[Emilia Romagna Parks] The Foreste Casentinesi, Monte Falterona and Campigna National Park
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The “Parco delle Foreste Casentinesi, Monte Falterona, and Campigna” is a national nature park established in 1993 and located on the Apennines ridge between Tuscany and Emilia Romagna, straddling the provinces of Forlì-Cesena, Arezzo and Florence.
On July 7th in Krakow the UNESCO Commission introduced the Sasso Fratino Natural Reserve and the ancient woods included in the Park, in the World Heritage Site together with Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe.
Talking about history, the area between Emilia Romagna and Tuscany was inhabited by Etruscan peoples, who crossed this strip of land to connect the south part of Etruria with the Po Valley. A real passage between two portions of the Etruscan kingdom sanctioned by the presence of the “Idols Lake“, a place where these ancient Italic people venerated their divinities.
In the Middle Ages, the valleys and mountains of this part of the Apennines became the crossroads of many routes traveled by pilgrims from the North and East Europe, while during the Renaissance, the territory passed under the rule of Florence who administered it through the “Opera Laica del Duomo di Firenze“, a secular institution that managed these Forests and that used this wood for the construction of various buildings including the Brunelleschi’s Dome in Florence and used the huge firs to build the mast trees of the Pisa and Livorno naval fleets.
From a natural point of view, the territory of the Casetinesi Forests has remained unspoiled until today thanks also to the monastic settlements of San Romualdo and Camaldoli founded in 1212 and of San Francesco d’Assisi in La Verna in 1213.
During the centuries the Park has impressed and influenced saints, painters, writers, and artists of all kinds. Among the most illustrious visitors that the park includes it is the great poet and writer Dante Alighieri, who was particularly impressed by the Acquacheta waterfall, which was also celebrated in his Poem “La Divina Commedia“.
What To Do
Undoubtedly the best season to experience the Park. Like every year, after a long and severe winter, the Primeval beech forests of the Park awaken with all the vital energy expressed by an intense green and by the gushing of the mountain springs and streams. Impossible to resist: walking, cycling or just breathing in this ever-changing nature is an experience that we recommend not to miss.
Summer is the season of sun, walks in the open air and endless days. The “Parco delle Foreste Cesentinesi” is a vast environment which, especially in the summer, offers the possibility of long hikes, mountain biking, horseback riding or donkeys. Among the many activities to be carried out in summer, it is also possible to take a boat trips on Lake Ridracoli. There is nothing better than being outdoors in ancient forests, enjoying the special climate that these areas offer especially in the summer.
Autumn is the season of colors and fragrances in the Park of the Casentinesi Forests: from the bright colors of the forest at the end of the month of October to the deer’s roars at the end of September to the richness of the mountain gastronomic tradition Tuscany and Emilia Romagna. From September onwards every day is like a great kaleidoscope, colors and smells of nature waiting for the frost and winter snows.
The snowy peaks, the icy climate, the sun above the mists of the plain, the infinite horizons that range from the Adriatic sea to the Alps, and the colors and the emotions of the nights lit by the moonlight reflected in the snow.
And then snowshoeing, hiking and all other activities. Winter is no longer the season of waiting, but a season of pure emotions, when most of the animals are hibernating and nature anxiously awaits the return to spring life.
Fallow deer fighting – Ph. G. Giacomini via Foreste Casentinesi Park
La Verna Sanctuary – Ph. Giordano Giacomini via Foreste Casentinesi Park
Osteria del Terrore Valle di Ridracoli – Ph. Franco Locatelli via Foreste Casentinesi Park
Volpe, Vulpes vulpes – Ph. Roberto Sauli via Foreste Casentinesi Park
Autumn – Ph. Giordano Giacomini via Foreste Casentinesi Park
Wolf’s footprint, Canis lupus – Ph. Graziano Capaccioli via Foreste Casentinesi Park
Foreste Casentinesi National Park – Ph. F. Liverani via Foreste Casentinesi Park
Acquacheta Waterfalls – Ph. Francesco Del Vecchio via Foreste Casentinesi Park
3 places not to be missed
- The Acquacheta Falls | The Acquacheta river is the most important tributary of the Montone river and before reaching the village of “S.Benedetto in Alpe” it makes a jump of over 70 meters in the homonymous waterfall. The waterfall, described by Dante in the “Divina Commedia”, can only be reached through a hike of a couple of hours that goes up the valley reaching, just upstream of the waterfall, the suggestive “Piana dei Romiti” with the ruins of an ancient village.
