Italy: Into the Wild Heart of the Apennines

Explore Italy's Wild Side in style
  • Rocca calascio
  • Pacentro Abruzzo
  • orfento river
  • Agroturismo
  • Castel del Monte_abruzzo
  • ristorante Albergo diffuso
  • Albergo diffuso Santo Stefano di Sessanio
  • Santo Stefano de sassanio
  • Scanno
  • Abruzzo 10_Umberto_WLA
  • Abruzzo 14 _Umberto_WLA
  • Abruzzo 16_Umberto_WLA
  • Abruzzo 20 _Umberto_WLA
  • Abruzzo 9 _Umberto_WLA
  • Abruzzo 6_Umberto_WLA
  • Abruzzo 4_Umberto_WLA
  • Abruzzo 3_Umberto_WLA
  • Abruzzo 1_Umberto_WLA
  • Abbruzzo 13 _Umberto_WLA
  • Abruzzo 2_Umberto_WLA
  • Pescara to Venice Train
  • Lake Scanno (L’Aquila, Italy)
  • Borgo San Donato Val Comino
  • Claudio Di Domenico Abruzzo
  • Pescaserolli Villa
  • Abruzzo 25_Umberto_WLA

Experience Italy’s Wild Side on one of our Tailor-Made Tours

On this tailor-made Italy tour you’ll traverse some of Europe’s wildest mountain environments, track bears, visit medieval towns and feast on sumptuous food.

This thoughtfully-designed Italian adventure will take you deep into the mountains of the Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park. These ancient Apennine slopes are home to a rich variety of wildlife – including bears, wolves and the Apennine Chamois – and as well as contributing to local conservation efforts, you’ll also be spending time with the people who live and work in these forested hills. And of course, no trip to Italy would be complete without generous helpings of the justly famous Italian food and wine. Wilderness, feasting, fresh air, stylish accommodation, proper hospitality – this is a journey that will leave you feeling enriched and revived.

See Italy from a Different Perspective

As with all Wild Europe’s holidays, each of our Italian adventures involves a visit to a fantastic rewilding project. You’ll meet the conservationists working to save the endemic Marsican brown bear, track these apex predators and see how tourism here is helping to preserve the natural world. Although some of the area you’re visiting is within an hour of Rome, this is a side of Italy that very few even know exist, let alone see.

With us, you’ll meet the pioneering, passionate people at the forefront of Italian conservation efforts and travel to places where tourism is a genuine force for the good. Along the way, you’ll stay in stylish hotels, feast on wonderful food, taste rare wines, swim in emerald waterfalls and gain a meaningful insight into what life here is all about.

This is guilt-free, regenerative travel at its very best.

DEPARTURE/RETURN LOCATION  Arrive: London St Pancras Station (or your local station)Depart: London St Pancras Station
DEPARTURE TIME Flexible: see Itinerary tab for details
INCLUDED
  • Rail travel to and from your home
  • Accommodation throughout
  • Visits to rewilding and conservation projects and donations to these projects
  • Annual membership of Mossy Earth, supporting rewilding and conservation efforts
  • Some or all meals, whichever you prefer
  • All transfers and transport
  • Professional English-speaking guides
  • All entrance fees
  • Coffee, tea, filtered water and fresh fruit throughout
  • Carbon calculation to show the carbon impact/benefit of your trip
NOT INCLUDED
  • Visas – if required
  • Guide tips
  • Souvenirs

Visit Abruzzo and the Apennine Range, the Wild and Rugged Backbone of Central Italy

Your journey through the Central Apennines will take you across thousands of hectares of beautiful rugged mountains, deep valleys and extensive beech forests. This region of Italy is a biodiversity hotspot with abundant populations of iconic species including brown bears, wolves, deer, wild boar and the endemic Apennine Chamois. Small villages clinging to mountainsides remain characterized by the traditional lifestyles of the people who live there. They provide a special mix of culture and nature that makes this area unique in Europe. During the trip you’ll explore the wilderness and learn how to connect with and get closer to nature.

This precious wild area is exactly the sort of place we want to help to protect, with your help.

