The complex of prehistoric pile-dwelling sites is made up of 111 archaeological sites near the Alps (today divided between Switzerland, Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia) where you can see the remains of prehistoric settlements dating back to the period between 5,000 and 500 BC and inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List in 2011.
Nineteen of these archaeological sites are in Italy, some of them in Lombardy, between the provinces of Brescia, Varese, Mantua and Cremona.
These are a series of prehistoric villages, some of which are exceptionally preserved, built near rivers, lakes or wetlands. The stilt houses, organized in groups or villages, were huts supported by piles immersed in the water of a river, a lake or a pond. A building technique that allowed at the same time to stay close to the sources of water and food, as well as to be protected by enemies and wild animals.
The study of these remains, combined with sophisticated investigations and archaeological research "allows a unique understanding of the way these societies have interacted with the environment, in response to new technologies and also to the impact of climate change", writes UNESCO. In fact, at the pile-dwelling sites, numerous finds have been recovered, often in excellent condition: combs in bone and amber, needles and tools for weaving, hoes, plows, votive statues as well as weapons and objects for hunting. All these finds have allowed to develop a detailed reconstruction of the environment of the first agricultural societies of Europe, providing a series of precise information on agriculture, animal breeding and the development of metallurgy for a period of more than four thousand years, from the Neolithic to the Ages of the Bronze.
One of the best preserved sites is Isolino Virginia, a small island in the Lake of Varese, located in front of the municipality of Biandronno. The island is the oldest pile-dwelling settlement of the Alps. It was inhabited since the beginning of the Neolithic (VII-VI millennium BC). A long period, during which man had often to modify or move his dwellings to adapt to changes in the level of the lake's waters, thus occupying different places in addition to the small island, whose surface is about nine square kilometres.
This island has always been renowned as an oasis of peace, with the great environmental beauty of the lake, the vegetation and the fauna of the place.
Considered among the most panoramic lakes of Lombardy, lake Varese has maintained its pristine and uncontaminated charm over time and is probably still very similar to the one it had during the Neolithic period.
Isolino Virginia offers visitors an educational trail in the open air and a small museum displaying part of the findings found on the island from the first excavation campaigns conducted between 1876 and 1884. For more information, please visit: www.isolinovirginia.it/
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