Fiavè Life on Stilts
Story and photos by Tom Weber
before Amsterdam, Venice and the Kingdom of Paeonia, but sometime after
Fred and Wilma Flintstone of Bedrock, a small prehistoric tribe near
Fiavè, in the Trentino area of northern Italy, drove lengthy
wooden piles down into Lago Carera, a glacial basin, and constructed
one of mankind's very first above-water communities.
Funny, I came to the Trentino for a modern-day
spa treatment, but, in between my two-a-day water therapies, I ended
up visiting an archeological dig and then being lectured about the Stone
and Bronze Ages at Il Museo delle Palafitte di Fiavè (Pile
Dwellings Museum of Fiavè MPF).
They don't call this part of Europe "old
as mud" for nothing, as evidenced by the remains of those 7-9m
long wooden stilts driven into the soft underbelly of the lake
millennia ago peering back at me just above the surface of the
now glacial basin-turned-peat bog.
Looking around at this little speck on
the prehistoric map, wondering what life was like right here on this
very spot some 6,000 or so years ago, really got my Vespa running.
I needed to do some digging of my own and get to the bottom of this
story about life on prehistoric stilts.
Arriving at MPF, I flash my press credentials,
fill out a form and the pleasant administrator, Elena Brocchetti, waives
the small €3.50-entry fee, provides me with all the literature
I can carry, and immediately hands me off to Signor Angelo Parisi.
Angelo tells me straight away that, "I'm
not an archeologist, but I am very, very passionate about the museum."
And it showed, as he served as my guide for the afternoon and led the
way on a private, in-depth, VIP tour of the brand new, three-story,
state-of-the-art facility that occupies the old Casa Carli in the center
The museum, devoted entirely to those ancient
"holes in the ground making history," is laid out to illustrate
via plenty of interactive audio-visual screens, colorful static
displays, glass cases filled with precious artifacts, and various mock-ups
the seven stages of the three prehistoric communities that lived
around the glacial basin between the late Neolithic Age and the recent
The Lake Carera finds are part of an overall
111 locations of prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps fully recognized
by UNESCO and designated as World Heritage sites.
The informative walk around with the very
knowledgeable Angelo, who, as a young student, assisted the discovery
efforts at the archeological dig during the 1970s, shows the various
construction types used to build the settlements, and demonstrates quite
clearly how these ancient Alpine tribes went about their daily lives,
survived and thrived.
The museum's collection of objects and
artifacts, dating back to nearly 4,000 B.C., is one of the most impressive
of its kind: pottery, jewelry in bronze, Baltic amber and even gold;
tableware and kitchen utensils; and, a variety of farming and working
tools, like hammers, sickles, drills, axe handles and ploughs. Perishables
are also on display, and include food: ears of corn, cherries, hazelnuts,
apples and pears.
On the third floor, and the last stage
of the tour, visitors can experience "A day in a pile dwelling."
It's a complete model recreation of a day in the life of a community
on stilts some 3,400 years ago.
After thanking my personal guide and the
administrator for their gracious hospitality, I took a stroll around
the museum's park-like grounds with the impressive bird house sculpture
out back and the angled, symbolic palafitte (stilts) that front
the museum's entryway.
The day trip now complete, I give Il
Museo delle Palafitte di Fiavè and the archeological site
at Lago Carera "two thumbs" way up; or, in the words of Fred
For complete information on the museum
and the archeological dig, as well as a host of other scenic gems tucked
away in the Brenta Dolomites, just visit the Tourism
Office of the Trentino.
Join me again next time when I follow my
doctor's orders and remove the lens to capture a medieval lakeside village
that has withstood the test of time: Canale di Tenno.
the Dolomites; Traveling
in Northern Italy; The
Little Village Atop the Hill; Piovene
Sutri: A Canterbury Trail