The Pollino National Park & the Pollino massif
Allocation & subdivionThe peaks of the Pollino massif represent one of the most southern extentions of the Apennine Mountains on the Italian mainland. Having taken its name from the mountain range, the Pollino National Park comprises also the contiguous Orsomarso mountain range (or Pellegrino massif), the peaks of Pizzo Falcone (6,233ft/ 1,900m) and Santa Croce (6,210ft/ 1,893m), pertaining to the Monte Alpi group and the peaks of Monte La Spina (5,419ft / 1,652m) and Monte Zaccana (5,183ft / 1,580m), offset of the Lucanian Apennines.
There is some confusion about the subdivision and the allocation of certain mountains and ranges of South Italy. The vast territory of the Pollino National Park, for instance, comprises mountains and ranges which do belong to the Lucanian Apennines (Monte Alpi, La Spina - Monte Zaccana group), to the Calabrian Apennines (Pellegrino massif) and the peaks of the actual Pollino massif which is located on the territory of both regions, with some of its highest peaks (Monte Pollino, Serra del Prete) situated right on the demarcation line.
Note: Mountain range and Natural Park are homonymous but not coextensive.
Origin of the Etymologically, the name 'Pollino' is generally believed to derive from 'Apollo', the Greek god of light. Although a number of different theories have been proposed, the former is backed by recent findings of ancient Greek remains on the crest of Monte Manfriana. These rather unexpected finds (about two dozens of rectangular shaped blocks of granite, a lintel, fragments of terracotta and a coin etc.) are dated back to about 500 BC and could be the remains of either a lookout tower or, in fact, a shrine (or small temple) dedicated to the worship of the god Apollo.
The earliest evidence for man's presence in this territory has been discovered in a cavern known as 'Grotta del Romito' (halfway between the Calabrian towns of Mormanno and Papasidero, state road SS504). A prehistoric burial site and numerous cave engravings were discovered here in 1961, and they date back to the Upper Palaeolithic, between 20,000 and 10,000 years ago. (more info)
The Pollino National ParkWith a total area of 1960 square kilometres the Pollino National Park (Category II IUCN) is the most extensive national park in Italy. Officially founded in 1993, today the park comprehends a considerable part of the territory of two regions of South Italy: Basilicata and Calabria.
Symbol of the park is the Bosnian Pine, - with a trunk diameter of up to 2 meters a truly majestic tree. Originating from the Balkans and northern Greece, on the Italian peninsula it can be found exclusively within the boundaries of the Pollino national park.
The mountain range
The core region of the national park are the fabulous Pollino high plains (Piano di Toscano, Piano di Pollino and Piana di Pollino) which are girded by some of the highest peaks of the entire mountain range. From their tops it is possible to enjoy a unique view. Depending on the visibility conditions, you may see simultaneously the Tyrrhenian Sea (north-east), the Gulf of Corigliano (south-west) and, soaring afar over the blue expanse of the Mediterranean, the white cone of Mount Etna (10,967ft / 3,343m), Sicily.
Landmarks & impressions
Four seasons & outdoor activities
Any season is the right season for a visit to the Pollino mountains. But of course, every season will permit different kinds of outdoor activities. Temperature fluctuations are considerable for this latitude and the proximity of the Mediterranean. In late summer the temperature maximum in the valley can easily pass the 35°C / 95°F mark. On the Pollino high plains the temperature may reach 25°C / 77°F during daytime (in late July and August) only to touch freezing just before dawn. The lowest temperature so far was measured on 'Piano Toscano' (north-west of Mt. Pollino), in a clear night of February. The thermometer dropped to a quite remarkable -30,8°C / -22°F, thus probably making it the coldest spot in southern Italy.
Spring & autumn
- Spring and autumn are the ideal seasons for scrambling, hiking, trekking and exploring the Mediterranean plant species. The Pollino high plains and the 'Garden of the Gods' (close to Serra di Crispo) are most beautiful during these periods of flowering.
