The Valley of Wonders - Mercantour National Park


In the French Maritime Alps, thousands of prehistoric graffiti tell us timeless stories.

"And do you believe in monsters, do you believe in enraged bodies, in living stones, in divine smiles, in words that destroy?

I believe in what every man has hoped for and suffered. If they once climbed these stony heights or searched for deadly swamps under the sky, it was because they found something there that we don't know about. It wasn't the bread, nor the pleasure, nor the dear health. We know where these things are. Not here. And we who live far away along the sea or in the fields, have lost the other thing."

- Cesare Pavese -

This place is the first of its kind that I have visited in my life, after having always read in history books and seen in documentaries mysterious graffiti left to us by prehistoric men, I have always been fascinated by this era so distant and so unknown, mysterious and fascinating. Only with time did I understand that primitive life, which is portrayed to us as a barbaric and violent era, where people did not live but survived, was only a romantic narrative useful for an evolutionary vision of time and history. The ancient inhabitants of the planet were not at all naive and did not survive at all, just think of the many beautiful artefacts and artistic works that have come down to us. For example, beautiful hair combs inlaid in bone and finely decorated have been found, as well as jewels, earrings, pendants: think about how much time and skill went into working them, and with the tools of the time to boot, but if these primitives were engaged in hunting and in the fight for survival and in defending themselves from ferocious beasts, how could they have the time and desire to inlay bone combs and make jewellery? And if they did it, not only did they have time to do it, but they also had time to comb their hair and take care of their aesthetic appearance! Our distant ancestors had a very deep relationship with the forces of Nature, they knew how to interact and dialogue with it, abilities that we moderns have lost, and this is a real impairment for our soul, and probably also for our body. They lived with the necessary and did not need the superfluous, they probably lived a full and engaging spiritual life, they had no interior voids to fill, therefore they did not need the superfluous like us.

Always fascinated by these distant and mysterious eras, one day I came across an article in a trekking magazine that described an excursion in a valley rich in these testimonies: I was literally struck! This place was not far away, and after a short journey, you could reach it on foot, slowly, by walking you could enter this ancestral and mysterious territory. It's called the Valley of Wonders, around Mount Bego, in the French Maritime Alps, just beyond Italian territory. I proposed this site to some of my work colleagues, who were also mountain enthusiasts, and the enthusiasm was common, and an expedition lasting a few days was organised.

Being primitive engravings, we do not have any documents that can help us in their interpretation, therefore our suppositions, those of historians and archaeologists, are just interpretation, and as such they are, inevitably, influenced by our culture, by our way of thinking but above all by our way of feeling.

It is not easy to carve the rock, especially to carve it deeply, and with primitive and elementary tools, therefore if those people made all this effort, they certainly had very valid reasons for doing so. This place certainly had to do with spirituality, with rituals and with forces that manifested themselves here. A great variety of symbols appear, certainly from different eras, so the site has maintained its importance over several millennia, what other modern place maintains its importance or its attractiveness for so long? What attracted these distant ancestors of ours to venture up here? And why precisely in this valley, and not in the adjacent one? or the other one a little further away?

It is a place that is certainly worth a visit, and I leave you some photographs below, unfortunately they are very old images, scanned from film, and at that time I was not yet expert enough, therefore these images are not very captivating, but I hope they can however, convey something beautiful to you. Whatever nostalgics say, the film still had major limitations. It would be worth going back, but while browsing around I read that now the site can no longer be visited freely like several years ago, now you can only go accompanied by park guides on group guided tours, too touristy for my tastes! Sin