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The wild horses
of Monte Bisbino

In the severe winter of 2008-2009, when the mountains were covered with over a meter of snow, two groups of Haflinger horses descended into the villages of Sagno (Switzerland) and Rovenna (Italy) in a desperate search for food. Their owner, who had a pasture on top of the Bisbino, had died several years before and the horses had survived on the mountain, braving all kinds of difficulties.

The descent to the villages caused many complaints and there was the looming risk that the beautiful animals would be taken into captivity, or even killed. They were tame animals and certainly did not constitute a risk for the population. Numerous associations and sensitive Swiss and Italian citizens then joined forces to save the horses and find practical solutions to guarantee their survival and avoid conflicts in the villages. Also the famous ethologist Giorgio Celli defended the Haflinger horses, arguing that these herds were an asset of the mountains of Como and Ticino.

During 2009 the movements of the horses were observed, in order to protect them from being attacked by people who did everything possible to keep them out of their pastures and meadows. In winter 2009 they were gathered and kept in a large enclosure just below Bisbino, and in May 2010 they were moved to the Italian side of Monte Generoso, where there are vast and plentiful pastures. This was the first famous transhumance, which brought hundreds of Swiss and Italian volunteers together, driven by the desire to save these wonderful animals. Since then the 25 Bisbino horses have belonged to an association that bears their name and counts 200 members.

The town of Lanzo d'Intelvi has provided a large plot of land for free, where the horses spend the winter months and where they are looked after and fed by volunteers. In the spring, the horses are taken to the high pastures and remain there until late autumn.

During the summer, descending from Generoso or ascending from Orimento, you may encounter them on the pastures of "Squadrina" and "Pescio" or in the pine forests under the "Baraghetto" or "Barco of Montoni".

The Chamois:
Symbol of
Monte Generoso

The colony of chamois present on Monte Generoso originates from the 60s when several were released there. Today there are about 300-350 animals, all prospering and in good health. The chamois is a hoofed animal of medium size. The weight of a male adult varies between 35 and 50 kg. Both sexes have horns, the males being more curved. In the summer, the colour of the hair is light brown, while in winter it becomes dark brown. Chamois live generally in groups of varying sizes depending on the season. The more numerous herds are composed mostly of females and the young one or two years old. The babies, as a rule one per female, are born between April and May, after about 23 weeks of gestation.

The colony regulates its numbers and when the density of population increases, the sexual maturity of the females is delayed, causing a rise in the percentage of females without a kid. The chamois feeds mainly on grass. In the summer, leaves are added to this and, in winter, pine buds, broad leaves and miniature shrubs.

The Chamois is one of a few indigenous mammals with a mainly daytime activity making it easier to observe. In no other part of Switzerland can it be observed at such close quarters. The Monte Generoso colony of chamois is not afraid of man. It does not run further away than an instinctive 10 to 30 metres.

The flowers

The limestone substratum of Monte Generoso offers ideal conditions for a rich flora and is the habitat of more than 800 plant species. Some of these don’t grow anywhere else in Switzerland. Visitors cannot help but be captivated by the botanical treasures of this mountain, which is steeped in natural beauty. The flowers are larger and more luminous than those encountered in the lowlands. This phenomenon is due to the intense, energy-rich sunlight at higher altitudes. 

Monte Generoso is an exciting, seemingly inexhaustible treasure trove for fans of rare plants and, of course, for anyone who loves beauty.  

Note: The picking of plants is strictly prohibited by law!

List of some
of the flowers

Peony, Peonia                                              
(Paeonia officinalis)

White Asphodel                                            
(Asphodeles albus)

Bear’s Ear Primrose, Auricula                        
(Primula auricula)

Poet's Narcissus, Pheasant's-eye Daffodil     
(Narcissus poeticus)

Tufted Lousewort                                          
(Pedicularis gyroflexa)

Silvery Yarrow                                              
(Achillea clavenae)

Fringed Pink                                                 
(Dianthus hyssopifolius)

Scentless Feverfew                                     
(Tanacetum corymbosum)

French Meadow-rue                                      
(Thalictrum aquilegiifolium)

Willow Gentian                                              
(Gentiana asclepiadea)

Narcissus-flowered Anemone                        
(Anemone narcissiflora)

Yellow Thistle                                               
(Cirsium erisithales)

Christmas Rose                                            
(Helleborus niger)

Autumn Crocus, Meadow Saffron                  
(Colchicum autumnale)

(Cyclamen purpurascens)

…and many orchids

The Birds

The complexity of the Generoso’s environment favours the presence of a very varied birdlife. In addition, the mountain is a crossroads for the migration between the Alpine arc and the Po Valley.

To-date, 131 species of the 304 known in the Ticino, 83 nesting birds and a number of relatively small song birds such as Passeriformes have been observed and noted.

The greatest number of species (86-89) and the largest quantity of these are observed in spring-summer with the passage of the migrating birds and the arrival of the nest-building birds.

List of some
of the birds

Black Kite                             
(Milvus migrans)

Short-toed Snake Eagle         
(Circaetus gallicus)

(Buteo buteo)

(Falco tinnunculus)

Rock Partridge                      
(Alectoris graeca)

(Scolopax rusticola)

Tawny Owl                            
(Strix aluco)

(Jynx torquilla)

Great Spotted Woodpecker   
(Dendrocopos major)

Barn Swallow                        
(Hirundo rustica)

House Martin                         
(Delichon urbicum)

Red-backed Shrike                
(Lanius collurio)

Coal Tit                                
(Periparus ater)

Blue Tit                                 
(Cyanistes caeruleus)

Great Tit                               
(Parus major)

(Troglodytes troglodytes)

Northern Wheatear                
(Oenanthe oenanthe)

Song Thrush                          
(Turdus philomelos)

(Sylvia atricapilla)

(Sylvia communis)

Alpine Accentor                     
(Prunella collaris)

Carrion, Hooded Crow           
(Corvus corone)

Northern Raven                     
(Corvus corax)

(Fringilla coelebs)

(Tichodroma muraria)