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FALL FOLIAGE AT OASI ZEGNA: THE POETRY OF COLORS IS A MATTER OF CHEMISTRY

AUTUMN HAS ARRIVED WITH ITS ATMOSPHERIC STILLNESS AND HAUNTING SILENCES. NATURE GUIDE ALESSANDRA MAFFEO EXPLAINS THE SCIENTIFIC SIDE OF THIS VAST TRANSFORMATION FOR US

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Walking, taking photos, observing, trying to distinguish the various behaviors of the trees. Enjoying the beneficial effects that trees have on our bodies, as Forest Therapy teaches us, abandoning ourselves to the calm that trees can instill in us and feeling the rhythms of nature. These are all activities that invite us to consider the beautiful side to autumn, a season of transition, transformation, with a charm all of its own.

The “foliage weeks”, from mid October to mid November, are undoubtedly amongst the best loved by visitors to Oasi Zegna. It’s in this period, in fact, that our territory becomes magical with the palette of colors that the woods produce and the enchanting, almost suspended atmosphere created as we walk beneath the leafy vault of yellow, orange, red or brown. A beauty that also moves us because of those extraordinary silences that animate what might seem a stereotyped image of autumn.

OASI ZEGNA: THE IDEAL PLACE FOR FOLIAGE 
Thanks to its natural conformation, Oasi Zegna is an ideal place in which to admire autumn foliage. This is borne out by the success of the walks that OverAlp organizes every year in the most picturesque parts of the territory. Oasi Zegna can boast a considerable variety of trees and plants that paint the mountains in so many different hues. Then there are places like the Forest of Smiles, where the green of the conifers, such as the firs (evergreens), acts as a foil for the phenomenal colors of the deciduous foliage.

WALKS: 12 DATES TO SAVE
This year there will be 24 outings across six weekends. Those in October (10-11, 17-18 and 24-25) will discover the Forest of Smiles, where the trees start changing color ahead of winter somewhat earlier as it’s higher up (1,400 meters). This area is characterized above all by beech and birch, so dark reds, almost brown, and yellow prevail. In November on the other hand, our nature guides will take us to Brughiera, at 800 meters, amidst chestnut trees, beeches, wild cherry trees, ashes and maples. Here, on the weekends of 31 October-1 November, 7-8 November and 14-15 November, we’ll be admiring the exuberant reds as they fade to yellow.

FALLING LEAVES: SELF-DEFENSE MECHANISM

Trees are intelligent,” explains OverAlp coordinator Stefano Maffeo, “they perceive the arrival of winter. As temperatures drop, the days shorten and the light becomes less intense, the trees first change the color of their leaves and then let them fall, because they know that if snow were to collect on their foliage, it would be dangerous for their branches and even the stability of the trunk”.

THE SCIENCE OF COLOR

“The falling of the leaves,” says Alessandra Maffeo , a natural sciences graduate who, like her brother, is an OverAlp guide, “is a bit like animals hibernating, a matter of energy saving”. The scientific explanation of the phenomenon is an important aspect of the outings organized with the OverAlp guides. “What amazes peoples,” continues Alessandra Maffeo, “is the fact that it’s the tree itself that decides to make this sacrifice, by activating a series of enzymes that cut the leaves’ stalks. Photosynthesis, which produces the green color of the leaves, is a chemical process that would be too “costly” in difficult seasons like autumn and winter, so trees decide to go into saving mode and keep their reserves in the roots”. As photosynthesis, and therefore the production of chlorophyl, shut down, the greenery starts fading to reveal other colors already present but not visible, like yellow, orange and red, which are due to pigments like carotenoids and anthocyanins”. The intensity and also duration of the coloring vary from year to year, as they depend on the weather in the summer and how fast it gets cold. “If this happens suddenly,” our expert explains, “the trees speed up the process and the colors of the foliage are less striking”.

THE IDEAL TIME FOR PHOTOGRAPHY
But over and above the scientific explanation – fascinating in itself in its revelation of plants’ resilience – it’s the atmosphere that strikes and enchants us. As confirmed by the fact that the hashtag #foliage is one of the most often used on Instagram. And that “foliage tourism”, a trend originating in Canada thanks to the spectacle of the maples, is also growing here, because it’s a splendid way to discover the territory, whether you love trekking, photography, botany or simply fancy an outing in nature where dogs are welcome too.

AUTUMN AT TABLE
Last but by no means least, the culinary aspect. With the first inklings of the cold to come, autumn can be a very busy time in the kitchen. Chestnuts, mushrooms, polenta: visitors to Oasi Zegna can expect to find delicious meals made with local products in the restaurants and farmstays here. After a walk, try the specialties at Albergo Ristorante Il Bucaneve, Agriturismo Cascina il Faggio, Ristorante Il Castagneto and Locanda Bocchetto Sessera. You won’t be disappointed.

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