The Monti Sibillini National Park form part of the Appennine Mountains which stretch 1,200 km from north to south Italy. The Sibillini Mountains are named after Sibilla, an ancient prophetess named the “queen of the fairies” who, it is said, lived in a cave on the 2,200-metre-high Monte Sibilla.
The park is in a very mountainous area with 192 named mountains, of which Monte Vettore is the highest at nearly 4,500 metres. Of the mountains, over two dozen are at least 2,000 metres high.
The area is perhaps best known for its truly unique nature sites. In Castelluccio di Norcia, there is coniferous forest in the shape of Italy (Bosco Italia). The piani di Castelluccio’s karst lakebed blooms every summer to reveal a breathtakingly colourful display of lentils, daises and poppies.
The Valle dell’Acquasanta hiking area has stunning waterfalls and the Grotta dell’Orso (Bear Cave), whilst the Gole dell’Infernaccio are natural gorges offering an outstanding spectacular natural landmark. Also here is the Eremo di San Leonardo al Volubrio ancient monastery.
Many tourists also flock to Sibillini for its famed hiking trails. There are an extensive 450 km of marked roads surrounding the park. Alternatively, walking and billing directions are also available.
Fauna and flora in the park are incredibly diverse. The formerly almost-extinct Appennine wolf and chamois (for which there is a museum). Bird watchers are popular in the park, to keep an eye out for the 150 different species calling the park home. Peregrine falcons and goshawks can be seen very high at sea level, circling and looking for prey.
Sibellini is home to traditional mammals seen throughout other parks in Italy, such as the wild boar and red fox. Within the park, in Pilate lake, lives an extremely rare species of fairy shrimp (Chirocephalus marchesonii), as well as the similarly elusive Orsini viper snake. The park also hosts the Giardino delle Farfalle butterfly garden.
A living ecosystem breaths within the park, comprising over an estimated 1,800 different plant species. Many types of orchids are prevalent in Sibillini, as are edelweiss, lilies and other wildflowers. Below a thousand feet the park is awash with oak, ash and hornbeam trees. Higher up, beech forests and alpine grasslands cover the mountainsides. Of these alpine species, the shrub Ephedra nebrodensis and Carex disticha species of sedge are rarely seen anywhere else in Italy.
‘Forest bathing’ retreats take place within Sibillini’s medium to low-altitude level trees, inspired by the Japanese Shinrin-yoku practise of spending time in nature and being present with the five senses to improve mental wellbeing and joy.
Sibillini is also a hub for incredible food. Lentils come from the soil of Castelluccio, while fragrant mushrooms and truffles, honey and trout (from the Nera river) help to put the area of the gastronomy map. Traditional Italian farming happens throughout Sibillini and the area produces fantastic cheese, in particular pecorino and ricotta.
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