Just outside Pescocostanzo sits Bosco di Sant’Antonio, an enchanted oblong-shaped ancient beech grove that is regarded as Central Italy’s finest ‘Biotope’. It has been held sacred by locals since Roman times, and is today revered as one of the best areas for snow-shoeing, tree-climbing and picnicking in Abruzzo.
Throughout the 500 hectares of Bosco di Sant’Antonio you’ll spot monumental candelabra-shaped trees that include not just beech but maples, wild pear and oak, some with a girth of 6 metres, inevitably adored by children for their climability! These trees enjoy a long life and magical shape thanks to being part of the ‘La Difesa’, under the control of the nearby small town of Pescocostanzo.
This protected area prohibited the cutting down of trees for firewood and grazing of sheep to allow cattle and horses from nearby pastures to roam and take shade under this natural green canopy during long hot summers. The ancient pruning technique formerly employed to achieve these shapes is called ‘capitozzatura’, a tradition that dates back to pre-Roman times.
At 1300 metres above sea level, positioned between Monte Rotella and Monte Pizzalto, the snow here is reluctant to leave, it comes early and retires late. The vegetation appears so veiled by the white lace and on the ground the soft blanket maintains an almost inviolate purity. Only the scattered footprints of some animals suggest that there is still life.
5 Reasons to Visit Bosco di Sant’Antonio
- Since 1992 it has been part of the Majella National Park – Over 2,100 plant species have been registered in the park, representing approximately one third of all Italian flora; Inside the park there are seven state nature reserves and some assets of interest. cultural, among the most relevant in Abruzzo.
- Look out for the centenary beech which is aged between 250/300 years old and stands 15 meters tall with a trunk circumference of about 540 cm.
- If you’re lucky and a botany fan you may spot some of protected park and rare herbaceous species including the Greater Gentian (Genziana lutea), the Peony (Peonia officinalis), Stellina odorosa (Galium odoratum), Strawberry Grass (Sanicula europaea), Hellebore (Helleborus foetidus) and Epipactis purpurata orchids.
- The grove is a treasure for birdspotters and animal lover, expect to see Blackbirds, Short-Toed Tree Creepers (Certhia brachydactyla), Nuthatches (Sitta europaea), Green Woodpeckers (Picus viridis), white-backed woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos), Tordela (Turdus viscivorus), Sparrowhawks (Accipiter nisus) and Buzzards (Buteo Buteo). Mammals that you may see evidence of and if lucky spot are weasels, pine martens, badgers, foxes and wolves.
- Whether you are a tree bather or not savor and take away natural and cultural heritage memories of why this wood was a sacred ‘lucus’ devoted to Jupiter by Romans and in the Middle Ages it became a shrine to St Antonio Abate.
Bosco di Sant’Antonio Family Walk & Picnic
Starting from the square of Bosco di Sant’Antonio piazza, you go for a few meters inside the fence and turn right along the path that enters the beech forest for about 800 m. Then then curves left and walking 700 m on this flat path will bring you to the hermitage of Sant’Antonio. Continue on the path to the left, you will return to the woods and your starting point.
Download the trek route from the Majella Park website.
Snowshoe & Nordic Ski-ing
Il Bosco di Sant’Antonio
(1st Prize, The International Carlo Scarpa Prize for Gardens, 2012)
Bosco di Sant’Antonio represents one of the oldest, original and best preserved “defenses” of the Apennines: not a natural forest belonging to the sphere of wilderness, but a “tree pasture”, a forest cultivated and maintained over the centuries with a precise methodology . This book collects, documents and explains in an admirable way and with essays of great popular enjoyment. (In Italian)
Read why the book was awarded the prize, buy from Carsa Edizione