The Caglieron Caves enhancement project realised thanks to FAI and Intesa Sanpaolo

The enhancement project for the Caglieron Caves Park has been realised thanks to the 30,000 euros made available by FAI and Intesa Sanpaolo, in virtue of the 3rd place nationally reached at the 2016 “I Luoghi del Cuore” (Italian Places of the Heart) Census, and thanks to the co-financing of the Municipality of Fregona and the activity of the local Associations.

On Friday afternoon, 30 June (unless there is bad weather, in which case it will be moved to the following Friday) at the Caglieron Caves Park Visitor Centre, the enhancement project realised thanks to the contribution of FAI – Fondo per l’Ambiente Italiano ETS and Intesa Sanpaolo within the framework of the “I Luoghi del Cuore” (Italian Places of the Heart) campaign will be presented. A small museum area can now be enjoyed inside the visitor centre: after the restoration and cataloguing of the tools used by the stonemasons to work the “Piera Dolza”, these have been displayed inside the room, accompanied by didactic panels and captions and a film on the stone working process. The tools were donated by Mr. Piero Breda, the last stonemason who worked on the site and a local native. In addition, new signposting allows orientation in the Caglieron’s network of paths, and work has been completed on upgrading the entrance path to the ‘Grotta FAI’, near which a new information panel has been installed.

In 2016, on the occasion of the eighth edition of the census “I Luoghi del Cuore” (Italian Places of the Heart), the Caglieron Caves Park, voted by 36,789 people, reached the third position in the national ranking, thus obtaining a direct funding of 30,000 euro from FAI – Fondo per l’Ambiente Italiano ETS in collaboration with Intesa Sanpaolo, destined to a greater enhancement of the Caves and of the traditions linked to them.
This important result, achieved thanks to the activation of the “Together for the Protection and Enhancement of the Caves of Caglieron Park” Committee, without whose commitment it would not have been achieved, saw the involvement of the Municipality of Fregona, co-financier of the project, and the Pro Loco of Fregona, who oversaw its implementation.

The Caglieron Caves Park is located in Breda in Fregona (TV) and can be easily reached in a few minutes from nearby Vittorio Veneto, where all the main communication arteries converge towards Venice, Cadore and Cortina d’Ampezzo. The cavity complex of the caves is mostly made up of former sandstone quarries, a soft stone known as ‘Piera Dolza’ (soft stone) due to its easy workability, the formation of which dates back to the Miocene period and which rises in abundance on the steep vertical walls of the gorge carved by the Caglieron stream. Piera Dolza’ was used, from the 16th century until the middle of the last century, for the construction of jambs, steps, architraves and ornaments, including several components of the prestigious bell tower of Fregona, as well as many buildings in Vittorio Veneto. Due to the steepness of the site, the Caglieron Torrent flows deep into the gorge after a series of suggestive waterfalls, each of which has basins at the base known as ‘marmitte’ (potholes), due to water erosion. An evocative path crosses the gorge by means of suspended footbridges, alternating with panoramic viewpoints that, along the course of the torrent, offer visitors elements of the rural landscape composed of mills and the stonemason’s village.

The site, recognised by the Veneto Region as a Regional Park of Local Interest, is a ‘unicum’ of its kind also due to its historical-naturalistic importance. Indeed, it is noteworthy that the site is located in the pre-alpine context, on the slopes of the Cansiglio forest, from which the Venetian Republic obtained wood for boat oars. There are also traces of human settlements within the park since prehistoric times; the particular position and favourable climate have seen communities settle in Roman times, the Longobards and more recently the ‘Da Camino’ dynasty, who had built a castle in the nearby hamlet of Piai.

In the gorge there is an ideal cool-humid microclimate and a scarcity of light favourable to the development of ferns: Deer’s Tongue (Phyllitis scolopendrium), Asplenium trichomanes and Cyrtomium fortunei proliferate.
At the mouth of the caves, where there is a minimum accumulation of substrate and as far as the light filters through, there are frequent populations of bryophytes (mosses of various species, liverworts, lichens, algae) in association with the Maidenhair (Adianthum capillus-veneris) which, at the exit of the natural cave, towards the valley, completely covers the wall. The nearby footpaths, which climb Mount Pizzoc (1,565 m), integrate an invaluable natural heritage that can be enjoyed by all.

The more than 70,000 visitors registered annually are further proof of the interest generated by the “Places of the Heart” Census; thanks to the visibility brought by the Census, a new territorial development project for the area was launched, also through fruitful cooperation between the various stakeholders.
Even in the most critical moment – it should be remembered that the Caglieron Caves Park, during these years of growth and development, was severely scarred by the flood of 5 December 2020 – discouragement at the devastation was transformed into strength and stubbornness for reconstruction, thanks to the Fregona administration, which managed the emergency in full cooperation with the local associations.

Once the emergency was over, it was finally possible to complete the enhancement project supported by the FAI. The construction of an additional walkway outside the gorge now makes it possible to admire the site from above and allows the visit of additional open caves right at the top, including the “FAI Cave” dedicated to the Foundation.

The “Places of the Heart” census
Giving voice to the reports of Italy’s best-loved assets in order to ensure their future is the aim of I Luoghi del Cuore (Italian Places of the Heart), a project launched by the FAI in 2003 and promoted in cooperation with Intesa Sanpaolo that aims to concretely involve the entire population and contribute to raising awareness of the value of Italy’s cultural heritage and landscape. Through the census – which is held in even-numbered years – FAI urges the relevant local and national institutions to make their forces available to safeguard the places that are dear to the people; but the census is also the means to intervene directly, where possible, in the recovery of some of the voted-for assets. Following the census, in fact, FAI and Intesa Sanpaolo directly finance a selection of projects promoted by the local authorities in favour of the places that have reached a minimum threshold of votes. I Luoghi del Cuore (Italian Places of the Heart), from the first edition to date, has enabled 139 interventions in favour of places to be launched thanks to the active cooperation with institutions. Even more numerous are the virtuous effects triggered by the initiative, which have led to the recovery of assets thanks to the mobilisation of public administrations and private citizens.
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