As with all of our itineraries, this is just a sample of what we can offer, and can be tailored to fit your interests and style of travel.

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Day 1 - Crossing Europe in Style

Start Point: London St Pancras (or your home station in the UK or elsewhere in Europe)
Destination: Paris, then onward to Milan
Travel: Intercity Service, Eurostar from St Pancras to Paris, Thello Sleeper from Paris to Milan
Notes: Join the overnight sleeper service to Milan, 1st class cabins available with at-seat breakfast

With us, your holiday starts the moment you leave your door. There’s no struggling with airport parking or stressful security checks – instead, you’ll be gliding out of London St. Pancras on the late morning Eurostar. If you like, we can even collect you from home, or arrange your train tickets from your local station to London.

Eurostar at Speed

On arrival in Paris, you can either choose to linger here for a night, or hop aboard the overnight Thello sleeper service from Paris to Milan. This departs at 21.00, giving you plenty of time for supper and a carafe of wine or two.

Thello Sleeper Train Redux 1575x1050

Thanks to Thello’s comfortable cabins, you’ll spend a peaceful night speeding south through France and the Alps, before arriving into Milan just after breakfast.

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Day 2 - Milan to Abruzzo

Start Point: Milan
Destination: Pescasseroli, via Rome
Travel: High Speed Train from Milan to Rome, low emission vehicle from Rome to Pescasseroli
Notes: 3.5 hours by train and 2 hours by car into Abruzzo

On arrival into Milan, you’ll have time for a coffee before transferring to the Trenitalia high speed service for Rome. You’ll be enjoying this three and a half hour journey from the comfort of First Class seats.

When you arrive in Rome, you’ll be met by your guide and driven to Pescasseroli in a low emission car. Just two hours from Rome, this delightful Abruzzesi town is the capital of the Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park. Founded in 1922, and famous for its UNESCO-listed beech forests, this sprawling mountain wilderness is the country’s oldest National Park.

Pretty Pescasseroli will be your base for the next four nights, and you’ll be staying in a stylish Art Deco albergo near the centre of town.

Pescaserolli Villa

After some time to relax, your guide will take you out for an excellent supper in town.

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Day 3 - Forests of Abruzzo, Bear Watching

Start Point: Pescasseroli
Destination: Pescasseroli
Travel: Transfer by low emission car, foot.

It’s an early start today – the early bird catches the bear…

After an early breakfast, or maybe just an espresso on the terrace, you’ll be heading off around sunrise for a day of walking and wildlife spotting in the surrounding mountains. Despite being so close to Rome, this part of the Central Apennines is a biodiversity hotspot – its limestone peaks, beech forests, deep canyons and grasslands providing a home to an astonishing range of endemic flora and fauna. In the company of a specialist guide, you’ll spend the morning walking through old-growth beech forests and flower-filled meadows in the shadow of 2500 metre limestone peaks.

On your walk, you’ll learn about the beech wood ecosystem and look for signs of wolf, deer, pine marten and bear. You’ll also set a camera trap for inspection later in the week, before enjoying a restful picnic lunch beside a river deep in the forest. This is Italy, remember, so this won’t be any old picnic lunch….

This evening, after some time to rest, you’ll set out for a sunset bear walk with your guide. This is the best time of day to see bears, and your guide knows exactly where and how to track them without causing the animals any distress.

You’ll return to the albergo for a late supper and a second night here.

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Day 4 - E-biking and Fine Dining in Beautiful Abruzzo

Start Point: Pescasseroli
Destination: Pescasseroli
Travel: Ebike

This morning, after a leisurely breakfast, you’ll meet your guide and head out for a day of e-biking through the surrounding mountains. Depending on your fitness (although, admittedly, the joy of an e-bike is that they do most of the work for you) you’ll be doing a panoramic circular route that takes in the beautiful mountain towns of Barrea, Civitella Alfedena and Villette Barrea.

Situated in the the very heart of the National Park, these towns have maintained their typical medieval features and merge perfectly with the natural landscape.

