Unusual Places in Italy: The Oldest Conifer Trees of Europe


Luoghi insoliti in Italia: le conifere più vecchie d’Europa
Val d’Ultimo, South Tyrol, Italy
Val d’Ultimo, South Tyrol, Italy

Use player to listen to Italian version


Imagine a tree that has lived for 2,000 years, a tree we can see and touch today and that was already here when the world as we know it today didn’t exist. 

Such a tree, or actually, three of them, can be found in the Val d’Ultimo of South Tyrol, an enchanted valley near Merano in northern Italy, a traditional Tyrolean valley with ancient farms, green meadows, dense forests and high mountains.

The so-called ‘thousand-year-old larch trees’ are located in Santa Gertrude, the last village of Val d’Ultimo, at about 1,430 meters of altitude.

How do we know these larch trees are so old? More than 2,000 growth rings were counted on a larch tree next to them that was knocked over by the wind in 1930. The three survivors, scarred by storms and bad weather, are thus considered the oldest conifers in Europe.

The whole top of the highest larch, which is 36.5 meters high and has a circumference of 7 meters, is withered, struck by lightning. The largest of the three, which measures 8.34 meters in circumference and is 34.5 meters high, has also lost its top. The third larch, with a hollow trunk, has been broken for generations at a height of six meters; the open side of the trunk is so large you can actually fit inside (it makes for a good photo!). A side branch is now considered the top of the tree, thus measuring 22,5 meters. 

You can reach the thousand-year-old larch trees via an easy walk from the quaint village of Santa Gertrude following signs for ‘larici millenari’ (less than half an hour). You can also opt to take a longer walk, Hofeweg, or Walk of the Farmsteads, which goes through a good portion of Val d’Ultimo. The mountains covered with woods and green meadows are dotted with wooden farms (or masi), an architecture typical of this area. 

The larch tree, the only conifer in Europe that does not stay green throughout the year, is a marvel in the fall season when it turns a golden yellow.


Immagina un albero che ha vissuto per 2000 anni, un albero che noi oggi possiamo vedere e toccare e che era già qui quando il mondo come lo conosciamo oggi non esisteva.

Un albero del genere, o meglio, tre alberi, si trovano nella Val d'Ultimo dell'Alto Adige, una valle incantata vicino a Merano nel nord Italia, una valle tradizionale tirolese con antichi masi, prati verdi, fitti boschi e alte montagne.

I cosiddetti ‘larici millenari’ si trovano a Santa Gertrude, ultimo pa

Become a Premium Member

Support from Premium Members directly funds on-the-ground reporting from Italy (and the occasional Aperol Spritz for our talented writers). 

It’s all to bring you authentic Italy.

Join us.

More Dual Language Articles...

Italian Language eBooks