- Rock climbers will also find perfect condition. The rock face of the Timpa La Falconara (5,433ft / 1,656m), for example, offers several interesting climbings routes, with pitches of varying demands and difficulties up to VII+ (UIAA), some of them partly equipped (pitons etc.). But also the nearby Timpa di San Lorenzo (5,413ft / 1,652m), Timpa di Porace and Timpa di Cassano hold numerous nice climbing routes in store, up to VI+ (UIAA).
- Summer is the right time to explore the shady forest trails and the deep ravines, instead. Gold standard for local canyoneering is a traverse of the Raganello gorge (about 6km long, between the location Barile and the so-called "Devil's Bridge" (Ponte del Diavolo), near the village of Civita). Other exciting itinerary are the Barile gorge (about 4km long) or the Caldanello gorge.
- At Cerchiara di Calabria (only about 13km from San Lorenzo Bellizzi) it is possible to traverse the only Via Ferrata in southern Italy, the 'Ferrata del Caldanello' (also known as the 'Ferrata della Gravina'), extended in 2012, and, in proximity to Civita, the 'Ferrata del Raganello' (or 'Via delle capre'), an exposed path partly equipped with steel cables.
- Rafting tours and related activities are also possible on the Lao River (Pellegrino massif, valley of the Mercure), in proximity to the Calabrian village Laino Borgo and the evocative ghost town of Laino Castello Vecchio or the village Papasidero.
- Winter can arrive early. The upper slopes of the major peaks are generally covered by snow from November through late April (or even May). The southern slopes are widely exposed to the intense Mediterranean sun and the warm and humid sea winds. The Sirocco may carry sand and dust particles from North Africa, the Arabian or Sahara desert, thus staining the snow dark orange or red.
- Other parts of the Pollino massif, however, may hold several meters of snow for months. Alpine skiing is definitely an option.
- Standard mountaineering gear (ice axe, crampons etc.) will be required for the winter ascend to the highest peaks of this range. Interesting routes can be found, for instance, on the steep and severe east face of Serra delle Ciavole, the snowy gullies of the west and north face of Monte Pollino or the icy rock chutes of the south face of Serra Dolcedorme. Also the narrow and corniced ridge of Serra del Prete will make an interesting destination, with lots of snow. Snowshoes are useful for the approach and traversing the high plains.
Major peaks and their subsidiary summits (by elevation)
|No.||mountain||height||recommended trailhead(s) ||details / related SP page|
|1.||Serra Dolcedorme||7,437ft / 2,267m|
|2.||Monte Pollino||7,375ft / 2,248m|
|3.||Serra del Prete||7,155ft / 2,180m|| |
|4.||Timpa di Valle Piana|
(s. Serra Dolcedorme)
|7,096ft / 2,163m|| |
|5.||Serra delle Ciavole||6,988ft / 2,130m|| |
|6.||Timpa del Pino di Michele|
(s. Serra Dolcedorme)
|6,788ft / 2,069m|
|7.||Serra di Crispo||6,738ft / 2,053m|| |
|8.||Serra del Pollinello|
(s. Monte Pollino)
|6,706ft / 2,044m|| |
|9.||Serretta della Porticella|
(s. Serra di Crispo)
|6,561ft / 2,000m|
|10.||Monte Manfriana||6,499ft / 1,987m|| |
|11.||Coppola di Paola||6,295ft / 1,919m|| |
|12.||Timpone della Capanna||5,980ft / 1,823m|| |
|5,469ft / 1,820m|| |
|14.||Timpa della Falconara||5,433ft / 1,656m|| |
|15.||Timpa di San Lorenzo||5,413ft / 1,652m|| |
|16.|| Timpa di Cassano||4,514ft / 1,376m|
The north (from San Severino Lucano, Terranova di Pollino, Viggianello)
- Colle d'Impiso (5,160ft / 1,573m): Perhaps the most frequented of all the trailheads of the central part of the Pollino massif. It can be reached both from San Severino Lucano (Loc. Varco, Loc. Voscari) and Viggianello by taking the country road SP4. Indications are little (for Massicio del Pollino) to none, so check the approach road beforehand. You can park your car at the trailhead - at the side of the road, close to the wall. Make sure to not block the forest track, as it is used by the park guards, and - with winter snow - leave enough space for the snowplow to pass.
