Nature and Environment in Abruzzo
Nature richly endowed Abruzzo. The region has everything for being a great recreation place - the transparent azure sea and hundreds of miles of golden sandy beaches, the highest peaks of the Apennine Mountains and the southern-most glacier in Europe, thermal and sulfur springs. Experts call Abruzzo an anthology of European and Mediterranean landscapes since different types of habitat are focused on its relatively small area. The Adriatic coast is characterized by wide diversity (sandy beaches, dunes, marshes, pine groves, coastal shrubs of macquis, rocks, pebble beaches). A strip of coastal hills which occupies one third of the region is rich in precious waterways (rivers and lakes) and interesting geological phenomena. The lion′s share of the territory is occupied by the Central Apennines with their forests, steppes, mountain lakes, vast karst hills, canyons, waterfalls, caves, peaks and alpine vegetation.
The characteristic feature of the Abruzzese is their careful attitude to gifts of nature. Approximately one third of the region is occupied by national parks and nature reserves, making the region the largest natural park in Europe. There are three national parks in Abruzzo, one regional park and more than 30 local nature reserves. Most of them are located in mountainous areas and that is not surprising. Abruzzo is distinguished by its mountainous nature and more than two-thirds of its territory is situated at an altitude of 750 meters above sea level. Only in Abruzzo, you can observe the magnificent natural phenomenon such as a giant mountainous tetragon where come together the highest mountains of the Apennines. The Central Apennines, running along the peninsula, form here not only parallel but transverse ridges. Extensive alpine plateaus are situated inside the mountainous tetragon. This huge rock unit consists of the highest Apennine Mountains: Corno Grande (2,912 m), which is located in the mountain chain of Gran Sasso, Monte Amaro (2,794 m) - in the chain of Maiella and Monte Velino (2,486 m).
The National Park of Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga
The National Park was established in 1955 and occupies a territory of 148,935 hectares. Although the park is located in three regions (Abruzzo, Lazio and Le Marche). Abruzzo accounts for 9/10 of the total area. The Gran Sasso Mountain, with its craggy dolomite peaks is the largest mountain system in the region. It boasts the southernmost glacier in Europe - Calderone. In the southern part of the Gran Sasso at an altitude of 1,600-2,000 m above sea level there is situated the vast mountainous plateau Campo Imperatore. It is known as Italy’s «Little Tibet». In the north-west, the Gran Sasso mountain merges with the mountains of Monti della Laga. Within the National park there are situated more than 40 beautiful cities and towns, including the Abruzzian capital L′Aquila and the provincial capital Teramo.
The Maiella National Park
The Maiella mountain is literally a cult mountain in Abruzzo. Since ancient times the Abruzzese venerated it as a sacred one and worshiped it as the Mother Mountain. The very name Maiella originates from the pagan deity Maja, the goddess and mother of crops. From time immemorial, the mountain provided shelter and food to local residents, hunters, herdsmen, hermits, pilgrims, travelers, fugitive soldiers, insurgents and criminals.
The National Park was established in 1995 and occupies 74,095 hectares. From the geological point of view Maiella is a giant limestone monolith, deeply dissected by canyons. More than 30 peaks are higher than 2,000 meters. Maiella has been a true custodian of biodiversity, which includes Mediterranean, Alpine, Balkan, Pontiac, Illyrian, Pyrenean and arctic species. Many beautiful medieval and Renaissance towns, monasteries and hermitages are situated on the territory of the National park.
The National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio e Molise
The National Park, founded in 1922, is the oldest national park in Italy. Its area makes up 50,000 hectares. More than one million people visit the Park each year. As its name suggests, the Park is located in three regions. Abruzzo accounts for three quarters of its territory. Many water sources and the large artificial lake Barrea are situated in the Park.
The Regional Park Sirente-Velino
The Park was founded in 1989 and occupies an area of 50,288 hectares. It is located in the province of L′Aquila. There are situated famous ski resorts Ovindoli and Campo Felice.
National parks present a natural training ground for ecologically sustainable tourism. The key word for nature reserves of Abruzzo is biodiversity. A relatively small space provides habitat for 75% of European flora and fauna. Many animals and plants which used to be widespread in the Apennines, found safe haven in the mountains of Abruzzo, and thus avoided complete extinction. These are, primarily, a marsican rugged bear, chamois and Apennine wolf. The list also includes an eagle, lynx, otter, and griffin. Among small mammals should be noted a wild cat, marten, fox, hedgehog, badger, marmot, weasel, snowy field mouse and southern squirrel. You can meet here daytime birds of prey such as an eagle, buzzard, vulture, falcon, peregrine, kestrel, hawk, as well as nocturnal predators – an owl and eagle-owl. The Adriatic Sea is inhabited by a variety of cetaceans, notably a dolphin.
The beech absolutely reigns in Abruzzian mountains. From the Sant′Antonio Forest to Gran Sasso and from the Fondillo valley to Sirente beech groves prevail almost universally (at altitudes above one thousand meters) and up to the borders of woody vegetation. At an altitude below 1,000 m grow the Burgundian oak, black hornbeam, walnut, maple and cherry. In late spring and early summer mountains are covered by flowering gorse, wild orchids, peonies, cyclamens, buttercups and violets. Occasionally you can find a lily of the valley, red lily, lady's slipper and iris. High in the mountains grow an Apennine edelweiss, immortelle, pheasant's eye, adonis, anemone, and alpine poppy.
Ecological Tourism in National Parks
National parks give a wide variety and all necessary infrastructure for recreation. The great extent of the territory and diversity of terrains and landscapes offer ample opportunities for sports in the open air. Hiking or mountain biking on the endless trails, interesting sightseeing tours can be alternated with more difficult routes of mountain trekking. Of great interest is horse riding along a 300-kilometer horse route in Gran Sasso. Amateur photographers of wildlife can enjoy magnificent panoramic views and scenarios posed by nature itself. The reserves offer unusual excursions such as watching the wild life of the chamois, otters and birds. Mountain rivers and lakes provide a wide scope of opportunities for canoeing and windsurfing. Rocky mountains give challenging opportunities for mountaineers and climbers. In winter, snowy mountains present an excellent ground for alpine and cross-country skiing. In addition, frozen waterfalls attract fans of climbing icy verticals.
In this article information was used from the site www.abruzzoturismo.it.