The National Park of Casentino Forests is one of Europe's largest forest areas, a precious gem placed between Tuscany and Emilia Romagna. The park stretches from Mount Falterona to the Mandrioli pass, and can be visited on foot, by bike or on horseback. It is an immense heritage, not only natural but also historical.
From a naturalist viewpoint, the Park stands out as one of the most prized forest areas in Europe. At the heart of the park are the Foreste Demaniali Casentinesi [State Casentino forests], within which can be found the Riserva Naturale Integrale (Integral Nature Reserve) of Sasso Fratino, founded in 1959. The territory also has towns and villages rich in history and artistic and architectural heritage, which present themselves to the visitor in a wonderful natural frame, rich in flora and fauna, including the most important population of the Apennine wolf, as well as the exceptional presence of five species of ungulates (mammals with hooves): wild boar, roe deer, fallow deer, common deer, and mouflon (mountain sheep).
Inside the park there are two points of great interest and spiritual importance: the Sanctuary of La Verna and the Hermitage of Camaldoli. This forest has also represented the only true wealth of this territory, since it provided wood of the best quality and thus gave the mountain people a means of living. The Park includes an area in which people have always lived and worked, and this is the reason for the presence of many ruins and abandoned villages within the park territory. As a result of the mass exodus that took place starting from the Second World War, the number of actual inhabitants of the Park has dwindled to about 1,500.
Here all the places worth a visit:
Camaldoli and the Sacred Hermitage - The history of Camaldoli is linked to the figure of San Romualdo, a monk from Ravenna who preached the Rule of San Benedetto. From the beginning of its centuries-old history Camaldoli became one of the most significant examples of how the monastic management has contributed to the conservation and propagation of environmental and natural values. Already in 1080 Rudolf, fourth prior of the Hermitage, codified the customs of the community life of the monks and hermits in the first Camaldolensian codes, revealing these religious guardians as zealous curators of the sensitive forests.
La Verna - In May 1213 the Count Orlando Cattani of Chiusi della Verna donated to San Francesco the Mount Verna. It is the beginning of the history of one of the most important places of western mysticism. La Verna is an extraordinary place, the limestone cliff culminating in Monte Penna, rises abruptly from the bed of clay on which floats: the rocky cliff emerges, and is covered, from the forest, preserved in its rich variety from almost eight centuries of Franciscan management. It saw the forest as part of creation which manifested itself through the work of God, and as such to respect and revere. So La Verna forest is largely remained as it was: a magnificent mixed forest of large beech and fir trees, and a rich undergrowth that includes holly and yew. After Count Orlando donated it to San Francesco an hermitage was found, which became the preferred place of Francesco and his companions to spend long periods of meditation and prayer. The last stay there of Francesco was in 1224, when he was tired and sick. On this occasion, while he was immersed in prayer, had a vision and were impressed on his body the stigmata, which he bore to his death, two years later.
Acquacheta Waterfalls - The Acquacheta is the most important tributary of the stream Montone and before reaching San Benedetto in Alpe makes a jump of more than 70 meters in the homonymous waterfall. The waterfall, described by Dante in the 16th Canto, is only achieved through a range of a couple of hours up the valley passing by the suggestive Piana dei Romiti with the ruins of the ancient village.
Ancient Mills - The Mill Mengozzi in Fiumicello and the Mill Biondi in Castel Alpe are important testimonies of mountain culture. Externally similar to rural buildings are internally equipped to milling business. The mills are a perfect example of the close bond between man and nature: the exploitation of the stream to produce cereal flour and chestnut needed to cook simple dishes, typical of these mountain areas. Inside the mill you can admire the old millstones still fully functional.
Castagno d'Andrea - The village, located in the Florentine side of the park, is the ideal base for excursions to the Falterona Mount and the Acuto Mount, birthplace of the painter Andrea del Castagno great artist of the Florentine Renaissance. The landscape around the old town is characterized by extensive and impressive woods of chestnut trees cultivated for the production of the “Marroni”.
Campigna - The 18th Century Grand Ducal palace, converted into a hotel, was until the last century the hunting lodge of Lorraine. The command of the local forest station, as in Camaldoli and Badia Prataglia, houses a naturalistic museum open on request.
The tops of the Park - The Apennine ridge, rising gradually from the eastern side, forms the main mountain range of the Park: Mount Falterona and Mount Falco. Along the southern slopes of the Falterona, at 1358 m, a copious spring called Capo d'Arno is considered the origin of the Tuscan river.
Lake of the Idols - The most important archaeological site of Casentino, where a collection of the most conspicuous evidence of the cult of the Etruscan world was found. It is located in Ciliegeta (1380 m above sea level), south of the summit of Mount Falterona and a few hundred meters from Capo D'Arno. In the 6th Century BC the Etruscans considered Mount Falterona as a sacred place therefore put their offerings into Lake Ciliegeta, near the headwaters of the river Arno. From 1838 until today, many Etruscan remains were found there, some of which are preserved in the British Museum in London and in the Louvre in Paris.
Mount Penna - Viewpoint on the underlying Lama forest and on most of the valleys that descend towards the Romagna. The view from the top of the mountain is one of the most picturesque in the Apennines: the ancient forests that are always full of the most varied colors that recall the great diversity and richness of the Casentino Forests. On a clear day the eye reaches the line of the Adriatic coast and the hills of Romagna, from Faenza to Rimini.
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National Park Casentino Forests
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