- The signposted hiking trails (red and white) starting from here will take you to the beautiful Pollino high plains and to the peaks of Monte Pollino, Serra del Pollinello, Serra Dolcedorme (a quite long approach way) and Serra del Prete.
- The nearest habitations are Voscari and Varco di Pollino (both of them belonging to the municipality of San Severino Lucano), about 11 km down the road to the north. The anfractuous and narrow asphalt road passes between high pastures before entering a vast beech forest. Here you may encounter horses and cattle crossing or grazing at the roadside.
- Madonna di Pollino (5,042ft / 1,537m): In proximity to the homonymous sanctuary 'Madonna di Pollino' ('Our Lady of Pollino'), so from San Severino Lucano just follow the indications for the santuary. The actual trailhead is somewhat hidden. You will find it right at the back of the mountain hut. At the end of the asphalt road there are sufficent parking opportunities. Where the road ends, turn left and simply follow the path uphill for approximately 200m. (The sactuary and the grotto of the Madonna can be found about 200m to the right, instead.) For the most parts the trail is well marked with the usual red and white signposts on boulders and tree trunks. It leads first to Piano Iannace, an extensive high plain, and, further uphill, to the high plain Piana di Pollino and the 'Great Pollino gateway' (ital. 'Grande Porta del Pollino'). From there turn left for Serretta della Porticella, Serra del Crispo and 'Giardino degli Dei' (engl. 'The Garden of the Gods'), right for the two peaks of Serra delle Ciavole.
- Alternatively, you may park the car already a few kilometers before reaching the sanctuary, at the roundabout ofFosso Iannace (4,117ft / 1,255m), and hike up the impressive Gole di Iannace, a canyon-like mountain gulch. This very interesting and sportful trail is a much more arduous approach way, though, especially in ascent. Be careful during the high water periods (the spring snowmelt) and while crossing the numerous timber bridges, as they might be slippery or in need of repair.
- Starting from Fosso Iannace and following the forest track to Madonna di Pollino in order to save the Gole di Inannace as the return path could be yet another and less exhausting alternative route.
Note: The sactuary itself will see the annual procession (with thousands of devotees) on the 1st Sunday of June (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) and on the 2nd Sunday of September.
- Lago Duglia (4,484ft / 1,367m): This might be your trailhead when approaching the Pollino Massif from a northeast direction, i.e. from Terranova di Pollino and Casa del Conte. There are a few road signs, but it is quite easy to find. The asphalt road, though, is in rather bad conditions and becomes regularly impassable both after abundant snowfall (all winter) and heavy rains (rest of the year). The easy hiking trails starting from this location are well recognizable and will lead to Serra del Crispo and Serra delle Ciavole (west), or to Toppo Vuturo and the Falconara (south, south-east).
- A fountain for replenishing water supplies can been found directly at the spacious and quite popular picnic area. Another well you will encounter somewhat further up the trail to Lago Fondo, a shallow pool which is used by local herdsman to water their cattle. Sometimes these herds are only guarded by herding dogs. But if you stay calm, avoid rapid moves and keep your direction, they eventually will lose interest and resume their business.
- Piano Ruggio (5,085ft / 1,550m): This wide and remote high plain is not signposted. It can be approached both from San Severino Lucano (passing Colle d'Impiso) and Viggianello / Rotonda (via Piano Pedarreto). During wintertime the access is limited to vehicles with snow chains and/or 4WD. It is situated at the feet of Serra del Prete (to the northeast) and encircled by the tree-covered slopes of Coppola di Paola, Timpone della Capanna, Timpone di Viggianello, and Mt. Grattaculo.
