The Abruzzo National Park (w www.parcoabruzzo.it) is an area of exceptional biodiversity with around a hundred indigenous species.
One of the most important animals in the park is the Marsican brown bear. Until recently an endangered species, there are now thought to be around thirty to fifty in the park, but they are extremely shy, solitary and lazy, and difficult to spot – you’re more likely to find traces of their presence than see an actual bear. The Centro Visita dell’Orso at Villavallelonga has 3D displays on the evolution of bears in the park, as well as the opportunity to admire some actual bears (from a distance), in the nearby reserve.
Another key park inhabitant is the Apennine wolf, of which there are around forty to fifty. As with the bears, the wolves offer no danger to humans, and they are also difficult to spot – the closest you’re likely to get to either in the wild are footprints in mud or snow. Look out, too, for chamois, deer and roe deer, wildcats, martens, otters, badgers, polecats and the edible dormouse. Wolves can also be seen at the dedicated wolf museum at Civitella Alfadena; others can be seen close up at the fascinating clinic and natural history museum in Pescasseroli.
Among birds, the park’s species include the golden eagle, the peregrine hawk, the goshawk and the rare white-backed woodpecker. Higher up are snow finch, alpine accentor and rock partridge.
The park’s flora includes many local orchids, of which the most important variety is Venus’s little shoe or Our Lady’s slipper, which thrives on the chalky soil in the park. There are also gentians, peonies, violets, irises and columbines, and black pine woods at Villetta Barrea and the Camosciara.