The Appennino Lucano Val d'Agri–Lagonegrese National Park is located in Potenza, a province in Italy’s Basilicata region, situated halfway between Naples and Bari. The park is part of the sprawling 1,200 km Appennine range that runs along the Italian Peninsula.
The Appennino Lucano Val d'Agri–Lagonegrese National Park spans an area of almost 700 square kilometres. Despite the natural landscape’s existence for millions of years, the land was only accredited as a national park in 2007.
The geological phenomenon of the Appennine orogeny 65 million years ago formed the unique mountain ranges of the Appennine valley we know today. As such, caves lie under the park itself (including the fascinating Grotta di Castel di Lepre) and the park has an impressive 25 summits reaching 1,500 metres and higher.
The park contains 195 mountains in total, as well as some of the highest peaks in the Lucanian Appennines, with the highest peak Monte del Papa at just over 2,000 metres. This forms a part of the imposing Sirino massif mountain range which also includes Cima De Lorenzo (2004 metres), Timpa Scazzariddo (1930 metres) and Monte Sirino (1907 metres).
The park has always been a fascinating place for flora and fauna. Fossils of mammoths and large carnivorous mammals have been found in archaeological digs, along with traces of remains from ancient humans. Nowadays, otters are a very common site, as are crabs, storks, salamanders, vipers and stag beetles. The park is also home to the extremely rare Egyptian vulture.
The park’s flora is wonderfully diverse. Beech forests, maple trees, turkey oaks and a silver fir forest dominate the woodland landscape, while several very rare endemic species live within the park.
Many rivers run through the national park such as the Fiume Bianco, Fiume Tanagro and a tributary of the Fiume Agri. The artificial lake Lago di Pietra del Pertusillo is the largest section of water in the park, at almost 8 square kilometres.
Within the park, Val d’Agri is a huge montane habitat where an oil field was discovered and utilised by Italian multinational energy company Eni. The site also has the largest onshore hydrocarbon field in Europe.
Unlike many other national parks, Appennino Lucano Val d'Agri–Lagonegrese has towns and villages within the park, with sizeable populations. The area has a typical Appennine climate with very harsh winters with a lot of snow and cool and windy temperatures in summer. Near the highest summits, rainfall is expected all year round and temperatures can reach -10 degrees celsius.
For visitors looking to explore the park, Appennino Lucano Val d'Agri–Lagonegrese has many incredible hikes to choose from. Before undertaking them, any visitor should ensure they check out the walk’s difficulty rating and contact the park’s tourist information centre. Some of the hikes can be incredibly dangerous and vulnerable to slips, sudden drops or landslides.
Sacro Monte di Viggiano is a popular mountain to climb for an easy hike. The mountain also has a very well-known ski resort. If staying in the area for several days, nearby places include the regional capital Potenza, Viggiano, Satriano di Lucania and Sarconi.