The Apennine Mountains

The Apennines (lat. Apenninus, Montes Apennini, from a Celtic word "Pen" – cliff) is the mountain range which covers almost the whole Italian Peninsula. The Apennine ridge which is directed from the north-east to the south-east forms the backbone of the whole Italian (Apennine) Peninsula. The length of the Apennine range is about 970 km. If we include all the windings of the main ridge its total length will reach 1,650 km. The widest part of the ridge is located between Chieti and Subiaco and makes 96  km. The narrowest part is situated between Squila and the Gulf of Saint Eufemio and makes 22 km. The average height of the Apennines does not exceed 1,200  m, and the extreme one (the Gran Sasso Mountain) reaches 2,900 meters. The ridge never reaches the snow line. The relief of the Apennines is much milder than that of Alpine: it does not form steep cliffs of lateral Alpine zones or spires and needles of the central Alpine zone. Predominant rocks of the Apennines are dolomite, marble, red and white limestone, dark sandstone, serpentine and gabbro.


The Apennines are characterized by high-altitude zoning of landscapes. On lower slopes and foothills dominate cultural landscapes consisting of olive groves, fields, vineyards and orchards. Sometimes (at heights of 500-600 m in the north and 700-800 m in the south), they are combined with preserved groves of stone and cork oaks, Aleppo pines, pines and evergreen shrubs (maquis). In more humid zone (at altitudes from 500-800 to 1,000-1,400 m) grow oaks and chestnuts mixed with maples, elms and ashes. At altitudes ranging from 800-900 m in the north and 1,000-1,200 m in the south dominate beeches and above them coniferous forests (European silver fir and black pine). Mountain forests in the Apennines usually reach the very top, only in small areas above 2,000-2,500 m occurs depleted subalpine and alpine vegetation.

The Apennines are divided into northern, central and southern parts.

The Northern Apennines (from the Cadibona Passo to the Serriola Passo in the Upper Tiber River) have sublatitudinal spreading and include the Ligurian Apennines and the Tuscany-Emilian Apennines. The Central Apennines (up to the valleys of rivers Volturno and Sangria) are the highest part of the Apennines. In the north, they are presented by parallel ridges of the Umbrian-Marchian Apennines. Southwards the Abruzzian Apennines rise up to the highest in the Apennine mountain range of Gran Sasso d′Italia. The Southern Apennines include the Neapolitan (Campanian) Apennines, the Molise plateau and the Lucanian Apennines. The Southern Apennines border with the Calabrian Apennines to the south of the river Kratie.

On both sides of the Apennine foothills, there stretch hilly regions united by a common name of Sub-Apennines. They are intersected in the west only by few valleys (the Arno Valley, the Roman Campania and Campania). They form low rounded hills while reaching the sea.

The Central Apennine ridge expands in the south to the width of 150 km consisting of cretaceous limestone and containing higher massifs. It stretches from Urbino to the source of Velino and Tronto in the form of two parallel chains with peaks and ridges and in the south reaches Norcia.

Abruzzian Apennines

To the south of Norcia begins the large mountainous tetragon of Abruzzo – the highest part of the Apennines. It is formed by two parallel mountain ranges that fringe the valley of the Aterno and Gizio rivers. Smaller mountain ranges form perpendicular bridges between them.

The Abruzzian Apennines were inhabited in ancient times by Italic tribes who were conquered by the Roman Empire. The Italics lived in three parallel river valleys.

Maiella Mountain

Furrowed with wrinkles, the noble massif of Gran Sasso, made of smooth light limestone dominates the Apennines. Corno Grande is the highest peak in the Apennines, reaching 2,912 m above sea level. The first recorded ascent to Corno Grande was made in 1573 by Francesco de Marco and Francesco di Domenico. On the northern slope of Corno Grande there is the Calderone glacier (Ghiacciaio del Calderone). After extinction of the Glacier Corral de la Veleta (1937), which was located in Sierra Nevada (Spain), Calderone has become the southernmost glacier in Europe. If the current trend of melting of glaciers continues, Calderone may suffer the same fate in 2020. To the south of Gran Sasso at an altitude of 1,800 meters above sea level stretches an enormous plateau of Campo Imperatore. The Laga Mountains abound in springs, streams and forests. The Maiella Mountain borders with the massif of Morrone, dominating over the Abruzzo area between the Adriatic Sea and the Apennine chain. The local people have always refer to Maiella as the «Mother mountain».

You can watch the slideshow about the Abruzzian Apennines in our media gallery.

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©, 2010