Sila National Park

Sila National Park

Things to do - general

The Sila National Park is located in the heart of the Sila and extends for 73,695 has assuming an elongated north-south form. The park is located in Lorica, while the perimeter involves three of the five Calabrian provinces, the Province of Catanzaro, the Province of Cosenza and the Province of Crotone.

The Park was established in 1997 with law n. 344, while the definitive establishment took place by Decree of the President of the Republic on November 14, 2002, after a political process started in 1923, when in Italy serious talk was started about natural protected areas, establishing the first national parks. Inside the Sila National Park houses one of the most significant biodiversity systems. The symbol of the Park is the wolf, a species looted for centuries and fortunately survived until 1970, when a law was instituted in favor of its protection.

The International Coordinating Council of the MAB Program (Man and the Biosphere Program), during its 26th session in Jönköping in Sweden, approved Sila’s registration as the 10th Italian Biosphere Reserve in the World Network of Excellence Sites of the UNESCO.

Inside the Park there are 3 of the 6 artificial basins present on the Sila plateau and its wooded area is very wide, so much so that among the Italian National Parks it is the one with the highest percentage of wooded area, around 80 % of the total, consisting mainly of beech and pine forests of the typical silane pine (Pinus nigra laricio). There are wide valleys that open along the ridges of the Park where pastoralism is practiced, with forms of transhumance and pasture that still resist today, and agriculture linked above all to the cultivation of the potato of Sila I.G.P ..


Geographical areas: 

The perimeter of the Park embraces all three silane regions (Sila Greca, Sila Grande, Sila Piccola). The areas most involved are the Sila Grande and the Piccola, while only the areas with greater naturalistic interest of the Sila Greca have been included in the Park.

  • As for the Sila Greca range, which is the northernmost area, this is the least affected area. The Park embraces the Monte Paleparto (1,481m), Mount Altare (1,653m) and Monte Sordillo (1,551m); this geographical area ends with the Cecita lake and the Campo San Lorenzo plateau which, however, do not fall within the confines of the Sila park.
  • The central belt is that of the Sila Grande, the largest area and that includes the major peaks of the entire Park, as well as all the main water basins, the various SIC and SPAs; the main peaks that are part of this range are Mount Botte Donato (1.929m) the highest mountain of Sila, the Montenero (1.881m), the Porcina Mountains (1.826m), Monte Curcio (1.768m), the Monte Volpintesta (1,729m), Monte Carlomagno (1,669m) and Monte Scuro (1,621m); the water reservoirs belonging to the Park that fall within this zone are the Arvo lake and the Ariamacina lake, the former Lake Votturino, which was emptied between the end of the eighties and the beginning of the nineties, erroneously appeared on some geographical maps; this area includes the large valleys of Macchiasacra and Macchialonga, as well as numerous other smaller valleys; this geographical part ends with the Ampollino lake which delimits the last area of Sila;
  • The Sila Piccola strip starts from Lake Ampollino up to the tourist villages of Catanzaro; The Monte Scorciavuoi belt (1.745m) is part of the Park, with the peaks of the Timpone della Guardiola (1.667m) and the Timpone della Monaca (1.598m), separated by the Valle del Tacina with the Monte Gariglione belt (1.765m) ), with the peaks of the Petto di Mandra (1,681m), the Cozzo del telegrafo (1,679m) and the Timpone Morello (1,665m), this section separated by the Vallone del Soleo from the last strip of the Sila Piccola and the Park, that of Monte Femminamorta (1.730m), with the peaks of the Timpone Vecchio (1.648m) and the Timpa del Cucco (1.507m); in the Sila Piccola belt there are numerous valleys among which the main one is certainly the Valle del Savuto, crossed by the only great river silano that flows into the Tyrrhenian Sea.

La Sila is the wettest part of Calabria and the main watersheds are located on this territory, as well as the main regional waterways that flow on the Sila. The current silane lakes are all artificial, made in the first half of the last century. The basins were built in particularly marshy areas, in wide valleys, particularly favorable in hosting water basins, considering the geographical position and the geology of the land.

