A trip between the woods of Monti Li Foj to get back in contact with nature and discover the rich history of Basilicata

It is a surprising and memorable, as well as valuable experience, to be lost in the woods any time. These are the words Henry David Thoreau uses to describe the beneficial effect of nature and woods on people. Do you want to feel this kind of emotions? The mountains known as Li Foj, in the heart of the Lucan Apennines, and their beautiful natural landscapes are the perfect place for you!

Beech woods in the Monti Li Foj
Beech woods in the Monti Li Foj, picture by Silvia Ombellini

Immersed in the woods, with the leaves rustling under our feet, we felt as if the trees were embracing us. The air was imbued with a scent of musk and the bright pink cyclamen lighted our way.

Read on and join us in this fascinating walking route between the woods of this area of Basilicata. We were lucky enough to explore them with the expert guide Nicola Masi during our unforgettable blog-tour in Basilicata. The tour was organized by Marmo Melandro Viaggi in collaboration with Viaggi del Milione.

Monti Li Foj

Monti Li Foj
Monti Li Foj, picture by Silvia Ombellini

The Li Foj mountains are situated about 1355 metres above sea level. They symbolically divide the two seas of Basilicata: Tyrrhenian and Ionian. In this extensive mountain chain you can find cultivated areas, meadows and very high beech woods which offer the chance to walk and contemplate nature. Moreover, there are lakes and wide lawn areas which are the perfect spot for picnics.

Beech woods in the Monti Li Foj
Beech woods in the Monti Li Foj, picture by © Vittorio de Santis

Basilicata was once a huge and dense wood, which probably gave the Italian region its name. As a matter of fact, ‘Lucania’ may derive from the Latin “lucus”, which means either ‘sacred wood’ or ‘clearing encompassed by trees’.

Our guide told us that the name Monti ‘Li Foj’ is strictly linked to the destination of use of such woods. In fact, people used to chop wood and use it for their domestic fireplace (focolare domestico, or fuochi di casa).

Sunset view from the Monti Li Foj
Sunset view from the Monti Li Foj, picture by Silvia Ombellini

Monti Li Foj are considered Sites of Community Importance (SCI) since 2006. This measure guarantees the safeguard of both majestic beech, silver firs and oak trees and the multitude of animals that live in these woods. Eagle-owls, woodpeckers, foxes, squirrels, wild boars, wolves and hawks are all great examples. These mountains are definitely rich in biodiversity, and therefore need protection.

And there’s more. Monti Li Foj house some hidden gems which are ready to be discovered through gentle strolls between the trees and the paths which cover the plateau.

Walking Through Beech Woods Until The Plain Of Nevena

Plain of Nevena, 1165 metres above sea level
Plain of Nevena, 1165 metres above sea level, picture by Silvia Ombellini

The walking route between the beech woods until the plain of Nevena is one of the most suggestive paths. The route begins at approximately a thousand metres of altitude, around 8 km from Picerno. You can easily get there on foot or by car. From here you go to Fonte del Faggio, and you reach the crest line near Serra La Croce (1310 metres above sea level). The view on the surrounding mountains and the valley of Marmo Platano is breathtaking.

When you reach the maximum altitude (1342 metres), you go down towards the plain of Nevena, a wide basin surrounded by high beech woods.

Plain of Nevena
Plain of Nevena, picture by Silvia Ombellini

The plain of Nevena is a suggestive and unique place, characterized by impermeable soil devoid of trees. This makes it the perfect natural arena to listen to open-air concerts. As a matter of fact, every summer the magic location comes alive with music events like “Fuori piano”, an open-air piano concert. All in all, this huge lawn is the ideal place to organize picnics, outdoor games and barbecues throughout the year.

The Beech Woods And The Bourbon Stumps

Walking through the beech woods that surround the plain of Nevena you can notice the trees’ ancient stumps rising up to approximately two metres from the ground. As a result, such trees become magical figures that liven up the woods with their presence.

Beech woods' stumps
Beech woods’ stumps, picture by © Vittorio de Santis

These secular stumps testify the fact that in the Bourbon period people used to chop the coppice two metres from the ground. This measure prevented the shoots at the base of the plant to be eaten by the animals living in the woods.

The mosses and lichens at the base of the trees are a consequence of the climate of the place. In fact, the humidity mainly comes from “phantom rain”, which are low clouds of steam. The other main trees that live together with the beech tree are the greater holly, the yew tree and other evergreen plants.

Cyclamen on beech tree
Cyclamen on beech tree, picture by © Vittorio de Santis

Colourful wild cyclamen sparkle between the trees and on the green mosses that cover the stumps. These beautiful flowers are also known as “pan porcini”, as wild boars tend to be greedy for their bulbs.

The Lake Scuro

From the plain of Nevena, we kept walking down the beech woods and we reached the lake Scuro. The Lago Scuro (literally, “dark lake”) is a big naturally-derived body of water, formed by the landslides.

Lake Scuro
Lake Scuro, picture by Silvia Ombellini

Its shape resembles a heart which mirrors both the sky and the surrounding green woods. The lake is located at 1100 metres above sea level. Here, the splendour and unspoilt beauty of the nature of Basilicata left us speechless.

Sunset on the Monti Li Foj
Sunset on the Monti Li Foj, picture by © Vittorio de Santis

Exploring the woods of Monti Li Foj is a unique experience which allows you to get in contact with nature and discover the great history of the places visited. An unforgettable experience that feeds both body and soul and that will allow you to feel a deep connection with the beauty of our Earth.

Cover image: picture by Simone Riccardi

Author: Filippo Brunato

Hi! My name is Filippo, I come from Udine and I study Lingue per l’Intermediazione Turistica e d’Impresa at the University of Trento. Sport, learning foreign languages and tourism are my greatest passions. I love travelling and getting to know new places and cultures, and I believe that the sustainable approach is vital for the future of this valuable economic sector.
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