On this walking and wildlife holiday we’ll explore the flower-filled alpine meadows of the Sibillini National Park in the eastern Apennines, lowland plains and wetlands, and a spectacular mountain gorge, each habitat offering superlative scenery and diverse wildlife. Our mountain walks will be rewarded with carpets of gentians, Edelweiss and other alpine favourites. A wealth of butterflies will include many puzzling fritillaries and blues to test our skills. Alpine Choughs, Alpine Accentors and Snow Finches also inhabit these mountains whilst Collared Flycatchers, Bonelli’s Warblers and Short-toed Tree-creepers live in the Beech woods on the lower slopes. Visits to the spectacular Piano Grande and La Gola dell’Infernaccio (Hell’s Gorge) will especially delight our botanists!
Explore the little-known mountains of Sibillini National Park
Enjoy superb plants and butterflies
Good birdlife and some mammals too!
Peaceful, comfortable hotel serving delicious Italian cuisine
Walk through the dramatic La Gola dell 'Infernaccio (Hell's Gorge)
Enjoy the upland botany of Piano Grande
Expertly escorted by a Naturetrek ornithologist & botanist
All included in the cost.
A comfortable family-run hotel; all rooms have private facilities.
Day 2/7 A daily programme of natural history walks from our base near Amandola
In recent years we have been very pleased to introduce some of Italy’s lesser-known wildlife reserves to a wider Naturetrek audience. We are proud to continue this tradition by the inclusion in our programme of an 8-day tour focusing on the magnificent scenery and outstanding natural history attributes of Sibillini National Park. Situated in the province of Marche which, together with neighbouring Umbria, is known as the green heartland of Italy, the protected landscape of the national park embraces more than 20 peaks over 2,000 metres in height. In addition to these pristine montane habitats there are extensive tracts of forest, rollinmoug pastoral hills and superb flower-filled meadows creating a natural history paradise. Our base for exploration of the park is a charming family-run hotel, situated in the most unspoilt area of the eastern Apennines, a region steeped in history and legend. From the hotel we can enjoy spectacular views of the picturesque town of Amandola below us and the surrounding mountains.
We fly first to the city of Ancona and then complete a 90-minute road transfer to our accommodation, passing by hilltop castles and towers that give an indication of the colourful history of this region. Once at the hotel, we can begin to savour the magic of the area by a short walk in search of local orchids such as Orchis fragrans, Ophrys tetraloniae and Ophrys fuciflora ssp. gracilis. After a morning of travel, a more appealing alternative may be relaxation in the grounds of the hotel listening to the soporific buzzing of bees and the fluty whistles of Golden Orioles, which add the brilliance of their yellow and black plumage to the green of the canopy.
For the next six days we undertake daily excursions to explore the many facets of the national park, an odyssey that will take us to high alpine meadows filled with wild flowers, marshes, wetlands and a spectacular mountain gorge. Each habitat abounds with interesting natural history and superlative scenery. The montane elements are provided by the peaks of Monte Sibilla and Monte Vettore. Each has its own mystique and legends; the soothsayer Sibyl was alleged to live in a cave on the former and it is said that Pontius Pilate was buried on Monte Vettore. Of more relevance to our holiday, the fairly steep walks to reach the higher elevations are rewarded by carpets of gentians, Edelweiss and other alpine favourites whilst the lower slopes are a botanist’s dream containing various species of orchid, Martagon Lily, Alpine Buckthorn and many other much prized species. With such an abundance of flowers it is no surprise that butterflies are also much in evidence, a variety that includes Eastern Large Heath, Sooty Ringlet, Amanda’s Blue and a host of puzzling fritillaries to test our identification skills. Noisy flocks of Alpine Chough will no doubt put in an appearance as we near the summits and a sweet musical song may reveal an Alpine Accentor amongst the boulders. Snow Finches also inhabit these peaks whilst inhabitants of the Beech woods on the lower slopes include Bonelli’s Warblers and Short-toed Tree-creepers.
During our week we will also visit the reedbeds and marshes at Colfiorito, which provide an unexpected contrast to the mountains. This little-known wetland is set amid an area of open plains and arable fields where traditional farming practices have ensured that many of the arable ‘weeds’ such as Cornflower, Corn Buttercups and Corn Cleavers still flourish. Corn Buntings pour out their jangling song from every telephone wire and the fields provide cover for Montagu’s Harriers and Quail to raise their young. As we approach the reeds we will hear the raucous chatter of Great Reed Warblers, whilst other birds found here include Night and Squacco Herons, Marsh Harrier, Penduline Tit and Little Bittern. Once a glacial lake, the Piano Grande is now a vast upland plain 1,250 metres above sea level. We spend a day here among carpets of wild flowers which include poppies, wild tulips (Tulipa australis), fritillaries and alpine exotics such as Cerastium tomentosum and Linum alpinum as well as the endemic Gentianella columnae. This is a magnificent wild place where the songs of countless Skylarks combine to provide a background symphony to our walks.
One final treat awaits as we visit La Gola dell’Infernaccio (Hell’s Gorge), arguably the most impressive limestone gorge in the Apennine range. Once again the scenery is wonderful and a wide range of flora, butterflies and birds will contribute to a memorable day. Away from the betterknown tourist magnets in other parts of Italy, this unexplored national park atop the mythical kingdom of Sibilla Cumana holds a wealth of natural history treasures awaiting discovery.
Philip Thompson was excellent - enthusiastic, knowledgeable, well organised; he also listened to requests and was sociable. The Paradiso was a fantastic hotel with a delightful owner.
We saw 11 species of orchid on the first day, which I thought was amazing. Although the season was late this year because of a harsh winter, it enabled us to see other flowers that would usually be over, such as a whole field of wild tulips at Piano Grande. I would recommend this tour to anyone interested in wild flowers.
Mr & Mrs P.
This was the first time we had been on a Naturetrek holiday, and I must admit I was a little apprehensive. But it really was great to have everything organised by such a competent and professional leader. Phil's knowledge of plants and birds was superb, and I am full of admiration. The Sibillini Mountains were absolutely stunning. I have never before seen such a breathtaking variety of wild flowers - so beautiful. And to see a huge variety of birds and the occasional snake was a bonus.
Toby was an excellent leader, his knowledge of plants, butterflies and birds was amazing. Dave was very enthusiastic with the butterflies and moths and had a broad knowledge of nature. I hadnt previously thought of moths as interesting but now I shall look at them in a different light!
A thoroughly enjoyable holiday... the whole structure of the holiday, the leaders and fellow travellers were a winning combination.