Spread out on a surface of more than 3,500 acres, the Mount Velino’s Oriented Nature Reserve was instituted in 1987 thanks to the effort of the towns of Magliano de’ Marsi and Massa D’Albe, that wanted to protect the territory and asked the Ministry of Environment, to assign management to the State Forestry Corps.
With its many ecosystems, habitats, and species, the reserve is located in the third Apennine’s Mountain group. The Mount Velino – third mountain group after Gran Sasso and Majella – and the two large ice valleys – Valle Majelama and Val di Teve – present a unique level of biodiversity.
The reserve, visited every year by thousands of mountain enthusiasts, will you in awe with its many woods and paths. The reserve - 3,500 acres wide and between 1,000 and 2,500 meters above sea level – is ecompassed in the EU Special Area of Conservation “Monte Sirente e Monte Velino”, inside the Natural Regional Park Sirente-Velino and border, on the west, with the natural reserve “Montagne della Duchessa”, in the Lazio region.
The are many habitats protected by the Habitat Directive. On high altitude you will find spots of the rare alpine tundra, left by ice ages dating back half million years ago, and many wide meadows characterized by several endemic species. The integrity of the ecosystems present in the Reserve allows to many endangered species to live in peace.
Here you will find golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos), peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus) and griffons (Gyps fulvus); while among mammals you will find Marsican brown bears (Urus arctos ssp. Marsicanus), wolves (Canis lupus), and wildcats (Felis sylvestris). The reserve is home also to a wide variety of trees, such as dwarf junipers and bearberries that on the south-west side, because of the sub-continental climate of Fucino’s basin, completely replaces the beechwood.
The only extended beech forest is found around the vast Val di Tieve. The big glacial circles that characterize the north face of the mountain host a particular kind of terrain formed in recent times after the melting of the Pleistocene glaciers (about 11,000 years ago), home to a wide variety of species that with time learned to live in such difficult conditions. The reserve’s flora presents more than 600 protected rare species. Among these, one in particular, the Allium strictum, represents a true relict of the ice age.
To explore the reserve, is it mandatory to follow the paths indicated inside the official map of the “Sirente-Velino” Regional Park.
Some paths are more difficult than other and requires a more careful approach, especially those classified inside the maps as “EE” – i.e., only for expert excursionists. In such cases, you will find some slippery slopes on grass or rock, as well as short traits extremely difficult to cross like the so-called “direttissime” (“direct paths”) toward the Velino (nr. 5 and 6). During wintertime, ice and snows make these paths even more difficult and dangerous.
Inside the reserve, you can only walk on the official paths (highlighted in the official map of the “Sirente-Velino” Regional Park and on the panes you will find when entering the Reserve). Always remember that you are a guest, and you should not do anything to endanger the ecosystem, the biodiversity, the flora, and the fauna of the reserve. You can freely touch, smell, and admire every plant you will find, always taking care of not damaging them. Please remember that many of these plants are rare, endemic, and often endangered.