- Hiking paths starting from here include one to 'Belvedere del Malvento' and further up the south ridge of Serra del Prete, an easy roundtour to Coppola di Paola and, in a southernly direction, to the valley of 'Fosso Sambucoso' and a smaller mountain group (Timpa dell'Orso, Monte Grasta, Tavolara, Cozzi dell'Anticristo, Serra di Mauro etc.). There are two alpine huts located in this area: Rifugio de Gaspari and Rifugio Fasanelli.
The east (from San Lorenzo Bellizzi, Civita, Terranova di Pollino)
- Barile (2,125ft / 648m) and Sant'Anna (4,133ft / 1,260m): Both trailheads are approachable from San Lorenzo Bellizzi (south) and Terranova di Pollino (north). The latter is recommendable only with 4WD (or all terrain vehicles), though. Because of periodic landslides the country lanes are generally in bad shape, with frequently occuring tracts of dirt or gravel.
- Sant'Anna, a quaint rural chapel, is signposted. It is situated halfway between the rocky cliffs of San Lorenzo and Timpa La Falconara. From this location both peaks are easy to reach. The jagged rock face of the west shoulder of Timpa La Falconara makes a fantastic backdrop, and in late summer the whole area will take on the appearance of a grassland savanna.
- The location of Barile (the name 'Barile' derives from a nearby farm house) is the main entrance portal for anyone who wants to explore the magnificant gorges of the torrent Raganello (follow the road signs from San Lorenzo Bellizzi) - the Barile gorge (about 4km long) and, of course, the Raganello gorge (about 6km long). A steep and very rocky hike without obligatory path or any indications but with difficulties up to III (UIAA) - depending on the route of choice, leads up to the spectacular crest of San Lorenzo and follows the craggy and truely abyssal ridge ('Cresta delle Aquile') to the peak. Other rocks which can be accessed from this trailhead are Timpa di Cassano and Timpa di Porace.
- Colle Marcione is another interesting trailhead which can be reached by taking the ashpalt road that branches to the left short before the village of Civita. The condition of this serpentine road is rather okay. From this trailhead a hiking trail ascends towards the ridge between Timpa del Principe and Monte Manfriana. Also close are the peaks of Timpa di Porache and Timpa di Cassano. From there it is also possible to start exploring the high plain 'Bellizzi' or to descend to the canyon of the Raganello and the Barile gorge. A (closed) mountain hut is situated about two hundred meters from the actual trailhead from where you may enjoy the view on the impressive east face of Serra delle Ciavole and on the ridge that runs from Timpa del Principe to the summit of Serra Dolcedorme.
The south (from Castrovillari, Frascineto, Morano Calabro)
- Cozzo Palumbo (2,723ft / 830m) and Valle Piana (2,952ft / 900m): Approaching some of the highest peaks of the Pollino from their south side (Valle del Coscile), these two locations are the most popular trailheads. Both can be found only a few kilometers from the Calabrian village Frascineto and the town of Castrovillari. The altitude difference to be handled is often considerable higher than from the north or north-west. Hiking paths tend also to be steeper. It is a right choice for anyone planing for a slightly more demanding ascend, especially in winter, as the approach road is generally in fair conditions (free of snow and ice) and accessible all year round without snow chains.
- Seen from the south the Pollino massif and its peaks offer a completely different sight. The southern escarpment, its ridges and gullies hold some of the most beautiful ascent routes. There are several old hiking trails traversing the forest of Valle Cupa, but almost all of them are rather hard to recognize, partly overgrown, discontinued and may suddenly end - leading nowhere in particular. Because of the general lack of maintenace signposts are either absent or withered and open to interpretation. Orientation can become a serious problem, especially with low clouds and fog on the steep slopes and gullies.
