Visit Val Camonica
Val Camonica (often also referred to as Valcamonica) is the valley of the Oglio river that runs for almost 100 kilometres north-east from Lake Iseo, in central Lombardy (northern Italy).
The valley of Val Camonica is pretty in its own right, particularly in its upper stretches, with the valley attractively set in the low mountains of the region, and with various picturesque towns and villages and historic monuments but it is above all for the prehistoric rock carvings that many visitors visit the area.
Neolithic carvings in Val Camonica
In total about 200,000 - 300,000 carvings (correctly known as petroglyphs) line the valley around Capo di Ponte, dating from the neolithic times to the early Roman era - that is, over a period if several thousand years.
It is the most extensive area of prehistoric and ancient engravings in Europe and a UNESCO listed world heritage site.
The engravings cover a wide range of subjects, with the earliest carvings of geometric designs and weapons giving way to animals and agricultural themes and then engravings of people, mostly added towards the end of the period over which the carvings were made.
Often engravings from different periods appear on the same rocks so it is not easy for a casual observer to date them. No matter, they are still fascinating and many of the petroglyphs have a startling clarity given their thousands of years exposed to the elements.
The best carvings of all are those found in the Parco Nazionale delle Incisioni Rupestri at Capo di Ponte - start perhaps at Naquane just south of Capo di Ponte - although there are some very high quality carvings to discover in the valley outside the park as well.
Other highlights in the valley
When you tire of admiring carvings, there are many beautiful walks in the valley - much of Val Camonica is now a UNESCO protected zone.
The medieval villages of Lovere and Bienno are also in the Val Camonica, and both are listed among the most beautiful villages in Italy. Visit also the town of Capo di Ponte.
Other important historical monuments here include the Roman amphitheatre at Cividate Camuno and the sanctuary of Minerva, the remains of a Roman temple at Breno (Breno is also home to a medieval castle).