Presentations from the ALPTER International Conference on Terraced Landscapes in Venice

The second ALPTER International Conference on Terraced Landscapes has successfully been held in Venice from the 22nd to the 24th of February, 2007. Many people attended the event, which hosted the intervention of several representatives from various organisations and research insitutes involved in studying and maintaining terraced landscapes.

The workshop, entitled ‘Terraced landscapes: comparison among cultures and experiences’, was overall organized in four sessions: starting from the interpretation of terraced landscapes by adopting the perspectives of various scientific disciplines – from geography to anthropology, from ecology to economy – going through the analysis of a number of case-studies (mostly corresponding to the pilot areas studied within the ALPTER project), some good practices in the recovery of terraced sites throughout Europe were finally described.

On the 24th of February an excursion to the Veneto’s case-study, the River Brenta Valley, has taken place. The excursion was organized jointly with the local authorities and particularly with the ’Comunità Montana del Brenta’.

Below it is possible to download the presentations given in pdf format. At the bottom of the page it is also possible to have a look at a photo gallery of the event.


The congress opened with the description of various disciplines’ approaches towards terraced landscapes.

Terraced landscapes between productive specialization and overpopulation: a research for a difficult balance by G. Scaramellini, University of Milan (only Italian version available)

Professor Scaramellini, from the University of Milan, formulated the geographical point of view by considering the material and immaterial local expressions of terracing, together with its belonging to a wider cultural, socioeconomic, demographic and technical context as well as the period terraces have been created. Though, just recently geography started to face the topic of terracing in a somehow systematic way.

Terraced landscapes in the Alpine arc: vegetable biodiversity and natural value by C. Lasen, former President of the Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park (only Italian version available)

The analysis of the biotic component represents one of the most important though neglected issues as regards the study of terraced areas, as pointed out by professor Lasen, geobotanist. Scientific studies focusing on terraces as noteworthy semi-natural habitats of high nature value are still quite scarce. Nevertheless, their maintenance does not represent “just” a contribution to landscape conservation and defence against hydrogeological hazards, but also to biodiversity protection. For this reason it is necessary to move towards a proactive conservation strategy, meant to maintain not only the physical structures, but the functions they were created for.

Natural hazards in terraced landscapes by Brancucci and G. Paliaga, University of Genoa

The geological approach – presented by Guido Paliaga from the University of Genoa – first of all considers the hydrogeological structure of terraced sites and their role in ensuring slope stability. Indeed, terraces are anthropic structures, which deeply altered the natural pre-existent equilibrium and created a new one, whose maintenance needs a continuous flow of material and energetic inputs – nowadays hardly provided. In case of abandonment, wrong recovery interventions or over-urbanization processes, disruptions of different kinds are likely to occur.

Terraced areas: technical act and social fact by A. Hameau, International Society for the Study of Dry Stone (only French version available)

The interpretation of the origins of terraced landscapes and, more generally, of dry-stone structures as social phenomenon is essential. Ada Hameau, from the International Society for the Study of Dry-Stone, adopted an anthropological approach, by interpreting each building technique as an answer to a precise social need. Every building typology is thus read according to the purpose it was conceived for and the function it is called to satisfy: from drainage element to retaining wall, from border wall to shelter for men and animals.


Quel avenir pour les espaces en terrasses sur le pourtour de la Méditerranée? by A. Dagorne, J.-M. Castex, ADI (only French version available)

A wide overview of the main problems currently faced by terraced areas and the solutions for their recovery, with particolar regard to the opportunities provided within the frame of European funded projects.

Margin as a resource: the promotion of terraced landscape in the River Brenta Valley by M. Varotto, University of Padua, Dept. of Geography (only Italian version available)

Presentation of the Venetian study area and the research activities carried out in the past two years within the frame of ALPTER project, from the exact calculation of terraces extent to the comparison between the historical and the current cadastre.
The main emerging from these researches are three: the view of terraced sites as multifunctional economic integrated systems; the need of promoting terraced slopes as intermediate landscapes, acting as banks against the processes of wilderness advancement on the one hand and over-urbanization on the other hand; the slight enhancement of new attitudes towards their recovery, with particular regard to the interest showed by immigrants, mainly from Northern Africa.