- Note that Cozzo Palumbo is not signposted at all. It can be accessed only via two dirt tracks (one from Frascineto, the other from Castrovillari) which clearly have seen better times. Lately they have become almost impassible and can be recommended only with 4WD or similar vehicles. If you should want to take them anyway, you should leave the car immediately at the small bridge that crosses the highway A3 (Salerno - Reggio Calabria) and follow the trail that is skirting the pine plantation. Right at the end of the plantation turn left and follow the escarpment to the obnset of the south ridge of Serra Dolcedorme, or head straight for the valley (Valle Cupa).
Getting ThereThe nearest airports are Naples (about 230 km), Bari and Brindisi (also about 220-230 km). From Rome and its big international airports it is a considerably long journey of almost 450 km. There is limited public transport in this region.
Trains will go as far as Potenza and Matera (Basilicata, FAL) or Scalea or Sibari (Calabria, FS). Buses do operate infrequently between some of the bigger towns and villages, but are rather unreliable. Hence, visitors will mostly depend on private transport in order to reach the villages or trailsheads mentioned above.
The actual mountain roads are largely in bad conditions, especially the high passes might become impassable after snowfalls as road patrol service is scarcely to be seen around. If you should consider to visit the Pollino Massif between late October through early May, don't forget to bring snow chains or allow extra time for the approach way.
- from Napoli: Take the A3/E45 in direction Reggio Calabria, Salerno (about 195 km). Take the Exit (Uscita) Lauria Sud and follow the state the State Road SS19. At Castellucio Inferiore turn left and follow the indications for Viggianello or San Severino Lucano. - Alternatively, you may leave the A3/E45 at the location Pecorone and follow indications for the State Road SS653 (called "Sinnica"). Take the Exit Valle Frida and follow indications for San Severino Lucano.
- from Bari: Take the State Road SS100 (or the highway A14/E843) for Taranto. Turn left (indications for Jonica/Palagiano/Matera/Reggio Calabria) and take the coastal road E90. After passing Policoro pay attention, as he Exit can easily be miss, and turn left, taking the State Road SS653 (indications for "Sinnica". Take the Exit Valle Frida and follow indications for San Severino Lucano.
- from Brindisi: Simply take the E90 for Taranto and keep on this road. After Taranto follow the same indications as above (Bari). In case you should want to approach from the south, keep on the E90 and exit after Sibari, taking the SS534 (indications for Castrovillari). From here you can easily reach the villages of Civita, Frascineto, San Lorenzo Bellizi or Cerchiara di Calabria.
Flora and Fauna
Another very characteristic group, the so-called 'dancing trees', can be found in the 'Garden of the Gods', in proximity to Serretta della Porticella. Having being exposed for centuries to the strong and persisting uphill winds, the stems of these primordial giants are noticeably slated towards the mountain slope.
Lower regions hold a range of different oak trees, prevalently the Turkey Oak (Quercus cerris) and the Downy Oak (Quercus pubescens), but also alders, willows, poplars, chestnuts etc.
- http://www.parcopollino.gov.it - official web site of the Pollino National Park (in Italian only)
- http://www.parks.it/ - another page regarding the Natinal Park (in English and Italian language)
- http://www.bed-and-breakfast-in-italy.com/ - a list of accomodations (mostly B&B) in proximity to the Pollino Massif
- http://www.bbplanet.com/ - another page with Bad & Breakfasts of the the region
- http://www.avventurieridelsud.it/ - guided tours (canyoneering, rafting, Via Ferrata, trekking, climbing etc.)
Accommodation, mountain huts & campingThe best chance to find accomodation is in trying out one of the local town centers: Rotondo, Viggianello, San Severino Lucano, Terranova di Pollino or Civita. There are lots of smaller inns and Bed & Breakfasts. Especially Civita offers a great range of good value Bed & Breakfast opportunities.
