National Park of Pollino
The National Park of Pollino, extending over 192,565 hectares, is the largest of the more recently constituted national parks of Italy. It was set up in 1993 mainly to preserve the Loricato Pine, or the Bosnian Pine, which is also the symbol of the park. The area is the last in the world where the Loricato grows. Apart from the pine, the park also shelters a variety of other flora and also animals and birds, several of them on the endangered list.
Falling on the border between the south-western regions of Calabria and Basilicata, the park enfolds the Southern Apennines in Calabria and Lucania. It stretches out from the Tyrrheanian to the Ionian Sea, from Cozzo del Pellegrino to Serra Dolcedorme, from Piani di Campolongo, Novacco and Lanzo, to Piani del Pollino, from the rivers Argentino and Abatemarco, to the ravines of Lao and Raganello, to the streams Peschiera and Frido.
Tall peaks -- all between 1700 and 2300 m -- rear their majestic heads in the park. Pollino, from which the park gets its name, Serra Dolcedorme and Cozzo del Pellegrino, La Mula and Monte Sparviere are among them. Rolling hills and valleys and upland plains also contribute to the ambience of the park.
The mountains and thick forests of the region have cocooned it from the relentless march of civilization. Here you’ll find yourself thrown back into the distant past. Even the very languages spoken here are echoes of history. The residents still speak Albanian as it was spoken in the 1500s.
Then there is the beautiful Bosnian pine. It was traditionally used to build totem poles for luck. The magic is that it is still done once a year. The villagers within the park’s boundaries take the best tree that is to be found on the mountain slopes at the end of summer, put it on a flower-bedecked cart drawn by oxen, and bring it down to the valleys. Now, of course, they choose a chestnut or oak instead of the Bosnian pine because of its rarity, but still put a Loricato branch on top of the totem pole to ensure prosperity.
The buildings in the town centers are also repositories of history. In the 1500s, people were required to pay taxes on shutters and frames, and so they boarded up most of their windows to avoid the levy. You can still see the blind stares of the boarded windows.
And at sunset on the last evening of spring, witches are said to meet atop the Piana di Sibari with its "moon-like" surface. Truly a magical park!
Apart from the Bosnian Pine, the Parco Pollino is home to the Silver Fir, Lobels Maple, Grecian Laurel, Turkey Oak, English Holly, Water Rhubarb, Beech, Prickly Pear, Martagon Lily, Holly Oak, Water Mint, Honesty and Dog Rose.
The dense forests on the slopes have undergrowths thick with mushrooms and herbs. Wild pear, hawthorn, broom, thistle and holly grow in the more open spaces, while violets, poppies, peonies and orchids add colour to the landscape.
Apennine wolves, Orsomarso roebucks, golden eagles, great black woodpeckers, peregrine falcons, eagle owls, ravens, the yellow-bellied toad, several species of snakes, the black squirrel, the vulture, the buzzard, otter, hare, bespectacled small salamander and newt are among the animal life you’ll be able to spot in the park. Of these, the first six are fighting for survival.
Many visitors’ centres have been put up or are in the process of being set up in the park.
Things To Do
Cycling and walking are great attractions here. And the more adventurous can climb the slopes of the steep mountains. Each town has a tourist office where visitors can hire the services of guides who will organize the best routes with regard to both safety and the likelihood of spotting animals. Remember, it was here that the skeleton of a pachyderm over three meters tall, a cross between an elephant and a mammoth, was found.
The Serra Dolcedorme is a favourite excursion point.
And get a taste of the naughty past when you eat is a delicious wild spinach which grows here, and bite into the San Giorgio mushrooms, which are to be eaten raw, with a pinch of salt, as the bandits who hid in the mountain caves did in times long past.
For mouth-watering specialties of the region, stop at the Ristorante Alia, in Castrovillari and buy their mostarda preserves made with chili peppers, rosoli cordials or liqueurs. In Civita, taste sausages, pasta with ragù di capretto and sweets stewed in wine and stuffed with fig and honey. Yum!
The "lucanica" sausage, or simply "lucanica", is made from select meat of animals reared in the area and given feed indigenous to the area.
The bread of Cerchiara is also famous. It weighs between two and three-and-a-half kilos and has a distinctive shape.
Park Authority: Ente Parco Nazionale del Pollino
Headquarters: Via delle Frecce Tricolori, 6 - 85048 Rotonda (PZ)
Provinces: Cosenza, Matera, Potenza
Established in: 1990 (Park Authority: 1993)
How to get there:
Exit the A3 highway between the tollbooths of Lauria Nord, in Basilicata, and Spezzano Terme, in Calabria to reach many towns of the Park which are linked by the S.S. 19. This road goes through the Protected Area.
In Calabria, on the Tyrrhenian side, if you take the S.S. 18 from Tortora to Belvedere M.mo it is possible to access many roads which lead inland. Among them are the S.S. 504, from Scalea, through Santa Domenica Talao to Papasidero and Mormanno; S.S. 105, from Belvedere M.mo to Castrovillari and Francavilla M.ma. Here it is also possible to reach the Ionian coast by taking S.S. 92, if you come from S.S. 106.
If you come from the North-East on S.S. 106 you can take S.S. 653, leading to Valsinni in Valsarmento. Beyond the lake of Monte Cotugno you can reach Valle del Frido. Pass the thermal area in Latronico and reach the highway junction of Lauria Nord.
Important railway stations are:
- Sapri in Campania
- Policoro, Maratea, and Potenza in Basilicata.
- Scalea, Paola, Sibari, and Cosenza in Calabria
From Cosenza railway station there is a bus service of Ferrovia della Calabria while from Matera and Potenza, SITA you can avail of a local public bus service.
The nearest airports are in Lamezia Terme, Naples and Bari.