A vast national park, teeming with nature, covered in beautiful flora and trees, punctuated by sprawling rivers and streams, the Aspromonte National Park is situated in the southern section of the Apennines, in Calabria, Italy.
The name Aspromonte means rough mountains, and it’s an apt description. The national park is near the sea, down in the “toe” of Italy’s boot and includes many mountains, the tallest Montalto reaching up to 1,955 metres. Boasting wildlife such as wolves, peregrine falcons, eagle owls, goshawks and deers. Not just teeming with nature, Aspromonte park flourishes with beech trees and silver firs, interspersed with glorious black pines, oaks and chestnuts with delightful rare plants scattered over her hills and mountains.
This lush palace of nature is rich in more than wildlife, the park has a fascinating history, The 76,000 hectares now home to abandoned villages, and it’s thick forests have been the scene of many a battle and the refuge for those fleeing. It has seen the Greeks and witnessed the defeat of Garibaldi by Italian troops when he attempted to seize power and acquire the Papal states for the newly united Italy. The park was also the home territory of the ‘ndrangheta - band of peasant families who rebelled against rich landowners by stealing their animals and blackmailing the elite.
The ‘ndrangheta made use of the tall, almost inaccessible mountain range as a hiding place for the unlucky victims of their kidnap schemes and as a lair for their contraband.Until it was established as Italy’s 6th national park in 1989 it had been the scene of uprisings, wars and home to several villages.
Nowadays the Aspromonte is quiet, home only to mother nature’s secret beauty spots.
The Aspromonte is a veritable goldmine of terrific trails, wondrous walks and magnificent meanderings. The locals are welcoming, the views are vast and the park has remained unblemished by mass tourism to this day.
Her rugged plains stretch from the Tyrrhenian to the Ionian Sea. And her perfect weather conditions encourage biodiversity on a stunning scale. The winding waterways snaking their way across the Apostromonte in great abundance, lead to the flourishing of lush vegetation, flora and trees, look out for the rare citrus fruits perfuming the air around you.
Nature lovers must put the Aspromonte on their list of places to see in Italy. Walk the forest paths and marvel at wild cats and dormouse, along with wild boar and gorgeous black squirrels darting along the tree boughs. Delight as you see foxes frolicking around you, hares and badgers scampering through the bushes, hedgehogs, weasels and martens flitting about before you. But keep your joyous exclamations down - you’ll scare off all the deer. Re-introduced in 2011 after years of absence, the Aspromonte is home to the roe deer. Apart from all the wonderful nature trails, you can bike, canoe and sail.
The tourist facilities are relatively few but all are wheelchair accessible. Nature has been allowed to rule as she pleases, and the results are a sight to behold. Rocky slopes fall sharply into the shimmering Mediterranean. Steep mountains drape down, creating plains, and fields fenced by sky scraping peaks. Gorges cuddle rivers and waterfalls, surprises are around every bend and there’s no way you could experience it all in one day.
Some of the waterfalls are there all year round, but others have to be caught after the rainy season in the winter.
If you’re a bird lover, you can’t miss this haven with many rare birds that won’t be seen anywhere else in Italy. The Black woodpecker and the Bonelli eagle make the Asporomonte their home but the region is also the focal migration point of this side of Europe, for birds crossing the Mediterranean. In the Autumn, the birds flock here in their hundreds to make the crossing.
Meandering the forests you’ll encounter ruins and remnants of the Greeks. Persephone’s temple walls, trenches and fortifications and if you make it to the centre Pietra Cappa - you will find Byzantium monasteries. Churches dot the region in various staples of a range of time periods.
The whole Aspromonte region is perfumed by the Jasmine orchards, which are actually used extensively by the perfume industry.
If you’re looking for a souvenir on your way home, why not purchase some of the region’s special wood carved pipes or kitchen tools?
Whatever you’re looking for, the Aspromonte is a hub of glorious nature, undisturbed by the over “tourisication.” It remains a paradise of nature that cannot be missed.