Autumn hike in Cansiglio

Published by Elena Feresin on

7 secrets of the foliage valley between Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia

When I was asked to join this autumn hike in Cansiglio I didn’t hesitate. The fame of the place precedes it: it is the valley of the northeast foliage. But this plateau located between Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia is much more than just a place to admire autumn colors. Stefano and I discovered some of his secrets thanks to Lorenzo, Samuele, and Ariella, the guides who accompanied us! Of course, I’m ready to share them with you.

From Udine, drive west towards Spilimbergo, then follow the signs for Aviano. Continue towards Caneva then locate the many signs indicating the way to Pian del Cansiglio.

Where to park

You will find several car parks in the area. For this hike, we left the car near the Vallorch Refuge.

Hike Recap

The details below refer to the excursion we took with Blawalk. The Cansiglio is full of trails, therefore km and altitude difference could vary. We have mainly followed the Cimbri loop trail.

  • Total km: 6
  • Difference in height: 250 D + 
  • Time: about 3h30 (breaks with explanation included)
  • Suitable for children: absolutely yes

7 secrets we learned during this autumn hike in Cansiglio

1. The Cansiglio is the land of the Cimbri

In Cansiglio you will see their name everywhere. But who are the Cimbri?
The Cimbri are a people of Celtic-Germanic origin who lived in the Cansiglio plateau until not too many years ago. They were hardworking people who spent most of their time in the woods, working as skilled carpenters and tireless workers. Mainly they used the woods of the area to create tools for the production of cheese.
The Cimbri leave the plateau after the Second World War following the persecutions of the Nazis who did not spare even them.

Two typical Cimbri villages have been reconstructed on the Cansiglio plateau: Vallorch and Rotte. Though very pretty, the hand of modern man is quite evident.


2. The Cansiglio is one of the first protected parks in the world

Officially, the first protected park in the world is Yosemite in the United States which was declared as such in 1890. In reality, the Cansiglio has been regulated since 1500 when it was owned by the Republic of Venice. The Venetians had identified in the very tall trees of the Cansiglio as the perfect wood to build the oars of their boats. They, therefore, instituted very strict rules to regulate deforestation. They also put people to guard the place.

3. The Cansiglio is one of the coldest places in Italy

Despite being about 1000 meters above sea level, in winter, the Cansiglio plateau also reaches – 30 degrees. The valley is closed on all sides, the warm winds have no way of coming in. The cold stagnates thus on the bottom of the plateau. For this reason in Cansiglio we see a strange phenomenon: the vegetation is inverted. At the bottom, there is the typical vegetation of the high mountains, especially the spruce. At the top, where the temperatures are milder, there is the perfect habitat for beech trees, protagonists of the foliage. That’s why the autumn hike in Cansiglio is so famous.

4. There is no water in Cansiglio

At least on the surface. The Cansiglio is a karst plateau and as such has no surface water. This means that even here you can see deep sinkholes as in the Trieste Karst. It has been proved that the water that “enters” Cansiglio through the rain comes out, among others, from the source of the Gorgazzo river.
The geologists have also found that the plateau breathes. When rainfall is abundant, the Cansiglio expands like a sponge and then shrinks in dry periods.


5. In Cansiglio you can observe the deer and listen to their roar

From September onwards, the Cansiglio becomes the home of deers in love. There are so many that it is not difficult to see them even during the day. Along the way, there are several huts or turrets, designed precisely to allow people to observe them in their natural habitat.

Around June it is also possible to meet deer mothers with puppies. In this case, there is only one rule: it is forbidden to touch the “bambi“. The young deers are odorless and if they are contaminated by the human smell they could be abandoned by the mother.

Altane per osservare i cervi

6. The Cansiglio is also perfect for snowshoeing but ...

You have to pay close attention. This place is a labyrinth in which it is difficult to find your way around. There are few points of reference for those who stray from the already beaten paths and the risk of getting lost is high. It is even more so in winter when the whiteout phenomenon is also frequent, a fog that stagnates and removes any reference point.

7. Beech is like pork

Nothing is thrown away. It has a hundred uses. Its flexible wood makes it suitable to be used for different processes. 
The beech has several therapeutics and was the basic ingredient of various decoctions and infusions prepared by grandmothers to prevent burns and irritations. The gems are also used in cosmetics as a base for anti-cellulite creams.

It is said to have calming and therapeutic properties. Its power has already been demonstrated with people with disabilities, but studies are also being carried out in the oncology field.

If you want to visit something similar in Friuli, you can go to Val Aupa or in Fusine

Why take an autumn hike in Cansiglio?

The answer is simple because it is beautiful. If on Instagram you look at the fantastic images of the New Hampshire woods in the United States, well in Cansiglio you will find the same views.

I often compare the woods to a fairytale imaginary, but in Cansiglio it is a more apt comparison than in other places. It gives the very idea of a fairy tale forest, beautiful but at the same time dangerous. Precisely for this reason, since we live in the real world, it is best to carry a GPS with you.

I would say that if you are looking for a natural anti-stress, a hug to a beech tree and a ride in Cansiglio are a must.


When to visit the Cansiglio

One last tip, if you can go there during the week. Weekends are not ideal to do this autumn hike in Consiglio for during weekends the forest fills up and the only thing that avoids crowds is the large spaces. If you want to enjoy it to the fullest, take a day off and lose yourself (but not too much) on the Cansiglio plateau.

Elena Feresin


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