Monte Generoso, approximately 40,000 years ago. Here, Neanderthal Man and the Cave Bear shared a cave, at what is now the border between Switzerland and Italy. The giant plantigrades, mostly herbivores, were among the most common inhabitants of caves during the last ice age. Twice as large and heavy as modern-day Grizzlies, with a size much larger than that of polar bears, they were giants that were difficult for any predator to attack. The small Neanderthal tribes certainly had to fear these enormous and dangerous animals, but they probably even tried to capture some of them armed only with courage and sticks with a flint tip placed at the end.
All this – barring new impediments due to the health situation – starting from the last week of June 2021, we will no longer have to try to imagine it, but we will be able to relive it, thanks to an unprecedented Augmented Reality experience and special perfectly transparent multimedia glasses, capable of merging the real world with 3D reconstructions of the past. A real time machine 4.0.
The natural scenery is also unique: the Caverna Generosa (also known as the Bear’s Cave), a famous paleontological site visited every year by hundreds of hikers and still today a very active place of excavation and study by paleontologists from the State University of Milan, in Italian territory but only 30 minutes from the Swiss border located on the summit of Generoso. Here the remains of primitive plantigrades were discovered and studied, alongside evidence of human presence.
«Finally – comments Mario Pozzi, mayor of the Centro Valle d’Intelvi Municipality – after about 3 years of work, the possibility of making this reality known to the foreign and local public becomes concrete; furthermore, the use of new technologies adds value to a site which, in itself, is already an important reference on a tourist-cultural level, both for the Italian and Swiss sides. At the end of June, due to the pandemic, the experiences will start on a smaller scale, with the hope that next year we can start at full capacity.”
Already at the entrance of the Cave, by wearing the special intelligent multimedia glasses (smartglasses) equipped with software that makes them able to re
The journey through history will continue with the entrance into the Cave, where it will be necessary to wear a protective helmet with glasses. Here, in the midst of the excavations, you will be able to see the Cave Bears that actually inhabited the cave come back to life and whose remains are still on display (a mother with her cubs). You will be able to admire them up close while they eat, play and sleep – thanks to spectacular 3D reconstructions created by university researchers together with the project’s technological partner, ARtGlass (an Italian-American company leader in the Augmented Reality sector for tourism and culture).
Finally, after leaving the Cave, the visitor will meet a Neanderthal family intent on cooking and eating around a fire.
To create the experience, which will be available in 3 languages (Italian, English and German), an interdisciplinary team was created, which saw paleontologists, geologists, archaeologists, Augmented Reality experts, 3D modelers and videomakers working side by side. In this sense, an important contribution was provided by the Paleontologist Fabio Bona, as well as Conservator of the Civic Fossil Museum of Besano (VA) and Councilor of the Italian Paleontological Society, and by Professor Lucia Angiolini, President of the Italian Paleontological Society and Coordinator of the College Interdepartmental teaching of Natural Sciences: «The research and work conducted as part of the INTERREG VA “DISCOVER” project made it possible to make the visit to the Caverna Generosa a unique experience. If on the one hand the scientific aspects of the site have been explored and enhanced, on the other the creation of a new lighting system and the application of Augmented Reality technology, through the use of special Epson viewers, allow you to experience a engaging experience between bears and Pleistocene Neanderthals, in the evocative environment of the cave”.
cognize what the visitor is looking at and how he moves in the space, you will find yourself being transported to the bottom of the sea, in the ecosystem that millions of years ago occupied this territory and which today has left us extraordinary fossil deposits.
The Cave can be reached both from the summit of Monte Generoso (Swiss side) and from Alpe d’Orimento (Italian side). To orient visitors through the natural paths and help them discover the magnificent mountain landscapes, an innovative mobile application has been developed by the experts of SUPSI (Scuola Universitaria Professionale della Svizzera Italiana) that all visitors will be able to download onto their smartphones. Educational and information panels with QR codes to download the app will be available along the route. «SUPSI is particularly proud to have led this project and to be able to demonstrate how new technologies can also be useful in the field of tourism promotion. From an initial idea that seemed difficult to realise, we are now happy to have managed to bring the bears to life on Monte Generoso thanks to a smartphone application capable of providing information experiences based on augmented reality and facilitating the reservation and purchase of tickets necessary for guided tours of the cave in a digital and sustainable way, without resorting to paper tickets and cash payments”, these are the words of Giacomo Poretti, Swiss leader, computer engineer and SUPSI researcher.
The experience is part of the Interreg project called with the acronym SCOPRI, whose leaders are the Municipality of Centro Valle Intelvi for Italy and the SUPSI Information Systems and Networking Institute for Switzerland and which envisages how partners are the Lario Intelvese Mountain Community, the University of Milan, the Mendrisiotto and Basso Ceresio Tourist Organization and Ticino Turismo.
The strategic objective of the project is to introduce an exclusive element of innovation in the tourist offer of Generoso capable of making the visit unique and unforgettable, attracting attention at an international level and enhancing a common geographical area, to encourage the tourist and economic development of the entire region. The project therefore intends to enhance the historical, cultural and naturalistic heritage of the Monte Generoso region through the networking of cross-border tourist itineraries promoted in an integrated way as “The Region to Discover”.
«With the Interreg DISCOVER project – states the President of the Lario Intelvese Mountain Community, Ferruccio Rigola – our objective is to contribute to the development of the territory by increasing the presence of tourists through the valorisation of all the peculiarities of the Regional Forest of Monte Generoso: the Cave of ‘Bear, but also the laburnum forest, the remains of the trenches of the Cadorna Line, offering a new map of the extensive trail network of this cross-border area and the possibility of finally being able to return to taste our typical products at the main refreshment points on the Italian and Swiss fronts. The aim is to intrigue tourists above all with the innovative ability to make the past visible: the visitor to the Bear Cave, through the appropriate glasses, will be able to live an augmented reality experience face to face with the extinct Cave Bear, thanks to the experience of ArtGlass, commissioned by the mountain body. The tourist’s visit will be unique and unforgettable.”
With the same technology and always in collaboration with ARtGlass, the Swiss partners of the project had created, in 2018, the Augmented Reality visit of the medieval village of Tremona Castello, on the Swiss side, a historical site of great interest, now a destination for thousands every year of visitors. Today, the time machine of this extraordinary tourist region is enriched with a new, unforgettable stop.
Says Nadia Fontana Lupi, Director of the Regional Tourist Organization of Mendrisiotto and Basso Ceresio: “The OTR has always promoted visits to the Bear’s Cave, which for many years it has included among the top 7 attractions for the region . Monte Generoso is a much visited and appreciated tourist destination and its summit, for 130 years, can be easily reached by rack train departing from Capolago. We are particularly happy to be able to offer visits inside the Bear Cave again, enriched by the introduction of the experience with 3D glasses, which will allow us to take visitors on a real leap into the past! This project also allows us to add a further piece to the communication project by enhancing the theme of augmented reality visits that we have already been successfully offering for a few years at the Tremona archaeological park on Monte San Giorgio and enhancing the theme of the experiential offer”.
June – September 2021
The visits take place only in groups and accompanied by a specialized guide and last 30/40 minutes. The temperature inside the Cave is 10 degrees centigrade. Groups of up to 12 people can visit the site from 10am until 4.30pm. For minors there is an obligation to be accompanied by an adult.