From Cocullo, a short drive will take you to Abruzzo’s most amazing nature reserves and their environs…
- Riserva naturale guidata Gole di San Venanzio, 24,2 km – 23min
The Riserva Naturale Guidata Gole di San Venanzio is a protected natural area established by the Abruzzo Region in 1998. It measures 1072 ha and is situated entirely in the territory of Raiano.
- Riserva Naturale Regionale Montagne della Duchessa, 60,5 km – 39min
The Riserva Naturale Regionale delle Montagne della Duchessa is a nature reserve established by the Lazio Region as part of its Protected Areas System. It covers about 3500 ha and is located entirely in the territory of the town of Borgorose (province of Rieti), on the Duchessa mountains. To the east and south, the nature reserve borders the Abruzzo Region and the Parco Regionale Naturale del Sirente-Velino, with which it forms a continuous protected area representative of the Apennine ecosystem.
There are several ways of reaching the reserve: from Rieti, by taking the SR 578 Salto Cicolana to Borgorose and then the SP 24 to Corvaro, which is only a half hour away; from the A24, by taking the Valle del Salto exit and turning left onto the road from Corvaro to Santa Anatolia-Torano di Borgorose, then by taking the road to the picturesque town of Cartore, the starting point for the main hiking trails on the south side of the reserve; and finally, by taking Via dello Sport in Corvaro, continuing up Via Valle Amara, and crossing the Amara Valley to reach the northeastern sector of the reserve.
- Riserva naturale Monte Velino, 51,5 km – 51min
The Riserva Naturale Monte Velino is a protected natural area established in 1987 by the Abruzzo Region and located in the province of L’Aquila. It measures 3550 ha and is the natural continuation of the adjacent Riserva Regionale Montagne della Duchessa, in the Lazio Region.
- Riserva naturale guidata Zompo lo Schioppo, 65,8 km – 58min
The Riserva Naturale Guidata Zompo lo Schioppo is a protected natural area in Abruzzo established in 1987. It measures about 1025 ha, with an additional 300-ha buffer zone, and is located entirely in the territory of the town of Morino, in the province of L’Aquila. “Zompo lo Schioppo” is the name of a waterfall in the reserve; it has a drop of 130 m and is the highest waterfall in the central Apennines.
- Riserva naturale Lama Bianca, 66,7 km – 1h 4min
The Riserva Naturale Lama Bianca is a protected natural area in Abruzzo established in 1987. It measures 1407 ha, and is located in the territory of the town of Sant’Eufemia a Maiella.
- Riserva naturale Valle dell’Orfento, 64,3 km – 1h 5min
The Riserva Naturale Valle dell’Orfento is a protected natural area in Abruzzo established in 1971. It measures 1920 ha and is located in the province of Pescara.
- Riserva naturale guidata Calanchi di Atri, 106 km – 1h 10min
The Riserva Naturale Guidata Calanchi di Atri is a protected natural area on Abruzzo’s Adriatic coast. It was established in 1995, measures approximately 380 ha, and is located entirely in the territory of the town of Atri, an ancient and artistically important city in the province of Teramo. The reserve can be reached from the A14 motorway by taking the Atri-Pineto exit, following the directions to the centre of Atri (7 km from the motorway exit), and then following the directions on the brown signs.
- Riserva regionale Majella Orientale, 100 km – 1h 30min
The Riserva Regionale Majella Orientale is a protected natural area in Abruzzo established in 1991. The reserve, which is now managed by the WWF, is located on the east side of the Majella Mountain, in the province of Chieti.
- Riserva naturale di Fara San Martino Palombaro, 101 km – 1h 31min
The Riserva naturale Fara San Martino Palombaro is a protected natural area in Abruzzo established in 1983. It measures 4202 ha and is located in the Parco Nazionale della Majella. It lies between the towns of Fara San Martino and Palombaro, in the province of Chieti, and features the striking gorges known as the Gole di Fara San Martino. The gorges are the result of erosion caused by the Verde Torrent. According to legend, San Martino opened the gap himself with his arms—probably a Christian retelling of the legend of the Pillars of Hercules. The valley is 14 km long and has a 2400-m ascent. Throughout the reserve there are numerous caves, some of which were used for worship, and some of which provided a refuge for shepherds and brigands. There has been a human presence in the area since the Bronze Age.
- Riserva naturale guidata Cascate del Verde, 84,1 km – 1h 45min
The Riserva Naturale Guidata Cascate del Verde is a protected natural area established in Abruzzo in 2001. It measures about 287 ha and is part of the territory of the town of Borrello, in the province of Chieti. The reserve is named after its waterfalls, the Cascate del Verde; they are located 800 m above sea level, and are the highest in the Apennines and the second highest in Italy. They are 200 m long, with three distinct drops down the rock face. The Verde, a stream whose source is on the Molise border, is one of the tributaries of the Sangro River.
- Riserva regionale Gole del Salinello, 151 km – 1h 50min
The Riserva Naturale Gole del Salinello is a protected natural area located in the province of Teramo, in Abruzzo. It was established to protect the habitat of the gorges (the “gole”) of the Salinello River. It is situated within the Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga. In the narrowest part of the gorge, the walls are as high as 200 m and drop precipitously into the river. In summer, many tourists like to bathe in the cool waters of the river, whose temperature does not rise above 16°. On the rocky cliffs, there are caves that were once used as retreats by hermits. The largest and best known is the “Grotta Sant’Angelo” or “Grotta di San Michele Arcangelo”, which is 30 m deep, 10 m wide, and up to 30 m high. It was used as far back as the Paleolithic period, and some objects unearthed during archaeological digs have been dated back to 6,000 BC. For centuries, the site was used for pagan worship. The first evidence of Catholic worship dates to just before 1236, with the construction of an altar dedicated to the Archangel Michael. The hermitage of Santa Maria Scalena is rather inaccessible, but the ruins of the hermitage of San Francesco alle Scalelle are easier to reach.
From the valley, it is possible to make your way to these sites from Ripe, a village administered by the town of Civitella del Tronto. The walk takes 30 minutes. From the mountain, they can be reached on foot from Macchia da Sole, near Castel Manfrino. Access to the gorges is currently prohibited by the town.