The main watercourses that cross the Park area are the river Crati and the river Neto, the two longest and most important rivers of Calabria. They are associated with a series of tributaries, some very relevant for biogenetic symbiosis,

River Source Length Main municipality crossed Other municipality crossed
Crati Timpone Bruno 91 Cosenza  
Lese Monte Pettinascura 43 Savelli  
Mucone Fallistro 57 Camigliatello Silano of  Spezzano della Sila  
Neto Timpone Sorbella 80 San Giovanni in Fiore Rocca di Neto
Savuto loc. Spineto 48 Aprigliano Nocera Terinese
Trionto Monte Paleparto 41 Acri Longobucco

The silani lakes that fall into the territory of the Park are 3: Lake Ampollino, Lake Arvo and Lake Ariamacina. There is also a basin, now completely empty, which is Lake Votturino, also present in the territory of the Park.
Of note is the presence of certain lakes of the past, extinct thousands of years ago due to erosion of their thresholds. These lakes are the Mucone, which affected almost the area of the current Lake Cecita, and Lake Trionto, located in Difesella di Trionto. In both cases traces of Pleistocene deposits containing organic material have been found, elements that would presume the existence of lakes.

Lake Main tributary Surface Common falling Other common falling
Arvo river Arvo 8 km² San Giovanni in Fiore Aprigliano
Ampollino river Ampollino 5.59 km² San Giovanni in Fiore Cotronei
Ariamacina river Neto 1 km² Serra Pedace Spezzano Piccolo
Votturino   1 km² Serra Pedace


Sports & nature

Mountain bike excursions, thanks to a series of cycle-tourist routes;
Trekking on the numerous paths traced by the CAI;
Horseback riding at the numerous stables that are located inside the park;
Cross-country and downhill skiing at the tourist centers of Carlomagno (for cross-country skiing), of Lorica (cross-country and downhill skiing) and of Camigliatello Silano (downhill skiing);
Sailing and canoeing at Lake Arvo and Ampollino;
Canyoning and canyoning;
Bio and bird-watching at Lake Ariamacina;
Open Farms
Park train

History & Cutlure


The prehistoric settlement and the first temporary settlements
In 2004 the surveys of the Superintendence for the Archaeological Heritage of Calabria began, which revealed - among other things - a vast prehistoric settlement dating from the end of the Neolithic period (3800 BC) and the beginning of the Eneolithic (3300 BC). ). The prehistoric settlement is located near Lake Cecita, near Camigliatello Silano, on the border with the Sila National Park, and on the site have been found findings such as bowls, olle, lithic axes, flint blades and obsidian.

The Sila was considered a mountain of great importance, to be protected for the hydrogeological structure of the region. Some historians such as Tito Livio or Strabone inserted in the "Sila region", also the offshoots that descend to the Piana di Sibari and in some historical texts, all the mountainous areas of Calabria up to the ancient Rhegion (Reggio Calabria) were called Silva . In Greek and Roman times, the populations never managed to go beyond the first offshoots of the plateau as did the Itali, Enotri and Morgeti. However, they are all areas that are outside the current perimeter of the National Park, as well as the many findings of rock dwellings found in the territories of the municipalities that are part of the Park.

In the following centuries other populations tried to colonize the silane area like the Bruzi, but even in this case these populations could not settle permanently in the innermost areas of the plateau. The Bruzi were the population that most exploited the sila lands and possessions: they lived in the Sila during the more temperate periods, crossing it to shelter it and to engage guerrillas against the Greek colonists. The sybaritids also used the Sila as a place for hunting and pastoralism, and several times managed to cross it to found their colonies in hilly areas or on the Tyrrhenian coast. La Sila in this historical period, was therefore used as a large reservoir for the exploitation of some materials (timber) or as an impervious place in which fleeing people could find quiet shelters, such as Spartacus who took refuge there before being defeated by Marco Licinio Crassus in the land of Puglia.

From the Middle Ages to the unification of Italy
Until the Middle Ages, the populations were unable to create stable urban centers, in 1189 the abbot Gioacchino da Fiore climbed the western slopes of the plateau and on the eastern crest of the crossroads he founded a large abbey. The monastery was founded in 1500 by the town of San Giovanni in Fiore first stable urban center built on the Sila beyond 1000m The place chosen by Gioacchino, according to recent studies had already been inhabited in a stable way by a few centuries before, by the Longobards, so 'is that today this place is referred to as Faradomus. From the arrival in Sila of Florentine monks, the area of ​​the Park, as well as the whole Sila, was divided into Sila Badiale and Sila Regia: the first comprising the lands granted in donation by Henry VI, the second comprising the lands of the royal estate. This division was maintained for many centuries. It is to be noted as before the arrival of Gioacchino da Fiore, the Sila was a land of conquest by the Basilian monks who built some rock settlements here. In this period some cultural centers flourish, some linked to the figure of the abbot Joachim as the abbey of Corazzo in the Sila Piccola in the town of Carlopoli, others as autonomous as the Franciscan center of Pedace.

