The red lake, as it was named until 1964. We are talking about the suggestive Lake Tovel, in Trentino Alto Adige. It’s one of the most popular destinations in the Val di Non, in the province of Trento. A red lake because its waters reddened creating an almost dreamlike atmosphere. The cause of the redness, which for about fifty years has been only a memory, was due to the action of the lake flora mainly composed of the micro-algae Tovellia sanguinea.
Today the lake, despite having lost this fascinating feature, presents itself as an oasis of magical tranquility in the heart of the Alps. Its fairytale aura is in any case linked to the legends that surround its history. And despite having lost the appellation deriving from the color of its waters, Lake Tovel has bought another. In fact, it is also called the bear lake because in that area of the valley there is a crowded settlement of brown bears. Charm, history and beauty are the characteristics of this natural oasis set like a precious stone in the Brenta Dolomites.
Valley around the lake
The lake covers an inlet with an area of 370,000 m² inside the Val di Tovel. The entire valley is surrounded by the high peaks of Monte Peller, the Campa massif and the rocky promontory between the Grostè pass and the Gaiarda pass. Vegetation is flourishing and varied. Woods are dense and populated by an equally varied fauna. Walking along the mountain paths, in fact, it might be possible to spot chamois, marmots, hares, roe deer, foxes and grouse and black grouse.
And if a birdwatching match is added to the walk, the visitor will not be disappointed! In fact, in the open skies of the valley it will be possible to spot the ptarmigan, the francolin, the partridge and even the imperial crow. Although it is another native species, it will be difficult to meet the Alpine brown bear. In fact, despite this mountain inhabitant we owe one of the names of the lake, the specimens are few and reluctant to be seen by man. Such is therefore the landscape setting that encloses the picturesque Lake Tovel. A place that thrives on magic both in summer and in winter.
The battle on the shore of Lake Tovel
Each idyllic place brings with it a good dose of legend to charm and attract. The same is true of Lake Tovel, which became red as blood. Legend has it that a young princess lived by the lake. Tresega was her name and was the daughter of the last ruler of Ragoli. She was a very beautiful girl, however she did not decide to marry. Her suitors lined up, but she turned them down one after another. However, these denials did not always meet reasonable interlocutors! In fact, yet another refusal sparked the wrath of the pretender Lavinto, king of Tuenno. The latter did not in any way accept the negative response to his obstinate court, so much so that he re-presented the offer. But at a second refusal, feeling outraged and offended, he decided to invade Ragoli with his army. The intent was twofold.
On the one hand Lavinto wanted to submit Tresenga to his will. On the other hand, he wanted to annex Ragoli to his kingdom. Neither the princess nor the inhabitants of Ragoli accepted the attack. The answer was ready and the battle was bloody. Tresenga also took the field to lead his people. Unfortunately for the princess the battle was fatal. Tresenga died pierced by the sword of the cruel pretender and his people also followed the same fate. At the end of the battle, the lake turned red. It was the blood of the princess and her brave people. It is said that even today the princess cries for her people right by the lake.
The red lake that no longer exists
The legend is suggestive and colors – it is appropriate to say – a more practical reality. As we mentioned, the evening red that characterized the lake was due to the flowering of the Tovellia sanguinea. The redness usually occurred in the summer, when the temperatures were higher. Probably the phenomenon has stopped occurring because the water has lost the nourishment necessary for the subsistence of that alga. But red or blue or green, Lake Tovel has not lost its luster. Not surprisingly, that crystal water has nothing to envy to the Caribbean paradises. Indeed, in this case there is the added value of the mountain air and the majestic Adamello Brenta Park that frames it.
(Images from: Francesca Arcuri’s private archive)