Perhaps only few people know it but the Pollino National Park is the largest protected area in Italy. Indeed, it extends over 192,565 hectares, stretching between the provinces of Potenza, Matera, and Cosenza.
The Park, which takes its name from the mountain massif of the same name, offers a territory of great beauty and richness of landscape that lends itself perfectly to active, sporty holidays.
Discover it by walking, mountain biking, Nordic walking or, in winter, snowshoeing, or engage in high-adrenaline activities such as rafting or canyoning.
Let’s mention some among the many routes available,
starting with the “La Serra di Crispo” ring-route that unfolds in the Lucan section of the Park. This is perfect for hiking enthusiasts who will enter the forests of Bosnian pines, fir trees, and white beech trees.
It is a circular itinerary, with departure and arrival at the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Pollino, an oasis of spirituality and tranquillity located at 1,537 metres of altitude. From here travellers will go along the Iannace Plane, the old route used by the Rueping woodland company (where, at the beginning of the last century, small cars were dragged by small locomotives), and climb towards the entrance of the Grande Porta del Pollino and then towards Serretta della Porticella. The landscapes are breathtaking.
Also, do not miss the travelling along the “Timpa delle Murge”, a path located in the wildest area of the Park. This, too, is circular, with departure and arrival at the Acquatremola clearing. By following this path, visitors will enjoy a geosite area (protected by Unesco), passing close to the geological masses of pillow lava, walking through centuries-old beech forests, and admiring the Catusa spring.
NORDIC WALKING: A RELAXING OPTION
The proposed route combines sport and spirituality. Indeed, it starts from Terranova di Pollino, and from its Sanctuary of the Madonna di Pietà (Our Lady of Piety). The path then travels for just 5 km (round trip), with a total difference in height of 200 metres, which makes it suitable for everyone.
ON FAT-TIRE BIKES
For bikers, here comes the LungoLao. The path starts from the charming lanes of Laino Borgo (a village of the province of Cosenza which features a beautiful historic centre) and travels for 7 kilometres along the River Lao, plunging into the hills.
Rocky landscapes, gorges, and canyons characterize, on the other hand, the “Timpa Falconara” ring-route, a trail slightly more challenging than the previous one which includes tracks and dirt roads, woods and pastures, coasting the “Timpa Falconara” for 23 km.
These were the lands run by feared brigands but also those of La Falconara, a spur of rock that stands out between Calabria and Basilicata, with its rocky slopes inclined and cut by the faults that make it unique in its kind.
Canyoning is not really an activity suitable for everyone, even more if it takes place in the "Garavina Gorge", a canyon dug by the Sarmento stream. Indeed, with its high rock walls it is best to explore it together with an expert guide after a long hike to approach it.
During the hike, visitors will stop in natural scenic spots, enjoying the play of colour of the water and rocks. One can even choose to enter the canyon from above, descending with a rope from a 40-metre waterfall.
Rafting is also high in adrenaline, and it includes sailing down the course of the river Lao in a dinghy. The river takes its name from the ancient city of Lao, in Magna Graecia. The river originates in Basilicata, right in the Pollino National Park, and then flows for 50 km into Calabria.
Thanks to the association Laorafting, visitors can test themselves (always in absolute safety) and challenge its rapids. A taste of Arizona right in Calabria...
AND IN WINTER? GET OUT YOUR SNOWSHOES...
In the cold season the best way to experience the Pollino National Park is on snowshoes, walking through beech and silver fir forests, immersed in the snow.
A beautiful excursion is that crossing the Cugno dell'Acero woods, in Terranova del Pollino (Basilicata), and then going on for 7 km starting from Lake Duglia and ending in Acquatremola, with its fountain of icy cold water. Simply unforgettable!