After lunch at a delightful local restaurant you’ll pedal on to meet a charismatic local dairy farmer who is working to revive and maintain traditional methods of cheese production.

Claudio Di Domenico Abruzzo

After meeting Claudio and sampling some of his award-winning cheeses, you’ll hop back on the bikes and head back to Pescasseroli for supper and another night at the beautiful albergo.

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Day 5 - Southern Abruzzo. Wine and Waterfalls

Start Point: Pescasseroli
Destination: Pescasseroli
Travel: Low Emission Car, Foot.

After breakfast at the albergo it’s an hour’s drive to the beautiful Valle di Canneto in the southern part of the National Park. Wedged between the foothills of the Massif de Meta, this enchanting valley is laced with canyons, rivers and waterfalls plunging into deep, emerald pools. Famed for its wild beauty and dramatic vistas, it’s been an important transit route since the pre-Roman era and was historically a place of shepherds, pilgrims and bandits.

This morning, in the company of your guide, you’ll be walking through deep forests and cool canyons, stopping for a picnic lunch in the glorious Valle Tre Confini. Here, steep forested slopes frame a valley where millennia of flowing water have carved the rocks into spectacular shapes and colours. You’ll enjoy a delicious picnic lunch beside a waterfall  – if you’re a fan of wild swimming, it doesn’t get much better than this.

After a morning’s walking, this afternoon you’ll visit the fascinating I Ciacca winery. Owned by the same family for more than five hundred years, it’s famous for producing wine from the rare Maturano grape, an ancient, late-harvested variety only found in this region of Italy. After a spot of wine-tasting, there’ll be time for a leisurely wander around the neighbouring town of San Donato Val Comino, a fantastically pretty borgo whose old stone houses cascade down the shoulders of thickly forested slopes.

After exploring the town’s maze of winding, hilly streets, it’s a short drive back to Pescasseroli, where you’ll arrive in time for a final sunset bear walk. You’ll be checking the camera trap you set earlier in the week before returning to town for supper and a final night at the albergo.

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Day 6 - Rewilding Marsican Brown Bears

Start Point: Pescasseroli
Destination: Scanno
Travel: Low emission car, Foot

After breakfast at the hotel it’s less than an hour’s drive to Scanno, a dreamy medieval town whose stone streets cluster around the shores of Lago di Scanno.

Scanno

You’ll have an hour or two to explore the town, from the panoramic viewpoint overlooking the heart-shaped lake to its maze of narrow alleyways winding between houses, churches and grand old palaces. If you like, we can arrange for you to visit one of the few people who still continue the tradition of tombolo lacework. Before you leave, you’ll also meet the incredible team behind Salviamo L’Orso – a non-profit, volunteer-led association working to save the iconic Marsican brown bear from extinction. We will be making a contribution directly to this important organisation on your behalf, so it’s good to know that by travelling here and engaging with conservation at a local level, you are supporting their vital work.

After lunch in Scanno, it’s a short drive north into the Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park, crossing the natural gorge of the Sagittario Valley on the way. You’ll arrive at the gorgeous hilltop village of Santo Stefano di Sessanio in the afternoon, a place which regularly features as one of the most picturesque in Italy. Dating back to Roman times, perched on a rocky promontory at 1250 metres above sea level, it’s hard to imagine a more idyllic location.

Santo Stefano de sassanio

Here you’ll be checking in to a fantastic little albergo in the centre of the old town. Recently restored, this charming place is both authentic and stylish, and will provide you with the perfect base to explore the surrounding Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park, one of the largest protected areas in Europe.

Albergo diffuso Santo Stefano di Sessanio

Not only are the rooms here lovely, but the food is incredible and you’ll be wonderfully looked after throughout your stay.

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Day 7 - Walking through History

Start Point: Santo Stefano di Sessanio
Destination: Santo Stefano di Sessanio
Travel: Walking

After a delicious breakfast at the albergo, you’ll set off with your guide to spend the morning walking through the surrounding countryside. You’re in the heart of the National Park here – a wild, mountainous region that’s home to rare mammals such as the Abruzzo chamois, Marsican brown bear and wildcats, as well as over two thousand plant species. Travelling on the network of ancient tracks that lace the region, you’ll walk six miles to the spectacular ruins of Rocca Calascio, a 10th century fortress with commanding views of the encircling area.