From 1500 onwards, the areas of the Park suffered violent attacks and devastation by farmers and farmers of San Giovanni in Fiore, but also by the common Presilans such as Aprigliano, Albi, Magisano and Spezzano Grande, who needed areas to cultivate. The protests often resulted in reprisals against the forest itself forced to suffer numerous fires and indiscriminate cuts. The situation became so dramatic that it pushed the government to send officials who saw what happened. They found themselves in front of "gloomy and infernal" scenarios both Giuseppe Maria Galanti, who arrived in Sila in 1792, and Giuseppe Zurlo in 1852. Both officials found the tangible signs of the fires that destroyed many hectares of woods. The areas of the Park most affected were those of the Sila Grande and especially the areas of the Sila Piccola.

At this time the centers of the pre-province area of ​​Cosenza began to develop a certain interest for the most inland areas, especially in the agricultural field as well as in the exploitation related to grazing. At the beginning of the 1800s the cultivation of the potato began to assert itself, which soon became a peculiarity of the Sila areas and of the National Park in particular, so as to obtain, in the future, the prestigious PGI recognition with the "Patata della Sila" brand.

The XX and the XXI century
So.Fo.Me. workers intent on breaking down a giant pine in the Sila Piccola
Between the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century many areas of the Park are subject to major changes followed by signs of profound renewal that structurally change the territory. The first sign of renewal was the planning and planning of the "transilan" railway that was to connect Cosenza with Crotone. Despite the use of high engineering for the time, the work progressed in fits and starts and the route was never completed, with the last section opened only in 1956. The railway system was seen not only as an infrastructure capable of breaking the isolation of the silane areas and in particular of San Giovanni in Fiore, but also as an industrial means to operate in Sila a cutting-edge forestry industry.

The wood industry and the problem of the Gariglione
Symbol of the wood industry in Sila is certainly the Gariglione that in the first decades of the twentieth century suffered a very important deforestation action by the So.Fo.Me. (Southern Forestry Society). The area of ​​the Gariglione and of the Sila Piccola in general, was characterized by a dense forest formed by old trees of beech, pine and fir, majestic trees with a diameter that exceeded the 2m wide. Many forest companies from outside the region, began to cut in Massive way the forests of the Sila Piccola. The intensive use of the forest lasted about 20 years, from 1929 to 1949, and thousands of ancient trees were cut down [88]. The timber was so abundant that to better carry out the work, the wood industries decided to build on-site, rural villages to accommodate the workers. In addition, both cableways and narrow-gauge railways were built, including the Decauville Gariglione-Differenze Railway, a decommissioned forest railway, for the transport of logs to the port of Crotone.

The deforestation of the Gariglione stopped only during the First World War, a favorable moment to ignite the debate in Parliament in 1923, on the establishment of a protected area in Sila to safeguard the enormous forest heritage. The areas of the Park suffered other deep wounds, both during the Second World War, with a strong demand for timber for war purposes [88], and as a war pledge by the Anglo-American allies, who, without any forestry criteria, caused death to a very stimulating amount of ancient trees. The forestry situation became so dramatic that the Government first instituted some laws of agrarian reform and set up an institution responsible for the management of the silane areas: this is how the Sila Development Work began in 1950.

Birth of the silane lakes and tourist villages
Other great and profound renewal was given by the creation of the silani lakes. The industrial prospect linked to the Sila, referred to the birth of an energy industry, and huge investments were made in this sense. The dams that formed the basins of Lake Ampollino (1927) and Lake Arvo (1931) were built (the Crotone-Timpa Grande Railway was built to facilitate the transport of materials), connected to each other by means of a forced duct, which serve the hydroelectric plants of Calusia (Caccuri) and Timpagrande (Cotronei). After the Second World War the water basins of the Cecita lake (1951) and the Ariamacina lake (1956) were built, connected to each other and feeding the power stations of Mucone I and II and of Vaccarizzo.