Forgotten your tent pegs? An outdoor and sports wear store (Decathlon) can be found at Corigliano Calabro, about 15km south from the Exit for Castrovillari (state road SS92) following the E90 (Jonica: Taranto - Reggio Calabria).
- Rifugio de Gaspari (Piano di Ruggio, 5,036ft / 1,535m) - to reach both from Viggianello and San Severino Lucano and close to the trailheads Colle d'Impiso and Piano di Ruggio: open all year, with 3 rooms (with 4, 5 and 7 beds), bathroom with showers. Phone: (+39) 973 661 813. - currently in renovation!
- Rifugio Madonna di Pollino (Madonna di Pollono, 5,085ft / 1,550m) - accessable from San Severino Lucano (or Terranova Pollino) and close to the homonymous trailhead and the trailhead Bosco Iannace: Phone (+39) 973 576 418
- Rifugio Fasanelli (Piano Pedarreto, 4,396ft / 1,300m) - to reach from Rotonda, Mormanno and San Severino Lucano. Located close to the trailheads Colle d'Impiso and Piano di Ruggio. Rather expensive, but they do offer board and lodging, as well as excursions. Phone: (+39) 973 667 304 or (+39) 973 667 223 ( official webpage )
- Bivouac Colle Gaudolino (Colle Gaudolino 5,524ft / 1,684m) - situated right on the pass between the major peaks of Serra del Prete and Monte Pollino, it can be reached by feet from either Piano di Ruggio or Colle d'Impiso: always open, unguarded, no service, water can be found at a fountain nearby or the natural well "Spezzavummola".
In case of an emergency the distress call for both regions (Basilicata and Calabria) is 115.
Guidebooks & Maps
- Sui sentieri del Pollino, author: Giorgio Braschi, Edizioni Pugliesi, 2nd Edition 2007. - Without any doubt still the most recommendable guidebook to this region, with several detailed maps (scale 1:25.000), a large removable map (scale 1:50.000), numerous itineraries and comprehensive information about the geological origins of the massif etc.
- By the same author is also available a book with more than 250 photographs: Pollino. Viaggio interiore in una realtà irreale, Edizioni Pugliesi, 1990.
- In cammino sul Pollino. Natura, cultura, sentieri, authors: Luigi Troccoli abd Emanuele Pisarra , Edizioni Prometeo, 2nd edition (also in English translation?? not verified, yet). - A guidebook with 53 itineraries.
- Escursioni sul Pollino, author: Vincenzo Perrone, Il coscile Editore, 2nd Edition 1995. - A small but essential guidebook (pocket book) with removable maps.
- A piedi sul Pollino, author: Emanuele Pissara, Edizioni Prometeo, 2001. - Guidebook containing more than 100 itineraries
(with detailed descriptions, photographs and useful information).
- ESCURSIONI. Parco del Pollino, author: Michele Zanetti, Cierre Edizioni 2000. - Guidebook containing selected hiking trails and a few recommanded mountain bike tours.
- Il Pollino Orientale, author: Antonio La Rocca, Il Coscile Editore. - An interesting guidebook dedicated exclusively to the eastern parts of the Pollino massif.
- I 2000 dell’Appennino, author: A. Osti Guerrazzi, Edizioni Il Lupo, 2nd edition 2010. - The book contains a chapter dedicated to the mountains of the Pollino Massif and detailed descriptions of the standard itineraries (master routes) to the major peaks (Serra Dolcedorme, Monte Pollino, Serra delle Ciavole etc.).
- Carta Turistica - Parco Nazionale del Pollino, Edizioni Il Coscile, map scale 1:55.000
- Parco Nazionale del Pollino, Prometeo, map scale 1:65.000
- Fiori e piante del parco del Pollino, author: Liliana Bernardo, Prometeo, 3rd Edition 2001. - Field guide to flowers and plants of the Pollino National Park.