Rocca calascio

Sitting at an altitude of 1460 metres above sea level, this striking edifice is the highest fortified building in Italy, a place whose power and influence encouraged soldiers, servants, shepherds and blacksmiths to move nearby – not only to find work, but also to seek protection under its ramparts.

After exploring the ruins and enjoying a picnic lunch here, this afternoon you’ll walk to the nearby Lana Aquilana, a specialist producer of high quality wools. Here you’ll learn about the revival of this traditional industry, as well as having the chance to dye some wool of your own.

After a soul-enriching day in the hills, you’ll return to Santo Stefano di Sessanio (by foot or car) for supper at a superb restaurant and another night at the albergo.

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Day 8 - Corno Grande Hike

Start Point: Santo Stefano di Sessanio
Destination: Santo Stefano di Sessanio
Travel: Low Emission car, Foot.

After breakfast at the albergo, it’s a short drive to the magnificent high alpine plateau of Campo Imperatore. Meaning ‘Emperor’s field’, this 27 km long basin sits above the Gran Sasso massif, and has been used as a location in more than twenty films. When you see its beauty, you’ll understand why.

Here, you’ll spend the day walking to Vado di Corno – an enchanting meadow on the slopes of the 2912 metre Corno Grande, the Apennines highest peak. In the past, the vast flocks of sheep that grazed these high altitude grasslands formed the backbone of the Medici family’s fortune during the early Renaissance. While most of these flocks have disappeared, you’ll still pass small numbers of sheep, cattle and semi-wild horses, brought here in the summer months by shepherds from the nearest villages. If you’re lucky, you might also glimpse Golden eagles, wild boar, wolf and chamois.

Lunch will be a picnic of grilled arrosticini – lamb skewers – and other local specialities, eaten in a heavenly mountain meadow.

Returning from your walk this afternoon, you’ll visit the atmospheric ruins of Santa Maria del Monte and the medieval town of Castel del Monte.

Castel del Monte_abruzzo

After a wonderful day in the hills you’ll then make the short journey back to Santo Stefano di Sessanio for a final night at your albergo.

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Day 9 - Hermitages, Spirit Paths and Homemade Pasta

Start Point: Santo Stefano di Sessanio
Destination: Majella National Park
Travel: Transfer by low emission car, Foot.

This morning you’ll say goodbye to Santo Stefano di Sessanio and make the 50 mile journey south, by low emission vehicle, to the Majella National Park. Isolated for centuries thanks to its formidable natural defences, this is the heartland of the Apennines and one of Italy’s remotest, least-habited regions. Dominated by the 2793 metre peak of Monte Amaro, on a clear day you can see as far as the glinting waters of the Adriatic.

As you might guess, the walking here is fantastic. Even better, barely anyone visits this region so you’ll normally have the paths to yourself. Today, in the company of your guide, you’ll follow the ‘Path of the Spirit’ (so called as it links several key hermitages) along high ridges, through deeply-incised gorges and through butterfly-filled meadows to the stunning rock-hewn hermitage of San Bartolomeo in Legio. It’s a magic place, which perfectly combines nature, spirituality and history.

After a picnic in the shade of the hermitage, you’ll walk on through forest and meadow (hopefully spotting some wildlife on the way – the area is home to brown bear, lynx, wolf and that sure-footed Chamois) before ending your day at a delightful agriturismo.

Agroturismo

After time to refresh and relax, your lovely host Marisa will teach you how to make traditional Italian pasta, which you will enjoy together this evening, along with some fine local wines.

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Day 10 - Orfento River and Forests. The Majella Massif

Start Point: Majella National Park
Destination: Majella National Park
Travel: Foot

After a wonderful breakfast with Marisa you’ll spend this morning walking through the Orfento Valley Natural Reserve. This deeply forested area along the Orfento River gorge is a leafy, sylvan delight where clear waters tumble over mossy boulders. The walk is gentle and will lead you to a hearty lunch at a characterful farmhouse in the valley.

orfento river

After lunch, you’ll walk towards the 1282 metre Passo san Leonardo, before being driven eight miles down to the medieval village of Pacentro, where you can enjoy a sunset Negroni.

