Lose yourself in the Casentines Forests
A refuge far from blaring car horns, smog and work. The National Park of the Casentine Forests instils a sense of peace with nature and the environment. Fragrances, majestic trees, all-embracing leaves… it is easy to be overcome by its beauty and the streams flowing here.
A wonderful park
The National Park of the Casentine Forests, Mount Falterona and Campigna covers a total of approximately 36,000 hectares , equally divided between the regions of Emilia Romagna and Tuscany, comprising territories in the Provinces of Forlì-Cesena, Arezzo and Florence. The ancient beechwoods of Sasso Fratino National Park and Integral Reserve have made the UNESCO World Heritage Site list: ancient, robust trees are the pride of unspoilt Romagna. Over the years, for many scholars, Sasso Fratino has become a natural workshop where visitors can learn how the ecosystems work and thus, develop strategies for maintaining biodiversity.
Imposing forests, filled with mixed-tree woods, cover almost the entire territory of the park, to the extent it could be crossed in its entirety without every leaving the lush and rich green blanket that envelops it. Ancient forests steeped in history, where the relationship with man is deeply-rooted and has been well-documented since 1012, when St Romuald founded the Camaldolese Order of Monks here; for centuries they were the custodians and managers of this heritage. These lush forests provided the precious timber for the framework of monumental works such as Florence’s huge Duomo or the long, straight beams for the ships of the Pisan fleet. These forests boast fascinating colours, with a myriad of shades of green that explode, in autumn, into wonderful patches of amber and red; full of meditative silences that in the blink of an eye become astonishing noises, offering visitors the opportunity for sightings to be talked about for years.
Fauna, the beating heart of the park
The park’s main hallmark is its great wealth and variety of fauna, including several species of particular scientific interest. The huge expanse of woodland, the presence of many types of particularly large trees of different ages, the existence of diversified environments and different types of vegetation and the scarcity of human settlements are all features that make it an excellent habitat for both vertebrate and invertebrate wild fauna. The most fascinating vertebrate fauna are the large mammals, in particular, hoofed mammals – there are five species found here: deer, fallow deer, roe deer, wild boar and mouflons – as well as wolves, the largest predator currently living in the park.
Meanwhile, the varied birdlife comprises about a hundred nesting species, including the tree creeper, bullfinch, subalpine warbler and cirl bunting. The extensive tall tree woods mean there are plenty of more demanding and selective species such as the tawny owl, crested tit, coal tit, marsh tit, blue tit, European nuthatch, lesser and great spotted woodpecker, green woodpecker and black woodpecker. The Park is home to 12 species of amphibians, including some very important and rare species, such as the northern spectacled salamander, which is native to Italy, the Alpine newt, in its southernmost habitat in Italy here, the fire salamander and the small Italian cave salamander, also native to the Italian peninsula. Finally, the insect fauna is particularly rich, especially the species supported by dead wood in the forest environments and includes many native Italian and Apennine species and some endangered or isolated species – the most outstanding is the beautiful Alpine longhorn beetle.
Age-old fir woods, beechwoods and sycamore maple woods and mixed woods with an incredible variety of species that in autumn create multi-coloured patches of colour thanks to beech, maple, ash, elm, linden, manna ash and rare yew and holly bushes. The park is an expanse of woodland that becomes an ancient forest in the over 5,000 hectares of the Casentine Forests. As well as mountain vegetation, the park also has all the woodland varieties typical of the lower-lying sub-mountain strip and black fir reforestation areas.
However, the star of the territory’s flora are its plants with over 1,000 species recorded so far, of which only 48 are trees and shrubs. The narcissus anemone (Anemone narcissiflora), the purple mountain saxifrage (Saxifraga oppositifolia) and the lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) are all typical of highland mountain areas and recall the last Ice Age, while Eugenia’s violet (Viola eugeniae) is characteristic of the Apennine massifs of central Italy. An appointment that lovers of woodland flora will not want to miss is the springtime blossoming of cuckoo flowers, snowdrops, scilla and crested larks that bloom under beech trees, before the leaves on the crowns open and shade the underwood.