The intimate village of Badia Prataglia, in the province of Arezzo, lies nestled at the edge of the Foreste Casentinesi National Park. The village with its 784 inhabitants has always enjoyed a reciprocal relationship with the vast woods that surround it. It was thanks to the forward-thinking forestry policy of Duke Leopoldo II of Lorraine and Carlo Siemoni, who was appointed as Administrator of the Casentinesi Forests in 1837, that the stunning woodland still thrives today. Badia Prataglia is the perfect place from which to begin your memorable trek through unspoiled terrains.
The Foreste Casentinesi, Monte Falterona e Campigna National Park offers endless hiking opportunities with over 600km of trails. There is plenty of variety throughout the changing seasons and for all levels of ability. You can choose from snowshoeing in winter to high octane mountain biking trails or horse riding in the summer–either way panoramic views are guaranteed with mountain ridges, millenary forests and ancient mule tracks galore. There are also two highly accessible paths suitable for those with mobility issues or those with a visual impairment.
Also noteworthy is that the Alta Via dei Parchi bisects the park. This lengthy route connects the protected Apennine areas of the Emilia-Romagna Region with the Sentiero delle Foreste Sacre and offers all the hiking action one could desire with 11 three-day hiking routes to choose from including two overnight itineraries.
For the hiker seeking a more relaxed pace there are 9 entry level nature trails to explore. Each has pre-arranged observation points accompanied by illustrated bulletin boards that indicate the vegetation, fauna and wildlife to look out for.
Experience a little California in Tuscany while gazing at the magnificent Californian Sequoia in Italy’s oldest arboretum–The Arboreto Carlo Siemoni. Extending over 3 hectares the arboretum is also home to the holy Japanese tree, Cryptomeria. The wood of this prized tree is used to build Shinto Temples.
For history buffs there is the excellent Forestry Museum, a virtual encyclopedia on the past and present life of the Casentinesi Forest. Here you will uncover startling facts about the beech, fir and oak trees that populate the park, but also encounter rare orchids and the likes of the peregrine falcon.
If crypts and ancient ruins are more to your tastes, look no further than the Pieve di Santa Maria Assunta. The monastery was built in 986 and houses a crypt dating back to Roman times.
The Cappella della Madonna di Lourdes, or “Grotta” as it was known, was built in 1939 by the priest Lorenzo Mondanelli. A native of Badia Prataglia, he had been a missionary in Chile when an earthquake struck killing 28,000 people. Mondanelli survived, convinced that Our Lady of Lourdes had saved his life, he dedicated the church to her.
Badia Prataglia makes a wonderful base for your trekking adventures. Rich in history the settlement is a beautiful example of what it means to truly live in harmony with nature.