Green spaces: The Italian nature park that shows Ermenegildo Zegna’s commitment to nature

A visit to Oasi Zegna, the mountainous, reforested Italian nature reserve with strong links to the luxury brand Ermenegildo Zegna.

The Italian nature reserve Oasi Zegna, a 100-square-kilometre park originally envisioned by Ermenegildo Zegna. It’s home to a variety of plant life – including conifers, rhododendrons and hydrangeas – plus animals such as foxes, chamois, roe deer, marmots and golden eagles. Courtesy Ermenegildo Zegna
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The luxury fashion brand Ermenegildo Zegna may be famous the world over for its beautifully crafted, uber-expensive suits, but in its hometown of Trivero in the foothills of the Italian Alps, the company is also synonymous with environmental protection and regeneration.

Oasi Zegna is a 100-square-­kilometre nature reserve originally envisioned by Ermenegildo Zegna, the founder of the brand that bears his name. In the 1930s, having established Lanificio ­Zegna, the wool mill that to this day creates the company’s exquisite textiles, he turned his mind to community outreach. The forward-thinking entrepreneur recognised that the success of his business was inextricably linked to its relationship with the local community, and believed that natural resources should be ­respected and protected.

In addition to building houses for employees, and health, training, sports and recreational facilities for the wider community, he created the Panoramica Zegna, a 14-kilometre road linking Trivero to Bielmonte. He also embarked on a mission to “green” Trivero’s mountainside, planting half a million conifers, as well as rhododendrons and hydrangeas, transforming the barren slopes into a green space that could be enjoyed by all.

“The way he transformed this mountain, I think he was an artist,” says Anna Zegna, the image director of the Zegna Group, of the work undertaken by her formidable grandfather. “He ­really shaped the landscape and through that he gave us two messages. First of all, of a great sense of hope, because when you plant trees, it is not for today, it is for tomorrow. And then, a belief in man, because he knew that what he did would not only last for him, but for future generations. So he had a great sense of believing in mankind, and for me, this is a great message.”

In 1993, Ermenegildo’s early attempt at environmental reclamation was made official with the founding of Oasi Zegna, a freely accessible nature park extending between Trivero and Valle del Cervo in the Biella Alps. Running alongside Ermenegildo’s Panoramica Zegna road, the park is divided into three main sections. The first, the so-called Rhododendron Road, is the “garden” part of Oasi Zegna, created next to the wool mill in the 1950s. Inspired by the work of the Florentine landscape architect Pietro Porcinai, the site has since been extended by Paolo Pejrone. In early summer, it consists of a colourful riot of rhododendron and hydrangea blooms.

The Road of the Passes, meanwhile, is the highest stretch of the Panoramica. At its heart is Bielmonte, a modest tourist resort also built in the 1950s. To the north, the road links to a number of passes to reach Alta Valsessera, the wildest and most uncultivated part of the park. The third section is referred to as the Syenite Road. Overlooking the Torrente Cervo, a 65km seasonal stream that’s the principal tributary of the River Sesia, this area is home to still-inhabited villages and striking geological features, as well as typical Alpine vegetation nourished by the waters of the Cervo. A major highlight of this area is the presence of syenite, a magmatic rock formed more than 30 million years ago.

Oasi Zegna, which can proudly claim to be Italy’s first example of environmental patronage, is designed to protect and improve these mountainous ecosystems, while encouraging awareness and respect for nature among its visitors. Environmental education is a key focus, and the Zegna Oasis Scientific Committee, which consists of local experts, botanists, ornithologists, geologists and biologists, and is chaired by the ethologist Giorgio Celli, has produced a collection of scientific guides in partnership with the Museum of Natural History of Milan. Meanwhile, signs dotted throughout the park illustrate the area’s rich history, and describe the animals, plants and minerals found here.

Among these species is the Carabus olympiae, a type of beetle ­endemic to the area and not found anywhere else in Italy. Having faced extinction in the 1990s because of overzealous collectors, the beetle is now the focus of the Life project, an initiative funded by the European Community and coordinated by ­Ermenegildo Zegna in association with other high-profile stakeholders. This initiative forms part of the wider Life Natura project, which aims to build a new model for forestry management and the development of alpine agriculture.

While the park acts as a “live laboratory” for nature enthusiasts, it’s also a haven for those with a predilection for outdoor sports. From high-altitude trekking, mountain biking and horse riding to rock climbing and ­winter sports, the area offers a host of recreational activities for adults and children.

Broadening the park’s appeal as a tourist and cultural destination, while protecting the natural environment, is a top priority, with a programme in place “that will improve the quality of services offered by local hospitality facilities (in line with international standards), boost professional excellence in sport, create new areas of attraction for tourism, recreation and psychophysical well-being, and activate partnerships with institutions, businesses and associations”, ­according to an Oasi Zegna mission ­statement.

As it stands, the area offers a respectable number of hotels and restaurants, predominantly in Bielmonte, as well as agritourism establishments such as the Agriturismo Oro di Berta, a farm stay and educational centre in Portula where guests can enjoy local dishes made from seasonal ingredients grown on the farm. A series of treks allow visitors to experience the local topography, with the chance of coming face-to-face with indigenous wildlife, including foxes, chamois, roe deer, marmots and golden eagles. One of the more popular trekking routes takes you through the Fra Dolcino area, named after a famous radical preacher who sought refuge in these mountains while being persecuted for his anti-­establishment ideas.

For those who are more interested in fashion than flowers, Ermenegildo Zegna is currently hosting an exhibition entitled Flower Landscapes. Fiori. Tessuti. Ricette at its dedicated exhibition centre and archive facility, Casa Zegna, in Trivero. After a morning spent hiking, you can discover a selection of fabrics from the Zegna archive. The exhibition, curated by Maria Luisa Frisa, is based on a study of the Heberlein Fund, a vast collection of 2,200 volumes of fabric samples acquired by the Zegna Group in 2011. The exhibition focuses on the bold floral fabrics found in the archive, presenting them in a three-dimensional format that also explores their connections with popular culture over the course of the past 50 years.

Flower Landscapes is open at Casa Zegna in Trivero every Sunday from September 6 to 24, from 2pm to 6pm. For more information, visit

Green Spaces is a series that features notable gardens and public spaces from around the world.

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