Text: Aukje van Gerven
Photos: Simon Collier, Valeria Roselli, Aukje van Gerven, Bruno D'Amicis
It is such a well-known phrase by John Muir: ‘The Mountains are calling, and I must go’. As a mountain lover, I deeply feel this when I have not been in the mountains for a while.
I’ve travelled to plenty of mountainous areas, and they are all beautiful in their own way. But the Central Apennines in Italy have a special place in my heart. I’m not sure if it’s the inspiring mountain vista’s, the omnipresent wildlife, or the Italian food and wine, but it is such a wonderful place to visit.
So lucky me, last week I was en route to Rome again. Rome is an amazing city where history is all around you, but there was no time to see it this time. I travelled as a small team with our lead guide and trainer Simon Collier and we only had a short few days to have discussions with the local Rewilding Apennines team, prepare for the rewilding field training next year, and visit new accommodation and tourism experiences.
The local Rewilding teams in all rewilding areas are doing an amazing job. The Rewilding Apennines team is no exception, and it was great to hear from Mario Cipollone, Valerio Reale, and Angela Tavone what they are working on in the area, their commitment and efforts to the projects they’re working on.
The team from our tourism partner Wildlife Adventures is equally inspiring – dedicated to responsible tourism, and always willing to think with us and give guests the best experience possible.
We left for the Terraegna (or Bisegna) mountain refuge with guides Umberto Esposito and Valeria Roselli, and photographer Bruno D’Amicis in the afternoon, and once we reached the hut, went straight out again for a hike. We were incredibly lucky, as the mating season of deer had just started here. Within an hour, we reached an area where we could hear the bell of the male deer. Taking out our binoculars, we could also clearly see them, an impressive sight.
We hiked out a bit further and a bit higher and on several occasions, the bell warned us that a stag was coming our way. It is a mighty sight when you see the antlers first coming from behind a hill or the horizon. Plenty of female deer provided an interested audience to the power display of the males. We stayed for a while to listen and just be - in awe of nature. A beautiful pink sunset accompanied us on the way back to the refuge.
A stay in the Terraegna refuge is a treat – when you arrive back from your wanderings, the fire will crackle and the smell of good hearty Italian food will make your mouth water. Our third guide – Linda Costi - had stayed behind to make sure the beds were made and we could enjoy a lovely dinner.
But first, a glass of wine. A few more would follow that evening, enjoyed around the campfire outside. When you looked up, you’d see a sky full of stars. What a magic day.
The next morning, we got up before sunrise. Italians enjoy just a cup of strong coffee in the morning and then head out in search of more wildlife. Upon return, we could enjoy breakfast with local cheeses, jams, yoghurt, and bread. It was time to return back to the village of Pescasseroli, pick up our luggage, and drive to Scanno. The bioagriturismo here is a potential option for accommodation and we enjoyed another lunch with a lot of cheese and pasta (when in Italy…) and looked at the rooms. Unfortunately, we did not have much time to explore the surroundings, because we were due to visit the Tirino Valley that afternoon.
Just an hour north of the Abruzzo, there are more interesting places to visit if you are in the area.
The Tirino area has the benefit that it has a beautiful crystal clear river flowing through it, so we put our life vests on and enjoyed an hour on the water. Right next door is the local riding stables and exploring the mountains on horseback is one of my favorite things to do.
The afternoon was wrapped up by meeting new local entrepreneurs and enjoying more wine, cheese, and bread around a fire. It gave a good impression of what is possible in the area.
We met up with the Rewilding Apennines team again that evening, in the beautiful Agriturismo of Terre di Solina. Dinner was a special experience with local products from the vineyard and the surrounding farms. The lovely host and rooms made sure that we would return here. The next day, the drive back to Rome was on the agenda. This short visit once again reminded me that the Central Apennines never disappoint, and I can’t wait to go back next year.
The mountains had been calling, and I got to go.