In the heart of Montefeltro, in the northernmost area of the Umbrian-Marche Apennines, there is a protected area of almost 5,000 hectares, one-third of which is situated in the municipality of Pennabilli, the southernmost town in Emilia-Romagna.
In a landscape of gently rolling green hills, two colossal rocks with flat peaks emerge as if they were giants. Facing each other, for millions of years, the large limestone boulders of Sasso Simone and Simoncello, along with Mount Carpegna with its 1415-metre peak, have defined the horizon of the entire area.
Their profile is unmistakable: visible from the Adriatic, they have always been a fundamental landmark for those crossing the region, imposing themselves on lines of sight and exercising a great evocative force.
Around them, there are woods, meadows and rural areas dotted with castles, fortresses and villages that tell fascinating stories, such as the fortress-village of Sasso, built by Cosimo the First de’ Medici around the middle of the sixteenth century.
The environment and scenery
The park is filled with a very diverse range of vegetation. The area around the Sassi [the two rock formations] is characterised by a large forest dominated by turkey oak, considered one of the most extensive in Europe. Other areas, however, contain mixed forests of hazelnut and maple trees, which offer an incredible display of light and shade in the autumn.
At the centre, the profile of Mount Carpegna is mostly covered by upland meadows, which are painted with a carpet of orchids, crocuses and buttercups in late spring.
The variety of different environments favours an abundance of wildlife. Alongside the typical hill and mountain mammals, including the wolf, there is the significant presence of daytime and nocturnal birds of prey, such as the sparrowhawk, the goshawk, the golden eagle and the peregrine falcon.
What can you do there?
For those who want to visit and discover the beauties of the park, there are a number of different itineraries available, depending on your interests. In summer and winter, you can do a wide range of different sporting activities to experience the park’s natural environments first-hand, learn about the geological peculiarities and the botanical rarities, or even meet the wildlife or discover the artistic and monumental remains in the area.
On foot, on horseback or by mountain bike, the whole area is served by an internal network of pathways that allow you to reach almost all the main excursion destinations, among which are the last two sections of the Alta Via dei Parchi ridgeway that leads from Mount Fumaiolo to the Madonna del Faggio Hermitage.
Finally, the whole area is equipped with picnic areas and recreational vehicle parking for its guests and also a Nature Museum (Pennabilli) and a Wildlife Park (Pian dei Prati), with both domestic and wild animals and environmental education centres.