Hidden Treasures <br> under the Ivigna

Hidden Treasures
under the Ivigna

Anyone who takes the modern cable car up into the Merano 2000 skiing and hiking resort will find it hard to guess at the geological treasure trove that they are passing over. Nor at the forces of nature that were once at work in the wildly romantic gorge far below their feet.

Right on time the cable car leaves the modern building at the valley station and floats up towards the plateau. The journey in the spacious gondola passes without incident and surprisingly quietly. It takes seven minutes to reach the mountain station. Just time enough to gain an overview of the area. Luxuriant alpine roses and pine forest, bare rock, lush green spaces, steeply rising mountain summits: the landscape is filled with contrasts and thoroughly fascinating.

Far below in the gorge is a distinctive geological fault line, the Val Nova fault. When there is no snow on the ground it can clearly be seen that there are two very different kinds of rock lying next to one another. Orographically right (to the north-west) the white Ivigna is granite, whilst orographically left (to the south-east) is the red rock of the Etsch Valley vulcanite complex, known as Bolzano quartz-porphyry. The red shade of the porphyry is also reflected in the façade of the valley and mountain stations.
These rock formations belong to the Southern Alpine part of the Alps and developed during the Permian period, more precisely between 285 and 275 million years ago. This time was characterised by intense volcanic activity. The red volcanic rocks are solidified lavas, frozen volcanic ash and other material ejected from the volcanoes, all of which were deposited on the Southern Alpine bedrock over millions of years. The pale Ivigna granite, on the other hand, solidified at the same time at depths of up to 10 km, where the hot magma got stuck in the Southern Alpine bedrock. Only in geologically recent times, in the last 23 million years (in the Miocene period), was the Ivigna granite lifted from the depths by the uplifting of the Alps during the collision of the African (Adria) and European tectonic plates and pushed to the south-east over the vulcanite.

The stresses on the rocks during the overthrust at the Val Nova fault caused the rock to break up and be pulverised. Only this made it possible for erosion to cut this impressive gorge from the solid rock.
Another geological highlight in the vicinity is the border between the Southern Alpine and Eastern Alpine divisions of the Alps, the so-called Periadriatic fault line. This most significant tectonic fault line in the Alps totals over 700 km in length and stretches from Piedmont in the west as far as Slovenia in the east. Here it runs along the north-west slope of the Ivigna from Merano-Zenoberg via the Ivigna Hut and the Rötenbach stream to the south of Videgg as far as Lake Anteran and then down into Val Sarentino to Riobianco. During the formation of the Alps, the dark shale and gneiss rock of the Eastern Alps was pushed towards the south-east over the pale Ivigna granite along this fault line. In comparison to the Val Nova fault, this fault line was active somewhat earlier and at a greater depth at somewhat higher temperatures, which is why the rock broke up less. As a result, this structure is not so significantly weathered. The colour contrast between the rocks is nevertheless easy to see. If, for example, you were to climb the Ivigna from Scena, then you would cross this fault line above the Ivigna Hut.

Also visible, even if the majority of it is hidden behind the trees and rock, is the narrow, silvery-grey ribbon of the Naifbach stream. It is scarcely imaginable that this modest-seeming stream, which rises high up on the Ivigna and winds its way through 11 km of the landscape into the valley below, was once the cause of devastating floods and landslides. Right up until the 20th century there are reports of violent storms crashing down from the Ivigna, where the water from the Naifbach surged through the narrow rocky gorge with trees, boulders and mud thundering into the valley below, tearing down houses, fields and roads along the way. Due to the erection of barriers and locks and the reforestation of the land, the Naifbach has been tamed over the course of the decades and stripped of its destructive power. To the present day, however, wayside shrines, commemorative plaques and chapels remind us of past events: the Metzner shrine, that bears witness to the rescue of the Metzner farmer from the flooded Naif in the middle of the 18th century; the Naif Chapel, which was built after 1698 to offer protection from flooding, or the chapel dedicated to St Oswald, who was believed to have power over the weather, which was built at the foot of the Ivigna by the residents of Avelengo in 1641 “in order to prevent destructive storms”, are just a few of the stone witnesses that walkers and hikers will encounter today as they negotiate the Naif valley on their way up to the cable car mountain station.
Hidden Treasures <br> under the Ivigna
Hidden Treasures <br> under the Ivigna
The area around the foothills of the Ivigna also holds hidden treasures. Around 280 million years ago, lava flows and powerful explosions formed one of the largest volcanic fields in the world. Between the fiery blocks of lava, hot water flows caused the formation of a special rock in the Naif valley overlooking Merano. Bergerith – today known in refined form as Meranith – is a variety of Jasper (Quartz group) and was discovered in 2007 by the mineral collector, Paul Berger, in the Naif valley. It consists of the elements silicon, oxygen and traces of iron, and has been allocated to the jasper family. Its fiery red veins in a bright green matrix make it a unique gemstone.

Ten years later, the shroud of fog that for a long time surrounded this exclusive rarity has again been lifted, thanks to the South Tyrolean goldsmith, Konrad Laimer, – a master of the art of jewellery-making, who has enthusiastically studied the treasures of his homeland for many years and incorporated them in his work. Laimer transforms the materials into pieces of jewellery, which speak of their origins in a modern, clear and elegant design language. As with his previous collections, with his Meranith creations the jewellery maker has used the expressive power of the material to highlight the uniqueness of the stone and to connect it firmly to the person wearing it.

OUR TIP: Mountain experience exploring different rock types
550 metres of altitude difference, 1000 m of steel cable, the Via Ferrata Heini Holzer is completely in the Ivigna granite. On the ascent from the Merano 2000 mountain station climbers cross the Val Nova fault, whilst on the ascent from the Ivigna Hut in contrast, they cross the Periadriatic fault line


  • IVIGNA - Stories from Avelengo, Verano and Merano 2000 (Edition 2)
  • „Die Naif – Ein Wildbach schreibt Geschichte" (The Naif - A wild mountain stream makes history), December 2004, Author: Walter Egger, Published by Heimatpflegeverein Obermais
  • Pomella, Hannah, et al. “The Northern Giudicarie and the Meran-Mauls fault (Alps, Northern Italy) in the light of new paleomagnetic and geochronological data from boudinaged Eo-/Oligocene tonalites.” International Journal of Earth Sciences  100.8 (2011): 1827-1850.
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