The pilot project in Liguria by A. Rollando, GAL Appennino Genovese (only Italian version available)

Project activities in the 3 Ligurian study areas act on 3 different levels: recovery of a terraced site as a demonstration; analysis of the links between tourism and terraced landscapes; identification of managing and technological innovations for agrarian activities on terraced sites. The restoration of a terraced slope, in particular, involved an agrarian institute and led to the recovery - and even rebuilding in some parts - of retaining dry-stone walls. The relationship between tourism and terraced landscape is particularly significant in one of the study areas, namely the Cinque terre National Park, visited by 2 million tourists every year.

Terraced vineyard in Alpine environment (Vallée d’Aoste – NW Italy): an anthropogenic landscape by M. Freppaz, University of Turin

Presentation of the study area located in the Lower Aosta Valley and characterized by large terraced areas utilized for vineyards cultivation. Pedological analyses are here described in particular, explaining the results of a comparison among soil profiles of cultivated and abandoned terraces.
While there are no significant differences as regards soil composition, the structure of retaining dry-stone walls and water drainage system show a fast decay after abandonment, leading to an increase in slopes instability and soil losses.

IREALP study area: state of the art and further developments by L. Garbellini, IREALP (only Italian version available)

Presentation of the IREALP’s study area, located in Valtellina (nearby Sondrio). Various terracing typologies are described, together with the reasons for choosing them. In particular, vineyards on terraced slopes are candidate for the UNESCO’s World Heritage List designation.

Geological and technical analysis of the pilot area of Pianazzola (Chiavenna, SO, Italy) by M. Masetti, T. Apuani, A. Conforto, University of Milan

Presentation of the geotechnical analyses carried out by the Earth Science Department of the University of Milan on the pilot area of Pianazzola, nearby Chiavenna. In particular, they focused on permeability, hydraulic conductivity and all those processes related to infiltration processes along terraced slopes, thus evaluating their effects on dry stone walls deformation and slope stability (the pilot area is located on an ancient landslide deposit).

In Val Bregaglia there are terraced sites! From the promotion of landscape to the receovery of "forgotten" terraced areas by M. Michael, Region of Bregaglia (only Italian version available)

The study area located in Bregaglia Valley is characterized by a wide extension of terraced chestnut woods, which are nowadays partly abandoned. Currently there are projects for their productive recovery and tourist promotion, through the valorization of terraced chestnut woods as cultural landscape. Yet, any proposals for recovering such a cultural and natural heritage cannot disregard a process of reappropriation of traditional landscape and strengthening of the feeling of territorial identity by local communities.

Terraced areas in Goriška Brda, Slovenia by L. Ažman Momirski and T. Ber?i?, University of Ljubljana

The Slovene study area located in the Goriška Brda was analysed by means of GIS software, which allowed to study land use changes occurred in the past two centuries. Thanks to the historical analyses on land use, researchers from the University of Ljubljana identified an area, which used to be terraced in the past. This area has been terraced and prepared for vineyards cultivation.

Terraced area in Ulrichsberg, Upper Austria by A. Arnberger, C. Brandenburg, R. Eder, T. Reichhart, T. Meitz, BOKU University of Vienna

The BOKU University of Vienna carried out a significant historical analysis in the Austrian case study. From a comparison between the historical and current land use system, the main change occurred seems to be the transformation from cultivated fields to grasslands (meadows and pastures). Several factors led to such a result, e.g. the high fragmentation of estates and the non optimal natural conditions. Nowadays they are mainly aiming at tourist promotion: in order to value its appeal, a survey was carried out among people identified as potential visitors. According to this
study, the presence of terraced sites in the landscape results as particularly appreciated.

Terraced landscapes of two Greek Aegean islands, Lesvos and Samos by A. Dalaka, University of the Aegean, Greece

Anastasia Dalaka, researcher from the University of the Aegean, presented a detailed monitoring study of terraced sites in the Greek islands of Lesvos and Samos. The methodology she adopted was based on the analysis of aerial photos integrated by field surveys. GIS softwares for cartographical representation and data elaboration were utilised.


The third session focused on the studies and tools able to promote revitalization of terraced landscapes, from the importance or raising awareness about their value to the development of strategies and tools for supporting recovery.

