and black pine which were planted soon after the end of World War II.In the higher parts of the slopes you can find groups of mountain pine, some quite large, while in the more southern areas which are exposed to the sun and influenced by the temperate microclimate of Lake Lugano, the forest formations are thermophilic, with species such as black hornbeam, rowan and hazel.
Outside the areas of conifer reforestation, the forest is relatively young because it developed naturally over the last 30-40 years due to the abandonment of human pastoral activities in the area. Within the forest of Valsolda you can see more than just the rich flora; there is also a significant presence of fauna typical of the whole prealpine territory. You will be able to spot species of ungulates, carnivores and a few birds.
During your stay at Parco San Marco, a visit to this forest is highly recommended. In fact, by following the path that leads to Alpe di Noresso, you will come across a "bear cave", not as well known as the one discovered at Monte Generoso, but always an important sign of the presence of this large mammal in our valleys.
The “Riserva Naturale del Lago del Piano” (RNLP) is a real jewel in our area. It is only a 10-minute drive from Parco San Marco in the direction of Menaggio. Besides being a rich natural habitat, it also preserves valuable historical evidence of the cohesion that existed between man and nature such as the old mills of Bene Lario and Castello San Pietro in Carlazzo, which date back to the Middle Ages.
Within the reserve there are different types of environments such as lakes, wetlands, meadows, forests, streams ... Due to its extreme biological diversity, the region of Lombardy has been protecting the whole area since the early 80s. The importance of Lago del Piano is mainly due to its source; it is fed by a natural flow of rich water that is almost completely uncontaminated. The lake is characterized by a good balance between inflow and outflow, and has the capacity for self-regulation. Regarding wildlife in the forest, studies have been carried out aiming to record all species of animals in the reserve. Nine environmental units and three micro-units of fauna were identified including large mammals such as the deer, 63 species of birds, reptiles, amphibians such as the common toad, the red frog and the green frog, fish and invertebrates.
Many projects have been implemented to protect the endangered species within the reserves. One of these is the European pond turtle for which a special reproduction pond has been created to assist breeding.
At the Visitors’ Centre, "Reserve House", you can book guided tours throughout the year by calling telephone number +39 0344 74961. These tours are a wonderful way to connect with the riches and peculiarities of nature in a respectful and meaningful way.