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Photo © Darmanin
Photo © Darmanin

Alpe della Luna Natural Reserve

Naturalistic attractions

Woods, flowers, waterfalls and legends, in the heart of the Apennines

The Alpe della Luna Nature Reserve is located in the heart of the Apennines, on the mountains that stretch across the municipalities of Pieve Santo Stefano, Badia Tedalda, Sansepolcro and Sestino, among tranquil villages and forest-covered hills. 

The most spectacular place is the Ripa della Luna, a 200-meter-high rocky wall in the shape of a scythe on the northern slope of Monte dei Frati, the highest in the reserve at 1453 meters. Perhaps it was this particular form that gave the name to the peak, or maybe the rituals dedicated to the moon, which apparently took place here in ancient times.

All around the Ripa, the slopes are covered by dense and splendid vegetation, consisting mainly of secular beech trees, among which stand out holly trees and colorful carpets of crocus, cyclamen and deer grass.
In late spring, the pastures fill with the purple blooms of the lunaria, which owes its name to its rounded fruits, which, once dried, are also known as "Pope's medallions".
The, in autumn, the forest is tinged with a thousand shades of gold, red and orange.

Alpe della Luna Natural Reserve
Alpe della Luna Natural Reserve - Credit: Darmanin

In the silence and peace of the forest, fallow deer, stags and roe deer graze in the meadows, as birds of prey like the sparrow hawk or the majestic golden eagle circle in the sky.

At the foot of the mountain, not far from the borders of the Reserve, the erosion of the waters has carved a cascade of sparkling waters in the sandstone near the Sasso Spicco, forming a natural shelter. Here, according to tradition, St. Francis descended from the Montecasale hermitage to sing the praises to God in the moonlight.
These landscapes also inspired the art of Piero della Francesca, born in nearby Sansepolcro.

The legend of the Alpe della Luna

It's the Middle Ages. Manfredi was a knight and Rosalia "only" a country noblewoman; they shared a passionate love that was hampered by their families.
Their romantic nights were spent in secret, whispering words of love from the balcony. On the night of a full moon, while looking out, Rosalia said: "See sir, if, when the moon seems to be resting on the Alp, one could touch her, she could ask for what she wants and would be answered. The old people tell us that there are immense treasures on the Alp. But no one has ever been able to touch the moon and take the treasures. Those who have gone have never returned because the Alp comes from the moon and she kills those who dare to approach "Manfredi, fearless, decided to risk the danger and venture in search of the treasures of the "moon". Courageous Rosalia, decided to accompany him out of love, but nobody has ever seen them return.

A few centuries ago, coal merchants and foresters said that on full moon nights they heard the gallop of two horses and saw two nearby shadows with their hands stretched upwards, in a desperate attempt to touch the moon.