Pacentro Abruzzo

From here, you’ll be transferred the short distance back to the agriturismo, where Marisa will prepare you a final belt-breaking feast.

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Day 11 - Pescara to Venice

Start Point: Pescara
Destination: Venice and overnight to Paris
Travel: Low Emission Car, High Speed train from Pescara to Venice. Overnight sleeper service to Paris.
Notes: Why not add a night or more in Venice on your way home?

After breakfast and a fond farewell to your hosts, it’s an hour’s drive east to the seaside city of Pescara, from where you’ll catch the high-speed train to Venice. Leaving at lunchtime, this is the sleek, fast Freccia Rossa, or Red Arrow service.

Pescara to Venice Train

You’ll arrive into Venice in under five hours, having travelled north up much of Italy’s east coast. On arrival, you’ll have time to enjoy a drink and some supper before catching the 19.15 Thello sleeper service to Paris.

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Day 12 - Paris to London

Start Point: Paris
Destination: London St Pancras, or onward to your own home
Travel: Eurostar from Paris to London. First Class. Intercity or Low Emission vehicle from London St Pancras.

Having spent the night slumbering in the comfort of your First Class cabin, you’ll glide into Paris at 09.40, have breakfast and be transferred from the Gare de Lyon to the Gare du Nord.

From Gare du Nord, your high speed Eurostar service will have you back in London by late morning or early afternoon, from where you can make onward rail connections to your home station, or we can arrange to whisk you home in a low emission vehicle from St Pancras. The choice is yours.

EV Charging

However you make the journey home, no doubt your memory and memory cards will be overflowing with super experiences and you’ll be safe in the knowledge that your trip also did something to help our planet and its biodiversity.

 

Where will we be staying?

You’ll be staying in a variety of accommodation – from excellent 5* hotels to welcoming albergos or ruritanian agriturismo homestays. As this is a tailor-made tour, we will book your hotels according to your tastes and preferences. We can all book a 5* hotel and know what to expect but, to our minds, luxury is the chance to get to know real people and understand the culture of the place you are visiting, not simply to see it through the lens of a glitzy hotel. These are the sorts of memories that last a lifetime.

What will the weather be like?

Italy is in the Mediterranean climate zone of Europe, so expect warm and generally dry summers and cold winters, with plenty of snow in the mountains. As there are diverse geographical locations, you can expect the climate to change throughout the year and  be dependent on location. Some wildlife is clearly only going to be visible at certain times of year – we can’t expect bears to be awake in winter, for example, but wolves will perhaps be easier to track. But whatever the season, Italy clearly has a huge amount to offer, so just let us know when you can visit, and we will develop a thoughtful itinerary based around that time of year. In any event, we will provide a detailed packing list in your Welcome Pack, so you’ll be prepared whatever the weather.

I’m a solo traveller – is this for me?

Yes. This is a tailor-made trip, so whether you are travelling alone or in a private group of ten, we will put exactly the same high level of care and attention to detail into your trip. This has become our hallmark, and a tradition we are proud to continue.

What kit do I need to bring?

We will provide you with a Welcome Pack after you’ve booked, and this will detail any particular equipment we think either necessary or useful.

What vehicles will we be travelling in?

You’ll be travelling by hybrid or electric cars most of the time.

What will the food be like?

Very, very good. The food in Italy is obviously world-renowned and you will be eating in a variety of places, from top-notch restaurants to local homes. You’ll enjoy a wide range of dishes and have the chance to eat local, often seasonal produce at its best. You’ll even be given the chance to cook with the locals.

Rail bookings look really complicated, do you handle all of that for me?

Yes. Even in the 2020’s, booking international rail tickets is still not a simple affair. Rest assured we will handle all of that for you. All you need to do is sit back, relax and let us take the strain.

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