The Pollino National Park

Pollino National Park is Italy’s largest national park, covering 1960 square kilometres and bridging the regions of Basilicata and Calabria.

It was established in 1992 and includes both natural and archaeological places of interest. The remarkable scenery ranges from snow-capped peaks to ancient forest. The highest peak is Monte Pollino (2248m), where a climb to the summit will be rewarded with views of both the Tyrrhenian and Ionian coasts.

The park also protects a number of rare species including the Apennine wolf, wild cats and otters. There are a number of ways to enjoy Pollino National Park: on foot, by bicycle, on horseback, or, for those brave enough, by white water rafting. 

The park is an ideal location for hiking and offers a mix of stunning views combined with interesting flora and fauna. It is particularly beautiful in the spring but activities like rafting are popular all year round.

You can go to one of several visitor centres to view the many environmental projects which have been set up, such as organic farms and Eco hostels. In the Valle del Mercure, remains of Prehistoric species such as Elephas antiquus (Straight-Tusked Elephant) and Hippopotamus major (an extinct Hippo species) have been discovered. Rivers and streams include the Lao, Sinni, Coscile and Raganello.

The Pollino Park also holds smaller reserves inside it, these include:

Riserva Naturale Rubbio
This is a protected area in the Pollino National Park and has an peculiarly interesting part of the beech and fir woods of the Pollino Massif. It is a nice area to walk through and explore, with many types of bird and wildlife.

Riserva Nat. Area Piú Alta del Massiccio del Pollino
This is a protected area at the centre of the Pollino National Park, and is one of the most famous spots in the park to visit, being home to the Pollino massif which reaches heights of around 2300m.

Riserva Nat. di Monte La Spina
This natural reserve encompasses Monte La Spina. Near the mountain, but outside the reserve, lies Rotonda Lake which can disappear in the dry season.


National Park Val D’Agri Lagonegrese

The National Park of Appennino Lucano ‘Val d’Agri Lagonegrese’ is a protected area in Basilicata, and is the youngest National Park in Italy. It was established by Presidential decree on December 8th 2007. Situated in the province of Potenza, the Val d’Agri Lagonegrese Park is in the heart of the Lucanian Apennines.

It has a strong human presence with a population of 90,000, shown by its archaeological site and religious destinations, and covering almost 69,000 hectares, is home to the valley of the River Agri, holding beautiful views and varieties of wildlife. The mountains are populated largely by wolves and boar which live in the dense forest, and otters can be found in and around the streams and rivers. It also houses many ancient villages with beautiful churches, and other historical sites such as the archaeological site of Grumentum; the site boasts an ancient Roman city built in the 3rd century BC, of which some ruins remain, including the theatre, the italic little temple, the ‘house of mosaics’, the Forum, the Capitolium, the Augusteum, and the amphitheatre.

Other smaller reserves inside the Appennino Lucano ‘Val d’Agri Lagonegrese’ Park include:

App. Lucano M.te Volturino
Monte Vulture is located in the centre of the Lucanian Apennines; it has a rich forest with an assortment of trees and many walkways, making it perfect for hiking and seeing the views of the Appennino Lucano Val d’Agri Lagonegrese National Park. It is also famous for its hilly volcanic districts which are the perfect place to grow grapes; it is here that the Aglianico del Vulture (DOC) wine is made.

Riserva Nat. dell’Abetina di Laurenzana
This is a protected area managed by the province of Potenza and is a WWF Oasis. It is located in the Lucanian Apennines and is well known for its types of fauna and also the silver fir tree.

Riserva Nat. Lago Laudemio
The Regional Natural reserve of Lake Laudemio is very picturesque. The once glacial lake sits at on the slope of Monte Papa, part of the Sirino massif. It also has many places to eat in restaurants and converted farms in the area, along with hotels and shops.


The Gallipoli Cognato Park

The Gallipoli Cognato Park is far smaller in comparison; it covers 270 square kilometres and is located to the north of Pollino, in the heart of Basilicata. There is a striking contrast in the scenery here, from the bare sandstone peaks with a rugged, craggy appearance to the lush Cognato forest, which is carpeted in wild flowers during spring and ablaze with colour in the autumn.

The Lucanian Dolomites (Dolomiti Lucane) are a mountain range found within in the National Park of Gallipoli Cognato, in the heart of Basilicata. The beautiful Lucanian Dolomites are characterised by tall odd shaped peaks that suggested imaginative names, such as ‘the Eagle’, ‘the Anvil’, ‘the Big Mother’ and ‘the Owl’. They are part of a mountain complex that date back 15 million years. At the back of the Lucanian Dolomites are the evocative villages of Castelmezzano and Pietrapertosa, perched on the mountainside overlooking some dramatic valley scenery.

Gallipoli Cognato Park is ideal for hiking as is has a well signposted network of trails covering all terrain. The mountains here are also popular with rock climbers, horse riders and mountain bike enthusiasts. Accettura is another town within the Gallipoli Cognato Park and is famous for its annual ‘Il Maggio’ festival held in May. See events for more details.


Smaller reserves that are located inside the Gallipoli National Park include:

Riserva Antropologica Monte Croccia
The Monte Croccia Reserve is a protected area located in the Gallipoli Cognato National Park. It stretches along Monte Croccia and is home to many types of wildlife including birds, wolves, wild boar and more. The reserve is also home to a fortified town, and is an important archaeological site, alongside other fortifications such as the defensive system Lucane, a long wall around 2000 metres long.

Dolomiti di Pietrapertosa
The Lucanian Dolomites are located in the municipalities of Castelmezzano and Pietrapertosa and are where the Flight of the Angel takes place. Pietrapertosa itself is the highest in Basilicata;
it is located among the rocks of the Lucanian Dolomites and holds picturesque views of the Gallipoli Cognato Park. There is also a castle just behind the last of the houses in the village
which has now been restored and can be visited. This is a highly recommended trip to get a true
picture of not only the history and architectural elements but also stunning views of the surrounding forest, streams and river.