The Pollino National Park: Italy’s Largest Protected Area

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The Pollino National Park: Italy’s Largest Protected Area

In the province of Cosenza lies the largest protected area in the entire national territory. It is the Pollino National Park which, since its establishment in 1993, extends over 192,565 hectares and embraces Calabria and Basilicata. It involves a population of about 170 thousand inhabitants, distributed in 56 municipalities of the two regions. The symbol par excellence is the famous Loricato Pine (Pinus leucodermis). These are millennia-old trees (the oldest is 1280 years old) that manage to live where other species could not. The territory of the Pollino National Park ranges from the Tyrrhenian to the Ionian Sea and is the natural habitat of the golden eagle and the roe deer. It consists of three different mountain systems. In the center, we find the Massif of Pollino with peaks of about 2300 meters. It is separated from the Orsomarso Mountains (to the southwest) by the Campotenese Plain. The mountains are characterized by dense vegetation that secretly guards the beautiful valleys carved by watercourses such as the Argentino River and the Lao River. To the north is Mount Alpi (1900 meters) which boasts a different geological origin. The entire territory is of considerable value both for the richness of watercourses and springs and for the quality of ecosystems. The most important river basin on the Lucanian side is certainly represented by the Sinni River while on the Calabrian side it is the Lao River. Although it originates in Basilicata, taking the name of Mercure, immediately after the confluence with the Battendiero River it changes its name to Lao and is considered one of the healthiest watercourses in the south. The Raganello Gorges are made up of imposing ridges of smoothed rock, carved and shaped by the waters of the river, on the sides of which lush vegetation carpets are born. It is here that rafting enthusiasts engage in a fantastic experience. The Raganello Canyon is, in fact, according to many rafters, one of the most fascinating in Italy. In the Park, there are 4 Oriented Natural Reserves and 41 Sites of Community Importance (SCI). There are also 5 Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for the safeguarding of Birds. The isolated peaks of the Pollino contrast with solitary and small villages that make up the anthropic landscape.

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