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The Contessina  Holiday  Resort -visits to Natural Parks in Umbria

From a naturalistic point of view the landscape in Umbria is one of the most interesting and varied in Italy.  From the Apennine chain reaching the internal plains, the steep gorges, the softness of the hills, and more, lakes, waterfalls and extensive forests which represent the ultimate refuge for some of the rarest species of fauna life, such as the wolf, wild cat and golden eagle.

After  long and intense use of the forest's resources which Umbria was subjected to from Medieval times the tendency changed during the second half of the 20th century.   Trees were replanted and sensibility towards the environment grew,  all of this brought about  the introduction of many regional parks and one national park.


Mount  Cucco  Park

This is a protected territory situated in the north west part of the region and east of the Flaminia road. The name Monte Cucco comes from one or the most beautiful mountain peaks of the Umbrian Apennine.  Here you can admire the vast landscape from Mount Catria, Mount Nerone and along the Chiascio valley.

This natural environment is characterised by the highest quantity of beech-wood trees, there are some enormous examples which are over a hundred years of age along the Vai di Ranco and Pian della Macinare.  The pastures which suddenly appear together with the limestone rock famous for ammonite fossils.  Going round this limestone pyramid  of the mountain you can see the gorges of Gorghe and Rio Freddo.  Deep and narrow ditches produced by erosion of water forming waterfalls, rapids and small lakes.  The underwater streams have also created some of the most beautiful and deepest  caves in the world.  From the entrance on the north west side of the mountain the labyrinth of caves descends for about 20 km reaching a depth of 1,000 metres.  The park is the kingdom of the wolves and there are a significant number of them, it is not known the number of wild cats present.

Among the emerging fauna life to be noted are the wild boar, the fallow deer, the porcupine, the pine marten and the hare. Among the birdlife it is easy to see the alpine chough and on more than one occasion the golden eagle has also been seen. The grey partridge and the Greek partridge are very rare because of hunting. The Sentiero Italia (Italian Footpath) crosses the mountainous area of the park. This network of routes by CAI (Club Alpino Italiano) is perfect for horse-riding and mountain bike, and in the winter the Pian delle Macinare becomes a ski slope. Hand-gliding and caving excursions are organised inside the park.

  Mount  Cucco  Park Mount  Cucco  Park Mount  Cucco  Park

Trasimeno lake Park

The park covers Lake Trasimeno with its 128 kilometres square and is Italy's biggest lake. It includes three islands and all the banks of the lake, with two main urban centres:  Castiglione dei Lago and Passignano.

This protected area was established in order to defend Lake Trasimeno from tourists.  The lake has different depths varying from 3 and 6 metres. The low rainfall in the last few years and the lack of real inlets makes the water balance very delicate. However the lake is fit for swimming and the surrounding environment has been saved from building construction .  There are 3 islands to be found in the lake: Polvese Island; Maggiore Island wich is the only one inhabited

and Minore Island,  is private and no public access is allowed. The islands and the banks of the lake can be visited using a boat service.  Polvese Island can be seen in an hour by foot and is a naturalistic oasis with a vigorous plant life.  It is an important nest-building area for a great number of water birds:  herons, storks, wild swans, stilt-birds, cormorants.  There is a wide selection of fish fauna in the lake which includes: pike, eels, carp, bass, tench and chub.
  Trasimeno lake Park Trasimeno lake Park Trasimeno lake Park

Mount Subasio's Regional Park

The Subasio is an unmistakable mountain, possibly the region's most famous. It is somewhat isolated with a long and curved shape. The town of Assisi is situated at the bottom of the mountain and is part of the park. The mountain sides are steep and the top is mainly flat, but this land is characterised by important phenomenons such as the deep doline of Mortaro Grande and of Mortaro Piccolo, clearly visible from Mount Civitelle a mountain included in the Subasio relief together with that of Mount Sermolla, the San Rufino hills and the Pietralunga hills. The doline have in the past been utilised to produce ice which is conserved until the summer compressing the snow. Over most of the summit area red chips emerge.; From these the famous Assisi red rock is extracted. This is then used as building materials.

There is a road which passes over the mountain tops connecting Assisi to Spello and traces the track which was used by carts in the past. This road leads us to the meadows of Stazzi above Assisi and the sanctuary of the Madonna of Spella on the slopes of Spello. From Assisi, Valtopina and Nocera Umbra, walking, horse-riding or mountain bike trips can be organised along some easy routes. Despite large tourist appeal to Assisi, you can still find a few quiet areas where tourist haven't been. Going up the mountain side you will find an area of olive trees, then turkey oak trees, small oak trees, hornbeam, manna ash, maple, beech and holm oak and then followed by a third area of conifers introduced with re-planting. A precious jewel amongst the famous  holm oak groves, retaining all the appeal of a solitary place, is the Eremo of Carceri which you can reach by foot in about an hour after leaving Assisi.

