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casentinesi forest
Photo ©aurelio candido

Casentinesi Forests National Park: a spectacular discovery

Casentinesi Forests National Park is one of the largest areas of forest in Europe, extraordinarily rich in flora and fauna and located between Tuscany and Emilia Romagna.

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The Casentino is crossed by the tributaries of the river Arno and extends from Monte Falterona to the Mandrioli Pass.

This area can be visited either on foot, by bike or on horseback, along a network of over 650 km worth of trails. Casentinesi Forests are great natural and historical discoveries that can be the perfect place to soak up nature and understand the historical relationship between human settlements and landscape.

There are also the ancient forests of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, which once supplied wood to the arsenals of Livorno and Pisa and served as raw materials for the Opera del Duomo in Florence.

Mule tracks, bridges, churches, villages, abbeys, monasteries and mystical places add charm to these places, and these suggestions will enhance your already spectacular experience.

Acquacheta waterfalls: among the most interesting hiking trails found in the area, one culminates with the Acquacheta waterfalls. The Acquacheta is the most important tributary of the river Montone and before reaching San Benedetto in Alpe it drops into a spectacular cascade of more than 70 metres, the same described by Dante in the sixteenth canto of the Inferno. The Acquacheta waterfall can only be reached after a few hours’ hike, from three different routes, depending on your physical ability and the weather conditions. The easiest and most popular route starts in the village of San Benedetto in Alpe (495 m), which can be reached by car from San Godenzo through the Muraglione Pass. From here, you can begin a two-hour trail, which ascends to the famous waterfalls (720 m).

Into the Casentinesi Forests National Park
Into the Casentinesi Forests National Park - Credit: massimosalento25

Casentinesi Forests National Park peaks: the largest mountains of the Casentinesi Forests are located on the eastern side of the Park, an area entirely covered by beech trees. Along the southern slopes of the Mount Falterona, at 1358 m, flows a large spring called Capo d’Arno that is considered to be the origin of the main Tuscan river, the Arno.

For another special view, climb the Monte Penna, where you will be able to look out over the entire Lama Forest, a collection of centuries-old trees, as far as the eye can see.

Lago degli Idoli: the “Lake of the Idols” is the most important archaeological site of the Castentino area, where many Etruscan ruins have been found throughout the centuries. Monte Falterona was a sacred mountain to the Etruscans, who put their gifts into the Ciliegeta Lake, located near the source of the Arno River. Some of the remains found here are preserved in the British Museum in London and the Louvre in Paris.

Camaldoli Monastery: this place is linked to the figure of the Benedictine monk San Romualdo, founder of the Camaldoli order, who arrived in the Casentino valley at the foot of the Apennines in 1012 with his disciples. Here, he constructed a sacred hermitage. Read also “Sleep at monasteries in Tuscany".

La Verna Sanctuary: the sanctuary at La Verna, which is one of the most important Franciscan sanctuaries in the world, dates to the start of the third century and is largely connected to the figure of San Francis of Assisi. La Verna is an extraordinary place not only for its history but also for the incredible nature that surrounds it.

La Verna sanctuary
La Verna sanctuary - Credit: Giulia Piepoli