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Fioio Valley

An Abruzzo Bear & Wolf Paradise Lost?

by Francesco Ferreri

Fioio Valley

Walking alongside bear & wolf trails won’t soon be an option in the Fioio Valley, a pristine mountain valley that traces the / border in the heart of the Simbruini-Carseolani mountain range. Action has to be taken to stop the plans to build a road right across this Special Protection Zone, Site of Community Importance that straddles the “Monti Simbruini Regional Natural Park”.

The Lazio town of has been allotted funds to convert a mule track into a road through this vital habitat and environmental heartland that cushions so many protected animals from the traumas of living alongside the C21st lifestyles of Italians.  Its deep heart is home to the brown bear (ursus arctos marsicanus), the wolf (canis lupus italicus), the white-backed woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos) and many more, alongside several floral species. It is for these reasons that the valley has been recognized by the European Community for its crucial role in providing a rich landscape with high natural value.

Fioio StreamThis historical mule track has remained as such due to the way it criss-crosses the river bed of the Fioio seventeen times; the Fioio is a seasonal stream which frequently washes away this pass, when it isn’t hidden from avalanches from the mountain slopes that hang over what has become a cosseted animal retreat.  Fioio starts life up at Mt Tarino (1961 masl) in Cappadocia, L’Aquila, and it then flows westwards to Camerata Nuova and Carsoli, where it meets the Turano river. During its course, it gives shape to several environments of primary importance: a carsic plain with a gentle canyon, centuries-old pine and beech forests – the latter have been listed among the widest in Europe – and a narrow rocky gorge at the feet of Serrasecca range (1800 masl).

The town of Camerata Nuova has been granted conspicuous government funds (1.5 million euros according to rumors) to transform the existing mule track into a road suitable for vehicles, that should connect it to the Sanctuary of the Holy Trinity near Vallepietra, a well known site which attracts large crowds from Abruzzo and Lazio each year, nearly 20 km east of Camerata Nuova.  Beside developing religious tourism, the building of the road is additionally being promoted by the Department for Civil Protection, who consider the potential road as a backup route to the Sanctuary in case of emergencies.

Laying down a road suitable for vehicles would mean devastating the landscape by digging & diverting the stream course and building protection walls & bridges which would remain an unmanageable and unsecure work due to the instability and unpredictability of hydro-geological conditions of the valley. Moreover, it would be a useless path, as the Sanctuary is currently reached by two far more comfortable roads, one from the Lazio side (Vallepietra), and one from the Abruzzo side (Tagliacozzo and Cappadocia).

Fioio Mountains

Is such a minimally useful traffic road really worth the destruction of bear and wolf habitat? We don’t think so. We believe that Camerata Nuova has several healthier, more bio-diverse options to expand its tourism industry, such as the wonderful Camposecco Plain, where many Italian “spaghetti western” movies were filmed, or the ruins of Camerata Vecchia, the ancient town abandoned in 1859 after fire devastation, in which it could successfully increase. We believe that the Fioio Valley with its pristine integrity and wild beauty intact can attract far more interest as a place for nature lovers, hikers, bikers, skiers and wildlife photographers, which will bring extra monies into the town of Camerata Nuova if marketed properly. Many environmental agencies and NGOS, such as the WWF, Mountain Wilderness and Italia Nostra, are working on a case against the proposed plans for Fioio in order to avoid destruction and promote a far more sustainable development of the area.

As private but publicly-spirited citizens, we appeal to all Abruzzo lovers to keep an eye on the issue, helping us raise the awareness of public opinion and of course do visit to be able to tell others to take a hike, in a nice way, following in the paw-paths of wolves & bears.

Further Reading

WWF Press release, 11 December

Il Centro Newspaper

ALTURA, association for the protection of birds of prey and their habitat, article

Bellappenino