Dissertation in memory of Eugenio Turri by F. Vallerani and G. Moriani, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice

The second day opened with two dissertations in memory of Eugenio Turri, a distinguished Italian geographer, presented by professor Vallerani and professor Moriani from the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. First of all they mentioned the approach by which Turri renewed landscape research: he actually considered the landscape not just as a natural element, but as a result of changes mainly determined by human activities. By so doing, he paved the path towards a stronger commitment in maintaining residual landscape features, anticipating
the themes of the European Landscape Convention. Also his later works have been mentioned, when the geographer came to look at the pre-modern landscape as a sort of handbook for human beings, who can get important information about how to set sustainable territorial strategies by learning from landscape management.

Cultural landscapes and Regional Products by A. Štoka, Joint Technical Secretariat, Interreg IIIB Alpine Space

Another way of supporting rural cultural landscape conservation is provided by European co-operation funds, as described by Anuška
Štoka, representative from the INTERREG IIIB Alpine Space Joint Technical Secretariat. In particular, thanks to the purpose of acting
more effectively on the territory, more importance will be given during the forthcoming programming period 2007-2013 to the promotion of regional products and the enhancement of the ‘territorial capital’ typical of the Alpine region.

Terraced sites in Central Tuscany: from past to future by C. Greppi, University of Siena

Finally, closing a number of interventions whose leit motiv was represented by the pivotal role of geography, professor Greppi from the
University of Siena presented his research studies focusing on Tuscan hills, able to document the medieval origins of terraced slopes as well as to warn against hazards caused by their abandonment.


In the last session recovery projects of terraced landscapes undertaken in four different European countries were presented

The projects realized by the Swiss Foundation for Landscape Conservation by R. Rodewald, FSTP (only Italian version available)

Raimund Rodewald, from the Swiss Foundation for Landscape Conservation, described some initiatives for studying and recovering Swiss terraced landscapes: among the former ones is PROTERRA Programme, aimed at monitoring the various typologies of terraced sites spread throughout Switzerland; among the latter ones is to be mentioned the restoration of terraced structures and the consequent cultivation of a re-wilded chestnut wood nearby Lostallo, in the Canton Grigioni. This case in particular points out once more the nonsense of taking into account just the technical and operational tools, without considering the socio-cultural related aspects, starring from the involvement of local communities.

A productive recovery in the Province of Savona by A. Lamberti, Arnasco Olive Oil Cooperative (only Italian version available)

Arnasco, nearby Savona, is a Ligurian settlement, whose economy has always been based on olive oil. In 1984 a local Olive Oil Co-operative was established, leading to a significant increase in agrarian activities, thus bringing positive spin-offs for the area, such as the resumption of production on 25 hectares of terraced olive grove, which used to be abandoned. The Co-operative, here represented by professor Lamberti, has been cooperating since many years with the local association ‘Amici dell’Olivo’ (Olive’s Friends) through several initiatives, such as the foundation and the management of an Olive Museum and a School on dry-stone buildings.

The conservation of terraced landscapes in Provence by D. Larcena, Association ’Pierre Sèche en Vaucluse’ and Ecoles de Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (only French version available)

The creation of the first terraced sites in Provence (France) dates back to the 11th century. Nowadays the majority of them are abandoned and heavily damaged: retaining walls are collapsed, the water drainage system along the slopes is destroyed, erosional processes are on the move and spontaneous vegetation is progressively invading farmland. The only possible solution to counteract these phenomena is maintaining and recovering former terraced structures: this is actually the main aim of the initiatives promoted by the Association ‘Pierre Sèche en Vaucluse’, represented by Danièle Larcena.

The protection of dry-stone walls heritage in Mallorca by A. Reynés-Trias, Council of Mallorca (only French version available)

Dry-stone buildings represent a very important architectural, cultural and landscape heritage in Mallorca (Spain). Their origin and the importance of their conservation are both related to the necessity of a water drainage system and soil defence The Council of Mallorca, represented by Antoni Reynés Trias, acts in several ways, e.g. by mapping the existing heritage, training local bricklayers, establishing landscape bonds, co-funding restoration projects and promoting public and private building heritage. Moreover, the Council of Mallorca is involved in several European projects on terraced sites.