BSRG PG Fieldtrip: Italian Apennines (2011)

The first international postgraduate fieldtrip to the Italian Apennines took place from the 9th-14th of May. On the 9th of May 21 eager participants from different European countries gathered in the centre of Bologna, some enjoying the sights in the afternoon while others arrived a little later. In the evening the whole group got together for dinner at a pizzeria.

The next day, the first stop was the airport to pick up three minibuses that were going to be our mode of transport for the coming four days. From the airport we made our way south to the first geological stop of the day: the Cavallo Cliff, near Fontenalice. A very impressive outcrop of a channel cut. After a stop to buy lunch we paid a visit to an even more famous section:  the Coniale Cliff, where the Contessa bed – a mega-turbidite that forms a marker bed in most of the area – is clearly exposed.

After a very impressive river section and some more road outcrops we drove to Palazzuolo sul Senio where we were spending the night and enjoyed a great meal in the hotel with unbelievable amounts of food. After dinner a small portion of the group attempted to check out the village nightlife and locally produced grappa but was soon called back to the hotel as this was closing around midnight.

The next day we focussed on clean sandstone beds in the morning and more mud-rich debris flows in the afternoon. The last stop of the day required some mountain-goat abilities, but it was worth it, as the steep descent led us to the first “swirly sands” encounter of the trip.

We spent the night in Santa Sofia in a youth hostel that is owned by the University of Bologna. In the evening Marinus den Hartogh, who joined us on behalf of sponsor AkzoNobel, gave a very interesting presentation on his own career so far, the processes involved with salt mining in the Netherlands and how this is related to things that are going on in the UK and other areas of research. The day was concluded with possibly the best pizza ever, in a little restaurant in the village.

The following day we stopped at a road section and after exploring all the interesting internal and erosional structures, we made our way up along the ridge crest above the road. Apart from a stunning view and some good outcrops, there were clay pebbles the size of bowling balls to be seen.

A hotel in Bagno di Romagna was going to be our home for the next two nights. Before dinner, Mike Martin, BG Group’s representative, told us about his own career, about BG Group as a company and gave examples of a turbidite system BG Group is working on and how they deal with problems like determining the evolution of channel systems and water distribution in producing fields. The importance of analogues and understanding the scale of a system became clear once again. After another fabulous meal in a small trattoria, we pondered over all the interesting sights we had seen so far over a beer in the local Irish pub.

For some Friday morning came a bit too soon, but a stunning distal outcrop location with incredible rippled surfaces and other sedimentary structures woke most of us up. After a picnic in a shady park we made our way to the last outcrop of the trip, a very impressive mass transport complex in the Mandrioli Pass. Here we had the first rain of the trip but that did not stop interesting discussions about the internal structure of the complex.


A well deserved pizza dinner, a few thank you speeches, presents from the participants to the trip leaders (whooh!) and a farewell visit to the Irish pub, concluded the trip.

Thanks goes to BG Group, AkzoNobel and NOC Southampton for generously sponsoring this trip, Peter Talling and Giuseppe Malgesini who leant their time and expertise to show us the most impressive sights and lead interesting discussions, Marinus den Hartogh and Mike Martin for sharing their own experiences and giving us an industry perspective and last but not least, all the participants: thank you for showing so much interest and making it a very successful trip!

Giuseppe Malgesini & Iris Verhagen (organizers)