  Mount Subasio's Regional Park Mount Subasio's Regional Park Mount Subasio's Regional Park

Colfiorito Park

This small park also included a plateau made up of seven small valleys between 750 and 800 metres in height, which at one time were the bottom part of an old lacustrian basin originally karstic, then dried up naturally and artificially by man.  Today the water which remains in the small valley at the end of the summer is the Palude di Colfiorite (marshland). This marshland of about 100 hectare is an important naturalistic area and was declared of international interest in 1972 by the Ramsar Convention regarding damp areas to be protected. The view is fantastic with its coarse cane thickets, and in the summer the large water lily. The peat bog is characterised by an exceptional presence of marshland vegetation and about 80 different species of bird life as follows: cinerino heron, red heron, bald coot, bittern, wild duck and shoveler. The eagle owl and the wild cat. Unfortunately this area is threatened by hunting, noise of vehicles and farming insecticides and pesticides. To complete a walk round the entire marshland it will take you about 4 hours. There are many footpaths and some of them can be used by disabled people. These footpaths lead to observatories where you can practice bird-watching. Inside the park there are interesting ruins of public and private buildings of the antique fortified city of Plestia, today called Pistia.


Mount Sibillini National Park

A third of the park, the part more fascinating, is to be found in Umbria, instead the remaining two thirds are in the Marche. The park penetrates inland until reaching the peaks of the Umbrian Marchigiano Apennines, Mount Vettore being the highest point and presents large areas which sometime recall alpine landscapes. It was here in 1993 in the mythical kingdom of Sibilla that the Mount Sibillini National Park was founded. The park is spread over 3 provinces, Perugia, Ascoli Piceno and Macerata. The western side presents three characteristic high level depressions - the Castelluccio Plains. There are over 50 species of mammals, 150 different bird species and 20 species of reptiles of which the Orsini Viper. The most significant species to populate the park are the wolves, the eagle owl and the peregrine falcon. Instead the Marchesoni Chirocefalo is a small shellfish which lives in the waters of Lake Pilato in the Marche at an altitude of 1949 metres. It is under a centimetre in length and can be recognised by its red colour and because it moves backwards with its stomach upwards. Even the flora is very rich: 1,800 species of which the Apennine alpine star, the alpine anemone, the martagon lily, the alpine aromatic plant and numerous orchids. But alongside nature there is the fascination of the abbeys, the castles from the towers of the medieval historical town centres to their dispersal at the foot of the mountain range. Day trips leaving from Norcia to the water meadows. Meadows irrigated and are also used in the winter to help the flow of water from the karstic springs.

  Mount Sibillini National Park Mount Sibillini National Park Mount Sibillini National Park

Tevere Fluvial Regional Park

This park covers an area of 50 kilometres from the Umbrian part of the river Tevere and the surrounding territory. It is considered of great environmental, cultural and archaeological value. Even though the river has been modified with the realisation of Lake Corbara and Lake Alviano, two artificial basins for the exploitation of hydroelectricity, this area is still very appealing. The course of the river Tevere isn't regular: from written correspondence of the Montemolino Bridge the river has been called the Furious because it flows so fast. Instead under Todi flows into the Tever Morto peacefully. Then it accelerates again threading its way for about 8 kilometres into the mouth of Forello which has been carved out over the years by the pressure of the water. It is at this point of the river the buzzard, the sparrow-hawk and the kite make their nests. Holm oak, hornbeam, broom and heather also grow in this area.

All the banks of the river are of great archaeological interest - from the roman furnaces of Scoppieto to the Necropolis of Vallone San Lorenzo.

  Tevere Fluvial Regional Park Tevere Fluvial Regional Park Tevere Fluvial Regional Park

River Nera Park

This is a park where water it the protagonist: the course of the river Nera with its tributaries of which the Velino precipitates down for 165 metres forming the spectacular Marmore waterfalls. The perpendicular gorges and ravines of the valley are fascinating. The plant vegetation is mainly beech-wood and pastures and it is here the peregrine falcon and the lanner falcon hunt. The territory is favoured by porcupine and wild boar, and is also home to some examples of wild cat. The park is also rich in historical artistic testimony, signs left by a thousand year old colonization of this wild land: bridges, windmills, towers, castles, fortified centres, and strips of land tiresomely turned to cultivation. Canoe, kayak and rafting can be practiced on the river Black. While on the walls of the rocks on the sides of the valley from Arrone until Ferentillo you can practice free style rock climbing.

  River Nera  Park River Nera  Park River Nera  Park
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