Monte San Giorgio

Monte San Giorgio
Photo by Els Slots.

Monte San Giorgio is a mountain at Lake Lugano known for its marine fossils from the Mid-Triassic Period.

At that time (about 240 million years ago), the area had a tropical climate and a sea full of coral, fish, (long-necked) reptiles and turtle-like creatures. Fossils of these animals were found well preserved in what had been a sea basin. The quality of preservation is very high, a number of 'first discoveries' of species have been made here and the site has been studied for a long time.

Community Perspective: The museum in Meride is a worthwhile start, as it holds several fossils found at the site. There’s a trail that starts just outside Meride to take you into the core zone and to the top of Monte San Giorgio.

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Community Reviews

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Dan Pettigrew

USA - 15-May-19 -

The Museum in Meride was busy with School children on the day I was there. It is updated and very informational. I came by motorcycle from the Balcone d'Italia from where the picture of Monte San Giorgio was taken. There is a 4 1/2 hour loop trail from Meride called Sentiero geo-paleontologico, and another that goes to the peak with 3 hours up and back. With a lack of time I took the 1 1/2 hour trail from Serpiano to Alpe Di Brusino. 


Japan / USA / Europe - 15-Feb-15 -

Monte San Giorgio by Tsunami

From Varese, where I also went to the WHS of Sacro Monte of Varese, I took a bus to visit the museum in Besano, Italy.

The photo is a replica of the fossil of the Besano-saur.

From the museum I walked on trail, crossing the border, to the other museum in Meride, Switzerland, stopping at various sites where fossils have been discovered. From the museum in Meride, I also walked to the top of Monte San Giorgio for the great view of the surrounding area.

Now, the walking tour I just described was virtual, with this fantastic CD-ROM the museum in Besano gave me for free. :)


Malta - 28-Aug-13 -

Monte San Giorgio by Clyde

I had seen Monte San Giorgio from Lugano and also managed to visit Campione d'Italia in 2012. However I felt that this did not do justice to this WHS so in July 2013 while driving to Italy I visited the small town of Meride. The drive was a pleasant one (several hairpins and great views) and ample parking possibilities. Meride in July is similar to a ghost town, practically empty with the church bells echoing in the narrow streets. The quirky fossil museum of Monte San Giorgio others before me have reviewed has been upgraded and is now an informative 4 storey museum. There are original fossils and photos as well as models, reconstructions and a videoclip which really helped me grasp the OUV of this WHS. After Meride I crossed the border to Italy through Ceresio, Saltrio, Viggiù and Besano (where I visited another fossil museum). Researchers and universities in Italy and Switzerland collaborate with each other to meticulously study the different fossil layers that are unique in Monte San Giorgio because they offer the possibility of studying the evolution of different species of birds, insects, fauna and flora over time.

Meredith Wallin

United States - 26-Aug-11 -

My boyfriend (Lugano native) decided to take me here last week, as he has always wanted to see it and has never had the chance, and he knew that I would love it. We drove around Monte San Giorgio for a little while before he finally stopped and asked for directions from one of the locals. They sent us to Meride, where again, we were unsure where to go. He stopped another local and asked for directions again.

We parked in the main parking lot of Meride just below the vineyards and walked around the town a little bit. It appeared deserted. We found the little museum mentioned in your article, with a little note on a closed door, and went inside. We watched the video and looked around. The fossils that were on display were very well preserved and AWESOME! They also had drawings of what the creatures looked like and what the environment that they were living in at that time probably looked like. A step back in time.

After about 15 minutes in the museum, we wanted to see the site. We walked up the hill to the little church (which was beautiful), dipped our heads in the fountain (it was in the 90s) to cool off and started up the trail to see the fossil site at the top of the mountain. There's a sign that said it was about an hour and a half walk to the site.

The trail was paved with little stones and very steep, surrounded by beautiful trees, steams and butterflies. After about 20 minutes of hiking up the trail with no water and flip flops (we hadn't planned on hiking obviously), we decided it would be smart of us to turn back.

I will definitely be back, hopefully with my kids (6 and 7), some tennis shoes and a few bottles of water and make it to the top of the mountain. The town is empty, but cute and the hike through the mountains is absolutely gorgeous. But it is steep, no switchbacks, just straight up, so be prepared!

Els Slots

The Netherlands - 01-Jun-08 -

Monte San Giorgio by Els Slots

As this is the first review of Monte San Giorgio at this website, and because it's not your run-of-the-mill tourist attraction either, I had to start from scratch in finding out how to 'visit' it. My conclusion after many hours of Googling is that there are two ways: by car 'from the back' or via a combination of boat and cable car 'from the front'. Visiting is a relative aspect here anyway - the IUCN reports of "boundaries (..that..) cannot be traced in the field". This site is all about fossils that have been taken away to museums a long time ago.

We went by boat from Lugano: 3 or 4 of the excursion boats that tour the lake daily have a scheduled stop at the town of Brusino, at the foot of Monte San Giorgio. It's a pleasant 45-minute trip, on which the real geo-collector also can tick off the Italian enclave of Campione d'Italia.

