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Series of the Southern Alps on Mount Caslano

From the continent to the ocean

Svizzera, Cantone Ticino, CASLANO


Monte Caslano

(CH 1903) E   711860 N   91230 H   344.0
(WGS 84) Long.   8.882 Lat.   45.963
Stratigraphie, Paleontology, Glacial morphology

Sedimentology, Structural geology
OTHER INTERESTS Naturalistic, Didactic
GEOSITE   GEOLOGICAL - stratigraphy


Mount Caslano, with its two summits of Cimalmonte and Sassalto, overlooks the western arm of Lake Lugano. Its shape is surprising in that it is nearly hemispherical, and the only irregularity is a rocky wall which seems to split it into two parts. The mountain is covered by lush vegetation and is crossed by some very charming little streets and routes such as the trail which leads up to the top of Sassalto. The view from the summit includes the hills of Malcantone and Lugano and, to the south, Lake Lugano and its banks. Throughout the history of the area, people have rarely settled on Mount Caslano, instead preferring primary exploitation, for example of wood, straw and lime, with the exceptions of Stremadone and Schivanoia, where there are numerous wineries and some restaurants, and the centre of Torrazza.


Only 1.2 square kilometres of Mount Caslano contain rocks which are enclosed between the Insubrian crystalline base and the dolomite of San Salvatore, which together form the oldest of the most typical rocks of the Southern Alps. From north to south, first there are the crystalline rocks of the Insubrian crystalline base older than 400 million years, followed by conglomerates of the Carboniferous Period (310 million years ago). These rocks, which preserve precious fossil remains of tropical vegetation of that time, were covered by layers of volcanic rock during the Permian Period. With the start of the next period, environmental conditions changed significantly. A sea slowly began to engulf the continent, while the rivers were carving themselves into the volcanic rock and depositing pebbles and sand in the delta at the edge of the sea. The reddish-coloured conglomerates and sandstones are therefore the first witnesses of the marine ingression which began in the Middle Triassic Epoch, 242 million years ago. The great geological fault of alpine origin which divides Mount Caslano coincides quite well with the lower limit of the dolomite of San Salvatore (anisic acid) which constitutes the remainder of the mountain. This carbonate rock, formed by the chalky skeletons of algae and sponges, bears witness to the development of a continental shelf and therefore to the steady rise in sea level. Around 240 million years ago, the history of the rocks of Mount Caslano gave way to more recent events related to the glaciations of the Quaternary Period which have repeatedly covered the area during the last two million years, up until 18,000 years ago. The numerous erratic boulders, deposited on the higher parts of the relief, were left in place during the withdrawal of Ticino Glacier (crystalline rocks in north Ticino) and Adda Glacier (Valsolda Limestone).


On Mount Caslano there must have been many kilns, as its name indicates. Only one of these, located in Piatta, has been preserved. The dolomite was extracted from the slopes to be fired in kilns in order to produce lime.
scala temporale periodi geologici


From exit 49 (North Lugano, Ponte Tresa) of the A2 motorway, follow in the direction of Varese-Ponte Tresa for 8 kilometres. You arrive in Caslano after passing through the villages of Manno, Bioggio, Agno and Magliaso.


Among the most popular excursions is the tour of the mountain beginning along the banks of the lake and continuing on the information trail which leads up to Sassalto.


COTTI et al. (1990): Introduzione al paesaggio naturale del Cantone Ticino.Vol. 1, Le componenti naturali, Bellinzona, 484 pp.
SCHILDKNECHT P. & BURGA C. A. (2008): Monte Caslano. Carta della vegetazione 1:2500. Carta geologica, Malcantone Turismo.


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Programma di cooperazione transfrontaliera Italia - Svizzera 2007 - 2013 Progetto cofinanziato dal Fondo Europeo Sviluppo Regionale (FESR)
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