The birth of the lakes significantly changed the territorial system of Sila and produced not only an industry linked to energy, but they were also centers where to build tourist villages. At the beginning of the century the tourist villages of Lorica, on the Arvo lake, and of Trepidò, were born on Lake Ampollino. Also significant was the then rural village of Camigliatello when a few kilometers away was the Cecita lake. From the fifties are also the tourist villages of Sila Piccola, such as Villaggio Mancuso and Racise, born as hospitable mountain destinations for citizens of Catanzaro. In the fifties thanks to the agricultural reform, in the area of ​​the Park, many rural villages such as Rovale, Cagno and Germano were built in the municipality of San Giovanni in Fiore, Sculca, Righio and Croce di Magara in the municipality of Spezzano Sila, Cava di Melis in the municipality of Longobucco, Caporose and Tassitano in the municipality of Aprigliano, Bocca di Piazza in the municipality of Parenti. Many of these villages still retain an agricultural peculiarity, while some of them have become holiday resorts.

Gastronomy and craftsmanship:
The Parco della Sila is home to numerous agro-silvo-pastoral companies that concentrate their activities in specialized agriculture. For centuries the agro-forestry-pastoral activities (together with the activities related to the forest supply chain) occupy an important place in the economy of the Silane plateau. The Sila soils have always been favorable to some crops such as vegetables and fruits (especially apples), and especially for the cultivation of the potato in the variety of the potato silana which has been recognized the brand I.G.P. in 2010. Potatoes together with mushrooms, of which Sila is the richest part of Italy with Camigliatello Silano, which is the most important mushroom market in Italy, are the elements that most distinguish the gastronomy of Sila and the municipalities of Park in general.

As far as animal husbandry is concerned, this is characterized by a wide spread of cattle breeders of podolica breed, but also sheep. In Sila there is still the use of transhumance and alpine pasture, and the breeding of cattle lends itself especially to the cheese production of some cheeses such as provola, burrino, and especially Caciocavallo Silano, cheese that has obtained the PDO mark, one of the oldest cheeses of southern Italy in spun dough. The cheese category also includes ricotta, caciotta and giuncata. The production of high mountain meats and the use of products derived from the typical Calabrian black pig, such as sausages, pancetta, soppressate and capocollo is also ample. The use of local products such as flour starch for the production of Pane della Sila, chestnuts and walnuts for the composition of foods such as chestnut bread or pitta 'mpigliata typical Christmas cake is significant. Ample use is also made of berries such as blackberries, strawberries, currants and raspberries especially in preserves. Also worthy of mention is the production of extra virgin olive oil in the areas associated with the Park, such as the oil of Machesato di Crotone PDO, the Calabria IGT wine, some liqueurs and distillates and preserves including cooked must.

As for the craft sector to underline the textile art still in use in the municipalities of Longobucco and San Giovanni in Fiore, while for the woodworking artisan workshops are reported in all the centers of the Park. Even the processing of stone, especially silane granite, is still widespread and performed by skilled stonemasons.

Culture and places of particular historical interest

The historical centers that fall entirely within the perimeter of the Sila National Park are three: Longobucco, Magisano, and Zagarise. Among the most important historical and artistic centers, Taverna is certainly worth mentioning, with the museum of Mattia Preti and the churches of San Domenico (XVII century) and Santa Barbara. Another important historical center rich in art and history is that of Rossano, which houses the ancient Church of San Marco of Byzantine origin, the Cathedral of Maria Santissima Achiropita and numerous noble palaces, while outside the old historic center in the Sila The Santa Maria del Patire Abbey from the 12th century is located in the Greek area.

San Giovanni in Fiore is the main center of the Sila, and has one of the largest historical 

centers of Calabria, rich in churches such as the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie (XVI century), the Church of Santa Maria della Sanità (XVII century) , the Convent of the Capuchin Fathers (seventeenth century) and above all the ancient Florense Abbey of the twelfth century [101]. in the historical center are the Demological Museum of economy, work and social history of Sila and the Saverio Marra photographic archive, as well as historical noble palaces. Spezzano della Sila presents numerous churches including San Pietro, San Biagio (XV century), and the Franciscan Convent. Also worthy of mention is the 18th century Santa Spina sanctuary of Petilia Policastro.

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