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Violin forest for music lovers

More than half of the province of Trentino is covered by forests. They purify the air, protect towns and crops, give room to biodiversity and are also important for tourism and leisure. One forest is very special, the so-called Resonant Wood, or: violin forest. Stradivarius used the precious trees from here for his famous instruments.

LATEST NEWS: An estimated one million cubic meters of the forest has been destroyed after strong winds lashed northern Italy. There was also severe damage to this particular forest at Val di Fiemme, see this video on the BBCKatia Vinco, my contact in the region, writes on December 20, 2018: “The nature reserve is getting better. A lot of work and money is being invested in the reconstruction of the forests. We even started a project to save the trees, and lots of people (volunteers, firemen, lumberjacks etc.) are united and working together, to solve the problem. The good news is we managed to open the ski slopes in time for our winter season. The Paneveggio forest, that you write about, was badly hit, but has also been so much in the media spotlights, so that speeded up investments to bring it back to normal.”

Quality wood for string instruments

The Norway spruces (Latin name: Picea abies Karst) that grow here, provide a top quality resonance wood for string instruments. Due to the right mix of light, heat, and humidity, their growth is slow and constant, which leads to a compact and uniform density of their trunks. That makes it an excellent transmitter of pure and harmonious sound and timbre. In Italian they are called abeti di risonanza. 

In the violin forest grow ‘acoustic’ trees

The specific characteristics and uniqueness of this wood are the result of certain anatomical, physical-chemical, mechanical and acoustic properties. Resonant wood has no macroscopic defects or knots, while the fiber is straight and healthy with regular and constant growth rings.

For centuries, craftsmen know and recognize the quality. Carpenters have been knowing the secret of those trees. The legendary violin manufacturer Antonio Stradivari got his material here. And still, today musicians and musical instrument makers come here to select their trees, mostly more than 200 to 250 years old.

Riping like cheese

The Magnifica Comunita’ di Fiemme, an ancient form of self-government in this Trento valley, still manages a part of the forests, overseeing and controlling the certification of the wood and the management of the forest. They have a special warehouse where the split timber is resting like cheese: waiting to be ‘ripe’ to be turned into a violin, a cello or ukulele.

Trees are normally felled during the cold dormant months and by tradition, during the waning moon.

One of the guards, Giuliano Zugliani, took us on a tour.

Italian Alps - violin forest

“The trees grow high, but slow and moderate, which makes the wood dense and compact”, tells Giuliano Zugliani.

“After being cut, some of the logs are immersed in the streaming water of the nearby Trevignolo stream for several months, which adds even some more improvement to the wood.”

Italian Alps - violin forest

In the storage shed, the wood is marked with drawing pins: each colour stands for a year.

Giuliano: “The so strong, because it grows tremendously slowly. There’s also a kind of enzyme that adds something special.”


Wood of water and moon

“When a piece of wood carries the letter T, it has been soaking in the Travigniolo stream, wild water running from the mountains. After a few months, the washed wood is lighter and more flexible. It vibrates better because it has been aged already in a way”, explains Giuliano.

“The trees are only cut on the winter solstice on December 21st, by night, because the gravity is the lowest at that moment. The lymphs are ‘quiet’, so the little juices that remain can run out more easily and the wood dries quicker. That’s why the wood is also called Moon Wood, Legno Lunare. This moon wood cutting ritual is mysterious and fascinating. It is a tradition passed down from generation to generation.”

More about this violin forest

Nice read on this BBC blog on a violin tree picker.

More articles on Trentino / Italian Alps

Also a nice read when visiting the Italian Alps: the Dailygreenspiration-articles