Friday, May 8, 2009

Scaglia Bianca

We spend the day exploring the Apennines east of Gubbio, looking for illustrations of central Italian geology. Geologically, Italy is an extension of Africa, which is slowly colliding with the European continent. This collision is shoving the limestones of Italy into steep upwarps called anticlines. The Apennines are a series of these anticlines that run down the length of the country from the Alps to the toe of the boot.

 We find a vantage point atop Monte Petrano, where we get a clear view of the obvious anticline of Monte Nerone. All around us, men are exercising their hunting dogs on the sweep of alpine grassland where buttercups and wild orchids bloom.

 Across the gorge below us, Tom spots a village clinging to the cliff, surrounded by blossoming redbud trees. The village is just below an exposed cliff on the mountainside and Tom is sure that this will be the perfect place to photograph the folded layers of Scaglia bianca, the thin white layers of limestone so typical of the Apennines.

 We drive down Petrano and find our way to a road that we think must lead to the village. It’s only a gravel track just wide enough to squeeze between shrubs and trees that brush the sides of the car. We wind up the mountainside as far as we can, then stop the car and walk. As usual, Tom is right: the rock here is tortuously buckled into folds.

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