- The Idols Lake | The “Idols Lake” is the most important archaeological site in the Park, where it is collected one of the most conspicuous testimonies of the ancient Etruscan cult. Located in Ciliegeta (1380 m), south of the top of Mount Falterona and a few hundred meters from the Arno river spring, it is geographically the central point connecting the Tuscan and Emilian Apennines. In the VI century BC, the Etruscans considered Mount Falterona sacred and therefore threw their offers into the lake of Ciliegeta, near the sources of the Arno river. From 1838 until today, numerous Etruscan finds have been found, some of which are kept at the British Museum in London and at the Louvre in Paris.
- La Verna Sanctuary | In May 1213 Count Orlando Cattani from Chiusi donated to San Francesco the “La Verna” Mount. It is the beginning of the story of one of the most deeply imbued places of mysticism in the West. The limestone cliff culminating in Monte Penna rises abruptly from the bed of clay on which it floats: the rocks are covered by the forest, preserved in its rich variety for almost eight centuries of Franciscan management, that saw the forest as an expression of the power of God to be respected and venerated. But the Sanctuary of La Verna is also a place deeply imbued with religious spirituality, here in 1224 St. Francis received the Stigmata and always here the Saint had the opportunity to contemplate the profound link between man and natural creation that will be then a distinctive feature of his preaching.
The “Parco delle Foreste Casentinesi” can be explored in many different ways: from normal hiking to mountain biking, from long spiritual paths to trekking for several days along the Apennine ridges. For all lovers of long and challenging excursions, we recommend you to consult the interactive map on the official website, purchase the Park Path Map or choose from the many indications available on the paths.
In the Park’s territory, nine Nature Trails have been set up along which some pre-established observation points are located, marked by special numbered stakes and where it is possible, in a “self-guided” way, to know and recognize territorial emergencies. Among these, we point out the hike between the beech woods of Badia Prataglia that goes up in the direction of the Hermitage of Camaldoli and passing through a small and enchanting valley covered by a spectacular beech forest.
We point out also to the walk to the hermitage of Camaldoli, perhaps the most famous place of the Park for its high natural value, it is, in fact, a small introduction to the botanical and spiritual forest and the millennial monastic settlement. Finally, do not miss the nature trail dedicated to the “Abete Bianco”, whose path takes place inside one of the most beautiful and best-preserved fir wood of the Park, an artificial forest with a dark and majestic appearance, inside which are housed floristic species of considerable scientific importance.
The “Parco delle Foreste Casentinesi”, due to the antiquity and the complexity of the environment that it preserves, includes as many as 15 different Visitor Centers spread throughout the territory and with different themes and insights according to the environments. It goes from the visitors center dedicated to the geology and thermal baths in the village of Bagno di Romagna to the one dedicated to the Apennine Fauna in Premilcuore, passing by the many botanical gardens set up inside the Park territory.
How to get there
In Tuscany you can reach the Park by taking the highway A1 (Milano-Roma), at the toll gates of Barberino del Mugello, Firenze and Arezzo:
From Barberino, beyond Borgo San Lorenzo, and from Firenze, on the SS road 67, you can reach the Municipalities of San Godenzo and Londa.
From Firenze, beyond Pontassieve, take the SR road 70 to reach the Municipalities of Pratovecchio, Stia, Poppi, and Bibbiena.
From Arezzo, along the SR road 71, you can reach the Municipalities of Bibbiena, Poppi, Pratovecchio, and Stia; from Bibbiena, by taking SP 208, you can reach the Municipalities of Chiusi della Verna.
From Romagna you can reach the Park by taking the highway A14 (Bologna-Rimini), at the tollgates of Faenza, Forlì, and Cesena:
From Faenza, along the Tramazzo valley, you can reach the Municipality of Tredozio.
From Forlì, along the Montone valley (SS.67), Rabbi valley (SP 3) and Bidente valley (SP 4), you can reach Portico-San Benedetto, Premilcuore, and Santa Sofia respectively.
From Cesena, along the Savio valley by taking E45, you can reach the Municipality of Bagno di Romagna.
In Tuscany, you can reach the Park by train from the railway stations of Bibbiena, Poppi, Pratovecchio and Stia in Casentino; Pontassieve and Contea-Londa in Mugello.
In Romagna you can reach the Park by train from the railway stations of Faenza, Forlì, and Cesena;
Trains timetable is available at Trenitalia Official Web Site