As you walk around Verona, have you noticed that many of the pavements are marked with ammonite fossils? This is because the mountains where these paving slabs are quarried are full of fossils. In fact, they are some of the richest in fossils in the world.
The largest site is Bolca, a tiny hamlet in the Alpone valley. This part of the eastern Lessini mountains is not just known for its wealth of fossils but also for their variety: more than 250 species of animals and plants. The mountains above here, such as Monte Postale and La Pesciara, form a fossil park which attracts thousands of visitors every year. The fossils of ammonites, fish and algae found here first emerged around twenty million years ago following movements in the earth and volcanic eruptions. Up until that point, the land around Verona was very similar to the tropics today.
Bolca fossil museum
Do you want to learn more about the history of the Bolca fossils? Then visit the museum and discover more about the main fossil sites in the Alpone valley. As you follow the route through the museum, you will learn about the techniques used to extract the finds and about the fossilisation process. There are also two aquariums which show how the sea that covered the Verona area would have looked around fifty million years ago. One aquarium recreates the environment of the coral reef in a tropical/subtropical area whilst the other depicts the coast of a temperate warm sea. I won’t tell you everything you will find in the museum or I will spoil the surprise!
La Pesciara is the mountain just above Bolca and is very famous for its fossils. The underground tunnels dug beneath it, through the limestone deposits, will give you an idea of all the work done in the last two centuries and how the world might have looked down there hundreds of millions of years ago. I have always wondered why so many fossils have been found here. There are several theories. The sheer abundance of fossils may be due to the succession of catastrophic events which have happened in this area, such as the eruption of a volcano. Or it may be something which still happens today in tropical lagoons, the phenomenon of red water. Periodically, they fill up with plankton-type organisms that poison the waters, causing all other life to die. After the event, the oxygen level in the water returns to normal and the lagoons would repopulate. Whatever the reason, and we will never know the precise cause, the dead organisms settled on the bottom and became fossilised by mud.
The fossil walk
Opened in 2004, this walk is divided into three levels with different distances and altitudes. It allows you to see the points where the most significant fossils in the museum were found, as well as enjoying views over the valley. All three of the routes start from the Fossil Museum and the longest one takes around four hours, over a total of 9 km.
Is it also suitable for children? Yes, absolutely. It would seem an excellent way to introduce them to this world and perhaps one day they will grow up to a future geologist!