The National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise, in the heart of the central Apennines, is a pearl of rare beauty. It extends for 50,000 hectares between the regions of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise and is one of the oldest national parks in the Italian territory. It was established in 1923 to protect the protected species it hosts, such as the Marsican bear, the Apennine wolf and the ancient beech woods, which have recently become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Let’s discover this magnificent territory together and what it can offer for our green holidays!

What to see in the national park

different habitats of the national park
Author: Marco Pugini; Source: Unsplash

The National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise is rich in diversified habitats, breathtaking panoramas. Inside, you can practice many different activities to discover this wonderful reserve. The landscape is surrounded by the rocky mountains and the karst phenomena of the central Apennines. The valleys are crossed by rivers and washed by lakes where the species that populate this enchanting land find refuge and refreshment.

Author: Karim Sakhibgareev; Source: Unsplash

The fauna of National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise

The National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise was established mainly to safeguard some species of large mammals now present only in this area. The best known is the small Marsican brown bear. The number of individuals has decreased over the years due to poaching but is currently protected with adequate tourism and reproduction programs.

In the park, there is also the Apennine wolf, with about 50-70 specimens. It is the most important predator in the national park and throughout the Apennines. In the 1970s, it only had around ten specimens. Thanks to the extension of the territory of the reserve and the increase in the populations of chamois and the reintroduction of deer and roe deer, the species has experienced constant growth.

chamois of national park of abruzzo lazio and molise
Author: Mocarmo; Source: Wikimedia

It is also possible to observe specimens of Abruzzo chamois. In the park, it represents an endemic species. It is widespread on the heights of Mount Amaro and Mount Meta and on all the steepest slopes of the reserve which are no longer subject to grazing. The deer and the roe deer have, however, been reintroduced into the park. They had already disappeared from the territory at the time of the first institution of the park in 1921, their absence had affected the food chain of the Apennine predators. Both species are now well represented within the national park and contribute to the wolf’s survival.

The small animals of the national park

In addition to large mammals, inside the park, there are many species of small mammals such as foxes, martens, beech martens, badgers and polecats. On the banks of the Sangro river, the more timid and reserved otter was also observed, seems to have disappeared from the area, after years without sightings.

The national park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise is an excellent area for birdwatching: inside the reserve, there are 230 different bird species. Raptors are widespread in the area, even the golden eagle has chosen the national park as a nesting area.

Golden eagle
Golden eagle nesting – Author: Mathew Schwartz; Source: Unsplash

…and the flora of the national park

The vegetation of the park is rich and varied. There are three protected species such as the Astragalus of the Eagle and the beautiful Lady’s-slipper orchid.

Lady's-slipper orchid
Author: Manuguf; Source: Wikimedia

The territory of the park is very diversified from flora and follows the phytogeography of the landscape. Above 800 meters the vegetation changes: from a rural landscape, with some oak and Turkey oak woods, we pass to beech, maple and laburnum woods. Walking in the paths of the national park it is possible to observe an exclusive species of the area: the black pine of Villetta Barrea.

Author: Arash Bal; Source: Unsplash

Going up again the landscape changes: and here the woods leave room for the subalpine landscape. The vegetation is characterized here by the mountain pine, gentians, primroses, cyclamen, lilies, orchids, buttercups and some medicinal herbs.

In 2017, the 600-year-old beech forests of the Abruzzo region were recognized as a world heritage site along with the primordial forests of the Carpathian beech trees and other regions of Europe.


people eating
Author: Priscilla Du Preez; Source: Unsplash

Inside the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise it is possible to taste the cuisine of three Italian regions, united by the agro-pastoral tradition. The typical dishes of the area are simple and genuine. Some of the traditional dishes are based on “orapi”, wild spinach very common in the area. With orapi you can prepare delicious soups and dumplings of flour and water. The “maccheroni alla chitarra” are a characteristic dish of Abruzzo, they are prepared with a typical Abruzzese kitchen utensil made of taut steel wires, side by side, on a wooden frame. Juicy grilled meats, sheep’s ricotta, caciocavallo and marzolina, a goat cheese complete the gastronomic picture of the area.

spaghetti alla chitarra
Author: fugzu; Source: Wikimedia

Sleeping green in the National Park

Here is a small selection of places to book for our green holidays in the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise.

