Name: Monti Sibillini National Park
Size: 276 square miles (714 square kilometers)
Did You Know?
• Namesake Mount Sibilla is named for a legendary prophetess named Sibyl. Knights and other petitioners from across Europe made the arduous journey to her remote cave, the story goes, in hopes of gaining a few precious pearls of wisdom.
• Village Charm Eighteen charismatic towns, tucked in and among the mountains, are packed with historic art and abbeys, castles, and medieval town centers that evidence an ancient relationship between the land and its people.
• Towns Each community has its own character. Cessapalombo, meaning “cut-down forest,” dates to the third century B.C. and has a museum to charcoal burning, which was one of the early industries in the area. The valley of Acquacanina is a center of Benedictine abbeys, placed under direct Papal protection in 1192. The fortified town of Arquata is still surrounded by ancient walls and gates. And Visso, home of the park’s headquarters, is set among wooded hills where five river valleys converge in a location so inviting humans settled the spot 900 years before Rome was founded.
• Park Peaks Here in the heart of the Sibillini Mountains ten peaks soar above 6,560 feet (2,000 meters), led by Mount Vettore, which tops out at 8,123 feet (2,476 meters). The mountainous slopes that reach these dizzying heights are cut by narrow valleys and rushing rivers before giving way to pastoral alpine landscapes below the tree line.
• Plants and Animals The park is home to 1,800 plant species and a wild bouquet of mountain flowers including edelweiss, pasqueflowers, martagon lilies, bearberries, and various orchids. Animal life includes wolves and wild mountain cats as well as prickly porcupines. Roe deer have recently been reintroduced. Golden eagles, peregrine falcons, eagles, owls, goshawks, snow finches, and sparrow hawks fill the skies. And small invertebrates are among the more interesting inhabitants—several live nowhere else on Earth except in a lake here.
• Local Flavor The Sibillini Mountains have some outstanding culinary offerings. Perched between the Marches and Umbria, a smorgasbord of cured meats is always on offer. Other tasty local fare includes apples, honey, truffles, mushrooms, chestnuts, chickpeas, and vin cotto or cooked wine.
How to Get There
Trains stop in Ascoli Piceno, Spoleto, and Camerino. Bus routes also serve these towns and reach Fermo as well.
When to Visit
Winters in the mountains are cold and snowy yet beautiful, especially to cross-country skiers and other winter sport enthusiasts. And the region’s thermal springs are especially welcome at this time. Spring brings the blooming of alpine flowers, and when truly warm weather hits the entire spectrum of outdoor activities is in full swing.
How to Visit
Monti Sibillini National Park is an adventure sport center. Mountain biking, horseback riding, hang gliding, paragliding, and climbing are all popular activities here. But other visitors happily stick to town streets and enjoy the artistic, cultural, culinary, and historic traditions that have arisen and endured here over the centuries.