Forests cover almost 35% of Italy and the number is growing steadily although there are concerns that many of the forests are not managed and might deteriorate with time. I have written already about ancient patriarch trees in Italy and where to find them. Today I want to share a list of my favourite oldest and most beautiful forests for the best hikes in Italy.
Foresta del Cansiglio, Veneto, have been inhabited by people since the dawn of times. Archaeologists have found numerous flints in the highland here. In the 16th century the Venetian republic appointed a Forest Captain who managed tree felling here for making excellent oars. Almost every tree was examined, its age determined and the date was assigned when it could be cut. Such was the importance of this forest that by a special law the daughter of the Cansiglio forester was allowed to marry a Venetian noble if she wished to do so. There are many cycling and walking trails in the forest today and it is especially beautiful in autumn.
Forest of Sasso Fratino is a stunning natural reserve within the Foreste Casentinesi National Park, which protects some of the oldest woods in Europe. These millenia-old forests for centuries were managed by the Order of Monaci Camaldolesi. Wood from this area was used for building the Florence cathedral. There are many well-managed walking and cycling trails running between ancient beech and fir trees. Pay attention to the signs as you walk as some areas are closed for access.
Bosco dell’Archiforo in Serra San Bruno, Calabria was saved from destruction by the locals last year. The local authorities of Serra San Bruno have allowed felling of almost 10,000 trees in the last few years. However, when the mayor authorised cutting or another 2,600 European silver fir trees the locals protested saying that half of those trees are among the oldest in Europe. The campaigners won and you can enjoy unforgettable walks among the majestic fir trees, one of which is 50 metres high and 5.5 metres in circumference, the biggest in Europe.
San Vito cork oak forest (Sughereta S. Vito) near the town of Fondi in Lazio is one of the largest in Italy and has been preserved intact for centuries. It is only an hour-and-half drive from Rome, however, tourists are almost unknown here, so you can enjoy quiet easy walks.
At the Grande Porta del Pollino in the Pollino National Park, at 2000 metres above sea level, grow very rare centuries-old Bosnian pines. These trees are: they withstands strong wind, heavy snow, very low temperatures, as well as droughts, and ozone pollution. However, it is in the Red list of threatened species as its populations are fragmented and limited, mainly due to forest fires and over-grazing. It is a long off-road drive and then a hike to get to the Grande Porta but the views that open from there are breathtakingly beautiful and are worth the effort.
Photos by: Umberto Salvagnin, Giuseppe Quattrone, Green Holiday Italy.