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The Parco Nazionale d'Abruzzo is certainly among modern Italy's proudest accomplishments. The 150,000 acre protected area receives 2 million visitors a year served by 7 visitor centres providing maps and information about 150 marked walking itineraries of varying length and difficulty and countless cycle trails.
Two thirds of the park is covered with huge forests of beech, pine, fir & oak to name but a few, home to a handful of formerly endangered species - the Apennine wolf, Marsican bear, fox, mountain goat and lynx.

Pescasseroli (known as the gateway to the park and accessed from the A25, Pescara to Rome autostrada, approx 50 miles), is a very popular summer and winter resort making it an ideal starting point for exploring the park.

The town itself is well worth a look - the picturesque Mancino Castle was once a pre Roman fortified township and San Pietro e San Paolo is a 14th century Cistercian cathedral with a Romanesque portal and bell tower.

For a great view of the whole Pescasseroli Valley, follow trail BN1, a moderately difficult 50 minute walk from the outskirts of the town, through the black pine forest to the magical ruins of the Mancino Castle.

The Italians have created "zoo reserves" in this area. These are wilderness areas where semi-tame wild animals can be approached - with caution

Other towns worth visiting in this area:
  1. Scanno - for its 13th century churches, one of which contains an elegant fresco of the Madonna and Child, as well as the panoramic Lake Scanno, a short drive away and a perfect place for a picnic.

  2. Barrea - for its ancient stone buildings, towers and medieval churches which are all the more dramatic against the background of mountain peaks. This medieval town is crowned with a 13th century cylindrical castle andt he cylindrical church of San Tommaso.
Guided tours of the park can be arranged in Pescasseroli at the Azienda Autonoma de Turismo (via Piave 67) or at Cooperativa Ecotur (via Vittorio Veneto 24).

In the summer Ecotur organises 5 hour guided hikes and half day bus tours. In July and August book in advance.

The other national and regional parks in Abruzzo:
  1. Parco Nazionale Del Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga, known for its dramatic mountains and ski resorts such as Prati de Tivo. The town of Castelli is known all over the world for its ceramics.

  2. Parco Regionale Sirente Velino with its famous Grotte di Stiffe, dramatic underground caves and lake. Well worth a visit.

  3. Parco Nazionale della Maiella where Abruzzo's largest ski resort, Roccaraso, is located as well as the "Grotta de Cavallone"

Like the National Park of Abruzzo, all the other parks are well served by visitor centres and have well marked hiking trails and numerous picturesque picnic spots.