Dinosaur tracks near Rovereto

Footprints of reptiles in the Southern Alps (Trentino, Italy)

Dinosaur track
Dinosaur track

Dinos! As a child, everyone probably had a phase when dinosaurs were the most fascinating thing in the world. Even if the enthusiasm has died down a bit since then, as a geoscientist I find it exciting to find traces of these reptiles in situ for once. Even if “finding” only means following a signpost….

In the Southern Alps there are several places with traces of dinosaurs. Around 350 footprints of very different dinosaurs have been found on a slope near Rovereto, a small town just south of Trento in the Adige Valley and therefore easy to reach. Many tracks are simply a series of round impressions that look as if an elephant had walked through mud. Occasionally there are tracks of a two-legged dinosaur with three toes each, a carnivore according to the signs. The vast majority of the tracks, however, can only be recognised with imagination. Interestingly, the tracks are found in the scarp of a landslide, which is even sung about by Dante in the Divine Comedy. The slanted layers certainly look as if something could slide off here once again.

Dinosaur track:
Dinosaur track: This guy was even bigger…

About 200 million years ago (Early Jurassic), the Trentino platform was a region with a shallow sea, with large sandbanks and many islands. Judging by the number of tracks, Rovereto must have been a popular beach back then.

A few explanatory signs (in Italian and English) make it a nice geological trail. However, the signposting of the path could be improved (three or four more signposts would be enough), and you should memorise the aerial photo at the car park beforehand.

The little road to the car park, which is hardly used, is well signposted. If you are travelling without a car, you can also reach it on foot; it took me 1 h 30 min. The best way is to cross the old town to the fortress (there are several maps in the town), cross the bridge there and turn left a few metres further on at a church onto a footpath. This leads to Via Madonna del Monte, which you follow for about 6 km to the end (from Castel Dante it is called Strada degli Artiglieri).