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La Majella

Majella National Park has its most important feature in the extraordinary hilliness of territory, actually more than 55% is located at altitudes higher than 2000 meters. The Majella, Mountains - imposing, wild, Father for Plinius the Old, “Mother Mountain” for the local population - became part of National Parks world heritage, after decades of strong fights, thanks to the Law of 6 December 1991, n. 394 and to the Italian Republic President’s Decree of 5 June 1995, constitutive of Park Authority.

The park is located in the territory of Chieti, Pescara and L'Aquila. Its inner space encloses wide lands, shows the characteristic features of a Wilderness Area, the most unique and valuable part of national biodiversity heritage. The Majella is made of limestones surfaced five millions of years ago from the depth of the ancient ocean called “Tethys”. This calcareous material was piled up there during the ages, because of the deposition of marine organisms skeletons.

This mountain range is featured by a series of wide summital tablelands (present in no other places of Apennines) rounded by the millenary action of glaciers that were very wide here during the glacial ages.

The Orta river receives the water of a wide basin and together with its large valley (so deeply fitted with the municipalities territories of Bolognano and San Valentino that forms a real canyon) divides the Majella massif from Morrone. This is a narrow and extended dorsal, made of calcareous and dolomitic rocks, that comes down on the plain of Sulmona among steep rocky ledges.

The park contains about 500 kilometers of Hiking trails through the mountains, cave paintings in Grotta S. Angelo and Grotta del Cavallone (the latter being one of the deepest caves in Europe open to the public).

In the southern area, down the Mount “Pizzalto”, the wonderful carsic plateaux known as “Altipiani Maggiori d'Abruzzo” (Abruzzi Main Plateaux: 1250 m.) or as “Quarti” (Quarters: Santa Chiara, Barone, Grande e Molino) act like a zip with the area of Mounts “Pizzi” and “Secine”, compound made of marl in contact with clays. This area is strongly rich in woods of beech, Lobel Maple and other different species. The presence of wide mixed woods expanses, jointly with the abundance of water and the consequent richness of ecological niches, enable this area to function as ideal habitat for the most precious faunal species in the Park.

On the basis of current body of knowledge, the Park hosts more than 78% of mammal species (except for Cetaceans) existing in Abruzzo, and more than 45% of the Italian ones. Considering the lack of data about some numerous groups such as insectivorous and chiropterans, we can also consider this faunistic factor as a downright hot spot for biodiversity preservation.

The 2114 vegetal species classified in the Park territory are distributed in more than 50 different habitats, and placed in the various altitudinal zones. The peculiarity of the habitat is embodied mainly by the considerable number of endemism, more than 142 vegetal species, in great measure gathered in the culmination zones. At floristic level, the Park is the most southern branch of the European Alpine Area and an authentic crossroad of genetic flows, with classes of high ecological and phytogeographic recognition: with more than 2.000 floristic species the Park hosts the 65% of Abruzzi flora, the 37% of the Italian ones and the 22% of European species. The high-altitude habitats also contain species with a remarkable faunistic value, among which the Apennine Chamois and the “Orsini” Viper.

Under the culmination zones there is the twisted shrubs belt such as the “Mugo” Pine which represents the most widespread vegetal formation in the Apennines. Between 1800 and 800 meters grow beech groves mixed with lawns and pastures. These are the ideal habitats for the wild ungulates and predators such as the bear and the wolf, and these also are overriding species in conformity with the Directive mentioned above.

Besides the natural environments, the Park also contains a discreet surface occupied with farm zones uncared since long time and under slow natural evolution towards more complex ecosystems (shrubs, arboreal pastures, recent formation of woods, etc).

Other examples of human signs are the reforestation of pine forests, pastures and mowing lawns. In this case the human activities managed from age to age significantly contributed to the spreading of certain species and to the preservation of biodiversity. Keeping alive agricultural practices, outcome of strong interaction between Man and Nature, such as extensive breeding or traditional farming activities, could be an extraordinary tool for the environmental conservation; on the other hand the reforestation of pastures, even if natural, could bring about a drastic decrease of certain species, both plants and animals.

Official Path Network

The Park Path: This path is surely the most complete and demanding one. Despite of it is not an “Alpine” route, is suitable just for people experienced of mountain environment and in good health. It deals with a route crossing the Park along its longitudinal axis (around 40 Km) from Pescocostanzo to Popoli and reaching the major peaks of Majella: Mount Amaro (m. 2793) and Morrone. This path passes through a wild landscape, just one dwelling (Caramanico) and few other equipped rest-stops. It offers a complete sight of Park area and the opportunity of discovering woods, pasturelands and real treasures of animal and plant life.

The Freedom Path: This path crosses one of the less-known sectors of the Park. This route was used, during the Second World War, by the people who wanted to escape from the territories occupied by the Germans. From Sulmona, it passes through Cansano, Campo di Giove, Palena, Gamberale and Pietransieri, with easy muletracks or country roads. This itinerary allows to know places of a remarkable natural value such as Piano Cerreto. Here, the fields are grown according to traditional techincs and rhythms and some animal species live here because of its wonderful beechwoods.

The Spirit Path: PThis path is designed for people who like discovering the historical relations between the Man and these mountains. The morphologial and hydrographical features of Majella allowed the Man to live here and to be protected at the same time: so, every corner of majella is full of worship places.

This route reaches the most important and extraodinary ones: from the Benedectine Abbeys to the retreats and small rocky worship places built on ruins of previous pagan spots. Among which there are: the Abbey of San Liberatore a Majella (Serramonacesca), thought as one of the best example of Benedectine architecture in Abruzzo; Sant’Angelo in Lettomanoppello, placed inside a real canyon among imposing rocky faces; S. Bartolomeo di Legio, the best preserved retreat. Finally the Celestine retreats of Santo Spirito, San Giovanni all’Orfento and Sant’Onofrio al Morrone. This path is very long and it has to be divided into stages.

The easy Path: Sant’Eufemia a Majella, the localities of Lama Bianca, Fonte della Fratta and Grotta Zappano; Pescocostanzo in the locality of Bosco di S. Antonio. All of which are equipped with paths designed for disabled people.

Bicycle e mountain bike: Majella National Park features a wide range of routes fitted with “cycle tourists” and mountain-bikers at every training level. There are also very hard itineraries. The National Road 263 joins Bocca di Valle to Fara San Martino (23 km) and marks the Eastern border of Park: there are not difficult slope. The Forchetta Pass (1270 m) is another traditional destination: it joins Chieti to Pescocostanzo, Rivisondoli and Roccaraso Compound. For the well-trained people, the BlokHaus slope (2050 m) is the most interesting one: you can reach it both from Pescara or Chieti. Moreover, there are many other slopes such as Passo Lanciano (1310 m) and San Leonardo Pass (1280 m).

Many other routes can be discovered on bicycle passing through byroads and surprising landscapes. The agritourisms can be regarded as useful rest-stops for hikes and promenades. Concerning to the mountain bike lovers they only need to follow the main trekking itineraries: many of them pass through dirt roads or well-preserved muletracks.

 

http://www.parcomajella.it/LgENG/bio_ambienti.asp

 

http://www.grottedelcavallone.it/sito/?the-caves,36
 


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