From Brusino there's a small cable car up the mountain to a panoramic terrace (close to the town of Serpiano). We enjoyed a good cappuccino there and then started walking. Several hikes are signposted from there. I had read about the 6 km long nature trail to Meride (which has a local fossil museum): interesting, but only doable for very experienced hikers. So we opted for the walk down to Meride via the main road. This turned out to be a good choice: it takes about 1h and 20 minutes, mostly through dense forest on a quiet and relatively flat road. The last part of the walk has lovely Alpine pastoral scenes (think cows with bells, stacked hay). And even industrial heritage: a small oil factory that was instrumental in finding the fossils.

The town of Meride where we eventually arrived looked totally closed down for a long siesta: no restaurant or shop open for lunch. The door to the inner courtyard of the museum fortunately was open. And what a funny little museum this is! It consists of one class room size exhibition room, totally self-service. No entrance fee, no staff. The room holds old photos of the scientific expeditions that uncovered the fossils and of course a couple of small and large fossils too. There's a TV where you can start an educating video to learn about how and where the fossils of Monte San Giorgio were unearthed. According to the visitor's guestbook, there is about one visiting party a day. I even found that quite a lot, measured against the remote location and low profile publicity of this site.

In all a worthwhile trip, very doable by public transport (we took the local bus back from Meride to Serpiano) and without any crowds.

Site Info

Full Name
Monte San Giorgio
Unesco ID
Italy Switzerland
Paleontology - Non-hominid fossils

Site History

2010 Extended

To include part in Italy

2003 Inscribed


The site has 1 locations

Monte San Giorgio


The site has

Visiting conditions
WHS Hotspots
World Heritage Process


Community Members have visited.

A. Mehmet Haksever Afshin Iranpour Alessandro Votta Alexander Barabanov Alexander Lehmann Alfons and Riki Verstraeten AmandaMcCadams Ammon Watkins Andrea & Uwe Zimmermann AniaCh Antonio J. Argo Atila Ege Bazikoln Bin Bob Parda Caminographer Can SARICA Carlos Garrido Carstenhansen Caspar Dechmann Catchant Chenqtao Christian Wagner Christoph Christravelblog Claire Bradshaw ClaireWhiteley Clyde Craig Harder CyBeRr Cyberczar DMORMAR Dachangjin3 Dagmara Dan Pettigrew Daniel C-Hazard Daniel Gabi Daniela Hohmann David Berlanda David Marton Dibro Dimitar Krastev Dimitrios Polychronopoulos Dirk-pieter Dwight Zehuan Xiao Easymet Elia Vettorato Els Slots Erik G Errol Neo Fabian Teusch Fan Yibo Farinelli Fedemarch92 Federico P. Femke Roos Flexiear Frederik Dawson Gary Arndt George Evangelou GeorgeIng61 Gi Harald T. Harry Mitsidis Hubert Iain Jackson Ih0000 Ivan Rucek Jakob Frenzel Janina Lehmann Jarek Pokrzywnicki Jaroslav Klement Jasam Jean Lecaillon Jeffrey Chai Ran Jens Jezza Jiangliu bian JoStof Joel on the Road John booth Jonas Hagung Jonas Kremer Jonas Martinsson Jose Antonio Collar Joshuakirbens Joyce van Soest Jsalda Judit Dalla Judith Tanner Juropa KarenBMoore Kbecq Kelly Henry Knut Krafal_74 LKERPS Lara Adler Lauren Leontine Helleman Lidiane Linda Sereno Lisu Marian Lois Dekker Lorenzo Mejino Lorenzo2022 Lubos Lier Lucas Del Puppo Lucio Gorla Luis Filipe Gaspar MMM MaYumin Maki Wang Marcel staron Marie Morlon Martin Lind (Switzerland) Martin Richardson Martina Rúčková Marty Mibive Michael Mett Michiel Dekker Mikael Bjork MikeMa1999 Mikita M Mikko MoPython Monika and Rini Nan Nasebaer Natlefebvre@hotmail. Nihal Ege Orphanos PabloNorte Paolosan82 Patphilly Patrik Paul Schofield Persian Globetrotter Petteri Philipp Leu Philipp Peterer Phillipmeng Pieter Dijkshoorn Pink Bunny Piotr Wasil Q Ralf Regele Randi Thomsen Riccardo Quaranta Robin Frank Roger Ourset Rom Roman Bruehwiler Roman Koeln SHIHE HUANG Sabrina Liebehentschel Sergio Arjona Shandos Cleaver SirLoydd Skalec Solivagant Sophie Stanislaw Warwas SteO153 Stetrab Stijn Svein Elias Tarquinio_Superbo Thibault Magnien Thomas Buechler Thomas van der Walt TimAllen Tommasorossotti Tony0001 Topaas Triath Truls Brekke Tsunami Uellendahl VLabhard Vanessa Buechler WILLIAM RICH WalGra Walter Walter H. Weggeworfeneleiter Wojciech Fedoruk Xiong Wei Xiquinho Silva Yevhen Ivanovych Zoë Sheng