La ghiacciaia di Moncòdeno

Among the caves of the karstic type of which the area of ​​the Grigne is rich, the cave of Moncòdeno is certainly the most curious: the limestone, the traditional protagonist of the underground sculptures, which forms stalactites and stalagmites, is in fact replaced by the ice that gives life to a world enchanted in rapid and perpetual change.

It is a natural icebox, a forgotten jewel whose charm has attracted scientists, explorers and occasional visitors for centuries. Leonardo da Vinci himself was an attentive observer of geological phenomena, and, during a stay in Lecco where he explored the Larian and Valsassino mountains, it seems he did not fail to visit the celebrated cave. Leonardo da Vinci perhaps visited the cave and described the famous Moncòdeno icehouse (Codex Atlanticus, F 573 b), thus beginning the scientific study of the perennial deposits of hypogean ice. Probably when Leonardo visited the cave the ice stalagmites and the snows on the bottom were much more conspicuous than today. Complementing the climate change that is affecting the entire Alpine arc, the Moncòdeno icebox meets what appears to be an inexorable and continuous decline.

Unlike in the past, the phenomenon is today of great hiking interest. For centuries, instead, it represented a great “refrigerator of nature”. In fact, thanks to the accumulation of winter snow, even in the height of summer the temperature of the environment is very low, to the point that the water of the dripping can even freeze. Providential reserve for the shepherds of the nearby Alpe di Moncòdeno who extracted blocks of snow and ice which, in addition to quenching the thirst of the men, were appropriately dissolved in special holes and they also watered the cattle. The extraction of ice blocks constituted, for centuries, an economic activity comparable to mining. The ice was loaded on sledges and was transported to Varenna and embarked for Lecco and Milan.

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