Masseria San Iorio

Masseria San Iorio in national park

Masseria San Iorio is a bio-farm house nestled in the mountains, where you can relax in contact with nature. It is located in Castel di Sangro at 1,000 m altitude. The farm uses clean energy and eco-sustainable furnishings and grows smaller ecological fruits with which they produce jams available for guests’ breakfast.

Albergo Diffuso Sotto le Stelle

Albergo diffuso sotto le stelle in national park of abruzzo lazio and molise

Albergo Diffuso Sotto Le Stelle is an interesting accommodation facility located in the medieval village of Picinisco, in the Val Comino, on the edge of the National Park. The luxury of a modern hotel with eco-sustainable features!

In Picinisco it is advisable to visit the ancient castle, discover the suggestive alleys and squares of the village, interspersed with churches, stately buildings and ancient patrician houses. From the terrace of the central square, overlooking the valley, you can enjoy a breathtaking panorama in an atmosphere of the past, far from the chaotic metropolitan rhythms.

Valle Scannese da Gregorio

Valle Scannese da Gregorio, biofarm house in the national park of abruzzo lazio and molise

In Scanno, there is a latest-generation bio-farm house while respecting the nature that surrounds it. The farmhouse is nestled in the mountains of the Abruzzo Apennines giving magical landscapes visible from the building. The restaurant room is enhanced by the presence of a wood oven in which bread, meat and cheeses are masterfully cooked. Not far from the structure are the stables with animal farms, which can be visited by guests. Meat and dairy products produced by the farm have national and international awards and are distributed at the farm and the Scanno store. In creating this structure, particular attention was paid to the wishes of those who wish to leave behind their daily commitments and stress and who want to eat genuine food, cooked simply, following tradition.

Recommended excursions in the national park

girl hiking
Author: Kalen Emsley; Source: Unsplash

In the National Park it is possible to walk many paths to explore the nature of this wonderful territory.

The interactive site map of the National Park will help you plan your visits to discover the life of the animals that populate this area such as the bear, at the Bear Visitor Center of Villavallelonga, the chamois in the visitor centre of Opi and the bat in Barrea.

people hiking
Author: Angelo Pantazis; Source: Unsplash

We recommend two itineraries in the national park, selected from over 750 km of trails in the area.

Val Fondillo (Opi) – Valico Passaggio dell’ Orso

Going up the Val Fondillo, along the Alto Sangro, one of the most exciting tourist itineraries in the national park. Leaving the cars at Opi, continue on a dirt road to the Old Sawmill. The path (marked with the F2 sign) goes up along the Fondillo stream, a tributary of the Sangro. Along the waterway, beautiful willows and beech trees emerge. In the valley, there is the Marsican brown bear, sometimes seen by hikers.

Halfway along the route, you will come across the Grotta delle Fate, while in the end, we will come across the Passo dell’Orso.

The shepherds used the pass for centuries to reach Lazio and now the pilgrims use this way to go to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di Canneto.

sanctuary Madonna del canneto
Author: Cominensis; Source: Wikimedia

Barrea – Lake Vivo

We recommend the walk to the Vivo lake for more experienced and loose hikers. The exploration goes up to lake through the K6 path that starts from Barrea. The name of the lake derives from its peculiarity of changing size with the melting of glaciers. In autumn, with great luck, it is possible to observe the deer engaged in mating rituals.

landscape barrea
Author: Asia; Source: Wikimedia

Curiosity and actuality

appenine wolf in the snow of national park
Apennine wolf – Source: Unsplash

During this period, forced home due to force majeure, living beings conquered new spaces within the national park. The exceptional snowfall at the beginning of April and the lack of man created a particular and unrepeatable show of the moment when the animals awoke from hibernation and the puppies came out of the burrows. In any case, we hope that when man returns to weave his life with that of the park, he will do it in the sweetest, most delicate and respectful of the nature that surrounds him.

Cover image: photo by Alex Amariei; Source: Wikimedia

Author: Giulia Fasano

Hi, I’m Giulia, I’m 29 and I study Biodiversity and evolution at the University of Bologna. I like traveling a lot if I have a little time to do it, but when I can leave I like to go looking for the strangest and most particular places in my destination. For me, biology is not just a subject to be studied, but a real passion that I feel I must pass on to anyone who wants to listen to me.
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