Abruzzo owes its reputation as the “Green Region of Europe” to the presence of 3 National Parks, a Regional Park, numerous nature reserves and protected areas: together they make up 36% of its territory.
In addition to the priceless natural heritage, the Abruzzo Parks offer a wealth and variety of historical and cultural routes, itineraries of taste, places of worship, art villages, experiential and environmental tourism activities, which make them the ideal destination not only for lovers of hiking, trekking, mountaineering and skiing, but also for Families, couples and tourists of all ages.
We will offer you a short presentation of each of them, leaving you the official sites for the necessary in-depth study and remaining available for any curiosity.
NATIONAL MAIELLA PARK
The closest of the 3 national parks, “a mountain park overlooking the sea”: the western part can be reached from Silvi in just 40 minutes.
Established in 1991, it has been part of the UNESCO world geopark system since 2021.
“Mother Mountain” for the people of Abruzzo, “Domus Christi” for Francesco Petrarca, for many associated with the cult of the Goddess Maja, the Maiella and the territory of the park are a unique blend of history, nature, culture and spirituality: 2100 plant species and 150 animals – the symbol of the Park is the Apennine wolf, which currently counts 70-80 specimens – over 700km of trails that cross ravines and fairy-tale valleys – such as the Orfento Valley – over 100 caves – the Cavallone cave is particularly impressive -, gorges – among the most famous, the Fara San Martino gorges -, springs and waterfalls, plateaus and natural amphitheaters up to the rocks mountain peaks, 8 state nature reserves, medieval abbeys – among them San Liberatore a Majella, Santo Spirito al Morrone – and suggestive hermitages set in the rock – such as Santo Spirito a Majella, San Bartolomeo in Legio, Sant’Onofrio al Morrone, San Giovanni all’Orfento, Madonna dell’Altare. The places of worship mentioned above are linked to the figure of Celestine V: in these mountains before the coronation he lived long periods as a hermit and founded the order of the Celestines.
Other stories, of which the mountains of the Maiella are guardians and witnesses, are those related to agricultural and pastoral activity, to brigandage – a well-known excursion destination is the “Tavola dei briganti” – and to the Maiella Brigade, protagonist of the Resistance.
There are also many wildlife areas – deer, chamois, otter, wolf, bear- museums, parks and archaeological sites, castles and cities of art – each rich in an immense and unique historical, natural and gastronomic heritage, absolutely to be discovered- including: Sulmona, Guardiagrele, Corfinio, Palena, Fara San Martino, Pacentro, Pescocostanzo, Manoppello, Caramanico Terme, Serramonacesca, Abbateggio and Pretoro-.
There are also spas, adventure parks, ski resorts, and the possibility of rafting, canyoning, bungee jumping.
A dense network of info-points, associations and cooperatives is ready to guide you to discover the park, from simple excursions to experiential and environmental tourism initiatives.
https://www.parcomajella.itGRAN SASSO AND LAGA’S MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
It will take you about an hour to reach some of the wonders of the Gran Sasso/Laga National Park, one of the largest in Italy. The park includes the Gran Sasso d’Italia chain, the Laga massif and the Monti Gemelli, and is dominated by the Corno Grande which, at 2912 metres, is the highest peak in the Apennines.
The richness of the itineraries offered by the territory is inestimable: the different geological composition and the heights reached determine an extraordinary wealth of animal and plant species, and a truly unique variety of ecosystems and landscapes.
Don’t miss the enchanting Campo Imperatore plateau, known as “little Tibet”, the cinematographic castle of Rocca Calascio, which dominates the lands of Baronia and the Tirino Valley, “the clearest river in Italy”; the Salinello gorges, Lake Campotosto, the Sicilian, Cento Fonti and Angri Valleys, the Martese Wood, the Voltigno Plain and much more.
In addition to their historical and cultural beauty – in fact, many of them belong to the club of “Italy’s Most Beautiful Villages” – the Park’s villages are characterised by their gastronomic specialities and crops: the Medicean Santo Stefano di Sessanio, for its lentils, Castel del Monte, the “town of the witches” with its widespread ethnographic museum on transhumance, for its canestrato and marcetto cheeses, the Navelli plain for its saffron, Farindola for its pecorino, Villa Celiera “mother” of the famous arrosticini, Colledara and Campli – custodian of places of interest such as the Scala Santa (Holy Staircase), the Campovalano Necropolis and a National Archaeological Museum – for its porchetta, Campotosto for its mortadella, and the municipalities along the scenic State Road 80 in general, rich in mushrooms, truffles and chestnuts. Also worth discovering are Pietracamela, a medieval village on the slopes of Corno Piccolo; Castelli and its ceramics; Civitella del Tronto, the northern border of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, with its “rue” and Bourbon fortress; Isola del Gran Sasso, with the shrine to Abruzzo’s patron saint: San Gabriele.
Here too, to find your way around the park’s attractions and activities, you can contact the numerous visitor centres, guide associations and cooperatives.
ABRUZZO, LAZIO AND MOLISE NATIONAL PARK (PNALM)
PNALM, which you can reach from Silvi in about an hour and a half, is the oldest of Italy’s national parks, established in 1922 with the main aim of protecting and preserving its numerous fauna, and especially its “symbols”: the Marsican brown bear and the Abruzzo chamois. Moreover, in the 1970s the WWF launched “Operation San Francesco” here, to repopulate the Apennines with its wolves. Since 2017, the park’s five ancient beech forests have been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area that makes up today’s PNALM is a kaleidoscope of traditions, folklore, gastronomic uniqueness, culture and wilderness that have enchanted the grandtourists who have chosen to escape from the traditional routes, including the Dutchman Escher.
