The remoteness and height of the Abruzzo mountains, the depths of its native forest and the careful protection afforded by national and regional parks has preserved one of the last Italian refuges of some wonderful wildlife.
Hanging on in the quietest corners of the Abruzzo National Park and, perhaps, the Maiella is the Marsican Brown Bear. It is feared there may be just 60-90 individuals left and you are unlikely to see one. Evidence of their passing might be encountered though – paw prints and scat. You are even more unlikely to meet a European Lynx but it has been spotted and thought to have a reasonable chance of survival provided levels of protection are maintained. Wild cats and pine martens too, live a rare and secluded life in the forests.
In the same areas, grey wolves are doing better. Still very rare, their numbers are slowly increasing (between 100-200 individuals in the Abruzzo National Park) and tracks at least can be spotted in the more remote areas.
Easier to come across in all three National Parks are Abruzzi chamois living in large family groups on the bare rocks above the tree line.
Red deer and roe deer are relatively common throughout the forested areas. The magnificent sound and sight of rutting red deer stags in the autumn is unforgettable.
If you are lucky otters can be seen in the rivers of the Maiella National Park. The Orfento valley is a potential spot.
The most common of the large mammals is the wild boar – since it’s reintroduction it has become well established. You may come across them in the forest (if they haven’t sensed your arrival first).
Click here to see a great little film of the comings and goings in the Monte Genzana Nature Reserve, the forested mountain slopes behind Casa La Rocca.
In the skies above the wilder parts of the region, golden eagles drift on the thermals. The Celano gorge, Opi and the Fara San Martino gorge are good spots for viewing. Peregrine falcons swoop and plunge above the cliffs where they nest – try the old quarries near the house which are a favourite haunt. In the woods, the cries of woodpeckers and jays are common whilst, on the high crags, the sharp whistle of choughs is an equally frequent part of the mountain soundtrack.
The flora of upland Abruzzo is simply stunning in the spring. The retreating snows trigger an explosion of bright growth – crocus, mountain pansies, gentians, poppies, beautiful creeping alpines and, in places, the edelweiss. Lower down, the woods and valleys fill with a profusion of flowering plants from the end of winter to late summer, with a variety of orchids prominent, whilst the extensive beech, pine, oak and birch forests are a spectacle in their own right.