Monte San Giorgio
Luca Zulliger, director of the museum of fossils of Monte San Giorgio:
What is your role of the museum this UNESCO World Heritage site
The Museum of Fossils of Meride, in which you can admire numerous fossils belonging to the living creatures that inhabited a now disappeared equatorial sea, has the task of disseminating and safeguarding this heritage of world importance thanks to various collaborations with institutions and structures in the region but not only. Particularly important is the collaboration with the Cantonal Museum of Natural History (MCSN) which deals with paleontological excavations and scientific research; the importance of these two activities is fundamental in order not to "fossilize" the memory of this site. This is the most important fossiliferous deposit dating back to this period, and the exceptional variety and state of conservation of these fossils guaranteed in 2003 inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List. In the sedimentary rocks that form Monte San Giorgio, we find at least 6 fossiliferous levels dating back to the Middle Triassic (247-237 million years ago).
What relationship do you have with this site?
Since I was a boy I have always had a passion for the earth sciences, and in particular for geology and paleontology. After spending almost 7 years in Freiburg for university studies, the opportunity to work on the material of Monte San Giorgio allowed me to return to live in Ticino. After almost 6 years of collaboration with the MCSN, during which I was also able to actively participate in various scientific excavation campaigns, came the great professional opportunity to direct the Monte San Giorgio Fossil Museum. To be able to follow the journey of these 240 million years old animals, starting from the extraction during the excavation through the paleontological preparation to the study and exhibition in the museum is something indescribable.
What is your favourite thing to do here?
Sitting on a seat or heat mat, and working in the hot sun or in the cold and rain. It may seem paradoxical but these are my favourite conditions when I'm on Monte San Giorgio. For a paleontologist the time of excavation, even in adverse weather conditions, remains the most intriguing and stimulating activity. The days spent with the hammer in hand trying to dig up something that no one else has seen for 240 million years are priceless.
What is the best time to visit and why?
In addition to the Fossil Museum, Monte San Giorgio offers several hiking trails and a geo-paleontological path. There is no more suitable time to visit us, although the best period for outdoor activities is from spring to autumn, while the Museum is open all year round.
What activities do you suggest to do in this UNESCO site?
Leaving early in the morning, once you arrive in Meride, I suggest you walk to the summit of Monte San Giorgio via the village of Cassina. Here you will see a couple of excavation sites (one active one month a year, and the other now closed). Once at the top you can admire the fabulous 360 degree panorama, ranging from the Alps to the Po Valley and with Lake Ceresio at your feet. Going down in the direction of "Crocifisso" you pass next to the excavation called "Punto 902", while once reached the road, in only 10 minutes you can reach the excavation of "Acqua del Ghiffo". Heading towards Meride you will pass by the Spinirolo Factory, where the famous "Saurolo" ointment, a real rock distillate, was produced last century. Finally, once you arrive in the village, you will have plenty of time to visit the Fossil Museum.
October 2016 (translated from Italian)