Immersion in nature is within everyone’s reach, from the classic Camosciara Natural Reserve, the heart of the PNALM, to the routes in the fairytale Val Fondillo. Lake Vivo and Lake Barrea, whose beach has been awarded the Blue Flag for years, are worth visiting, as are the three enchanting historic villages: Barrea and its castle on the lake, Villetta Barrea with its historic centre and transhumance museum, and Civitella Alfedena, which has been awarded the Touring Club’s Orange Flag for its wildlife areas. Another orange flag has been awarded to the village of Opi, also listed among “Italy’s most beautiful villages”. A visit to the “capital” of the PNALM is not to be missed: Pescasseroli, the birthplace of Benedetto Croce, with its delightful historic centre adorned with flowers, full of historic buildings made of local stone, craft shops and shops selling typical products, especially sweets and liqueurs.
One of the roads to the park is the regional road that overlooks the Sagittario Valley, along which you will find the gorges of the same name at Anversa, then Castrovalva, Villalago with Lake San Domenico and its hermitage, and finally the “gateway to the park”: the characteristic Lake Scanno, which takes on the shape of a heart when observed from the nearby hermitage of Sant’Egidio, which can be reached along the easy “Heart’s path”. Also not to be missed is the historic centre of Scanno, also one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, rich in craft workshops – particularly popular are the goldsmiths’, specialising in the production of typical jewellery, including the “presentosa” -, folk traditions and gastronomic delights.
The visitor centres and info points in the main municipalities and the Park guides are ready to show you the wonders of the PNALM.
SIRENTE-VELINO REGIONAL NATURAL PARK
The Sirente-Velino Regional Park, between the Fucino and Subequana basins, is easily reached in about an hour via the A25, one of the park’s motorways. Its mountains are imposing and massive, but the Campo Felice Plateau, the Prati del Sirente, the Piano di Pezza and the Altopiano delle Rocche offer vast meadows in which to relax in nature, amidst kiosks and picnic areas.
A naturalistic attraction not to be missed is the Gole di Celano, one of the most beautiful canyons in Italy. During the crossing you will come across the evocative Fonte degli Innamorati and the ruins of the Celestine Monastery of San Marco at the mouth.
In the San Demetrio ne’ Vestini area, the small and characteristic Lago di Sinizzo, with its emerald-coloured water, is worth a visit, as are the Grotte di Stiffe, a particularly striking karst phenomenon with stalactites, stalagmites, small lakes, rapids and waterfalls, which create incredible visual and sound effects.
In addition to the gorges, Celano is home to the majestic 14th-century Piccolomini Castle, a monument of national interest since 1893, reborn after its renovation following the devastating Marsica earthquake of 1915. It dominates the entire Fucino plain, which before it dried up was characterised by a vast lake.
A Piccolomini Tower dominates Pescina, known for being the birthplace of figures of the calibre of Cardinal Mazzarino, on whom you will find a Birthplace Museum, and the writer Ignazio Silone, to whom the town has dedicated a real itinerary: in 2021, in fact, it joined the network of Italian Literary Parks. Dedicated to him are the Ignazio Silone Museum, in the former Franciscan monastery, with a sculpture by Pietro Cascella, his recently renovated birthplace, which is also a museum, an easy CAI trail that retraces some of the places sung about in his novels in and around the town, and his simple tomb, built according to his wishes: “I would like to be buried like this, at the foot of the old San Berardo bell tower in Pescina, with an iron cross leaning against the wall and the view of the Fucino in the distance”.
In Aielli you will find another tribute to the writer: a 100 square metre mural with the entire transcription of his masterpiece Fontamara. This is one of the initiatives created as part of the Borgo Universo event, which every August since 2017 has brought muralists and street artists from all over the world to the town, creating a unique combination of contemporary art and the medieval village, whose dominant position also gives it a breathtaking view. Also worth mentioning is the ancient Norman tower, now Torre delle Stelle, which houses the Sky Museum with astronomical observatory.
In the Massa d’Albe area, in a wonderful setting on the slopes of Mount Velino, you will find the important archaeological site of Alba Fucens, a Roman colony dating from the 4th century BC, where you can see the amphitheatre, the baths, the Macellum, part of the city walls and part of the Temple of Hercules. The ancient temple of Apollo was transformed in the 9th century by the Benedictines into the unmissable Church of San Pietro in Albe. Another church worth visiting is the charming Santa Maria in Valle Porclaneta, one of the finest examples of Abruzzo Romanesque art, with a very special interior, in the municipality of Magliano de’ Marsi.
Then there are the medieval villages of Fontecchio, Ocre, Gagliano Aterno, Castelvecchio Subequo and the ancient convent of San Francesco.
Finally, the mountain villages of Ovindoli, Rocca di Mezzo and Rocca di Cambio, the highest village in the entire Apennines, are particularly crowded in winter, thanks to the Campo Felice and Monte Magnola ski facilities.
For all types of tourist information, you can use the 8 reception points and 4 visitor centres.