Bosco di Quercus – Bienno, Italy - Atlas Obscura

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Bosco di Quercus

Bienno, Italy

A giant owl named Rocco oversees mythical woodland creatures along these charming mountain trails. 


Bienno is a mountain village located in Val Camonica, at the feet of the Alps. Its history dates back to prehistoric times, and its relationship with the surrounding woods has been critical to the survival of its inhabitants. This kind of long-lasting relationship cannot but engender an array of mythological figures. 

In addition to being known as one of the five most beautiful villages in Italy, Bienno is also home to a prolific community of artists. In 2019, two of these artists, Daniela Gambolò and Alberto Dalla Valle, oversaw the installation of several art pieces inspired by these mythical figures along the trails climbing the Cerreto mountain—adjacent to Bienno. According to the artists, their intention was to recreate a fairy-tale based on a magical interpretation of woodland creatures.

The trail is called “Bosco di Quercus”, in honor of the spirit protecting the woods. It starts from the church San Pietro in Vincoli, with a human hand carved out of rock, holding an open book, as to welcome visitors to a fantasy world. Along the trails, several artistic representations of mythical creatures from the woods can be met, from the naughty mole “Silix” to the elf “Primula” (Primrose). 

At the very top of the Cerreto mountain, and, in a way, towering above all other figures along Bosco di Quercus, is Rocco, a 3.5-meter tall owl. According to the local lore, the owl is seen as an entity embodying wisdom, and a dispenser of sound advice. At the back of Rocco is a ladder that leads to a small panoramic platform between the owl’s mighty eyebrows. All the art installations along the trails are made of materials found locally, iron and wood.

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September 16, 2021

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