The barks of Armo’s pine trees bear evidence of a lost practice, relegated to souvenirs of a time when everything the forest had to offer was tapped into. This was the case with resin, a valuable compound prior to the advent of organic chemistry.
The village of Armo lies at the foot of a Scots pine forest, the outcome of reforestation carried out under Austro-Hungarian rule in the early 20th century. You can sense the purpose of planting these trees as you walk under the canopy and feel the loose shingle here and there underfoot, which would have threatened the settlement with every storm. Years later, it can be said that this protective reforestation has been highly successful and it is likely that, if no destructive events or disasters like fires occur, in a few decades the forest’s artificial origin will become unidentifiable.
You can picture how it was extracted the resin simply by looking at the not-fully-healed marks left by the method: the so-called “herringbone” technique was used, done by making V-shaped incisions, about one cm deep, in wood where the bark was removed. At the base of the incisions, liquid poured into small vessels where it was periodically collected. The Armo pines have only undergone one resin-tapping cycle, on one side of the tree. The full Procedure actually involved making incisions on the other sides every five years or so. Val Vestino must have been a fair turpentine producing region.
Giuseppe Zeni, a historian with a profound knowledge of this land, tells of a flourishing trade with the nearby Venetian Republic, which used the resin for maintenance of its fleet, and hints at the possibility that the place-name “Fornèl”, encircled by the state forest on the watery right of the Droanello Valley, may have originated from a plant operating there to refine resin and obtain turpentine. If this theory is correct, it may well be that there was also a dry wood distillation plant next to the turpentine refinery for producing naval pitch (wood tar), used for caulking ships.
Plus, another fragrant resin was extracted from the silver fir, known locally as Avèz. Fir resin has been used since the Stone Age for its healing properties and as a symbol of life and prosperity. Even within Christianity, the fir tree has always been regarded as a symbol of life. A magnificent tree characteristic of forests and mountains in the northern hemisphere, the fir tree produces a sweet, aromatic resin with woody notes.