Casteluccio and the Gran Piano in the Sibillini Mountains in central Italy

Casteluccio and the Gran Piano in the Sibillini Mountains in central Italy

Self-catering holiday apartments near the Sibillini Mountains in Le Marche, Italy

Walking through the gola d'Infernacio in the Sibillini Mountains, central Italy

The Sibillini Mountains - a playground for everyone

A highlight of your holiday to Le Marche or Umbria has to be a visit to the National Park of the Monti Sibillini. It is 70,000 hectares of majestic mountains, rich in flora and fauna, medieval hill top towns and cultural sites for the visitor to enjoy. For the active it presents a wonderful playground to pursue any number of sports including walking, cycling and even hanggliding as well as skiing in winter. However even with the car you can enjoy fantastic scenery and get away from the madding crowd without too much effort. Take a picnic or enjoy a good meal at one of the refugio (mountain huts) in summer.
Cross country skiing on the Ragnolo plain in the Sibillini Mountains, Italy

The Sibillini National Park

The Sibillini Mountain range was made into a National Park in 1993. This has stopped uncontrolled building development in the National Park area giving a higher priority to the environment. As a result wild life is prospering. A lone male brown bear was sighted in the park between 2006 and 2010. Wolves inhabit the mountains as well as wild cat, deer and boar. The Apennine Chamois is being reintroduced. There are, of course, a wide variety of birds including the golden eagle. Indigenous only to the Sibillini Mountains, or more accurately, the Lago di Pilato is the small shellfish Chirocephalus Marchesonii.
Lilies grow wild in the Sibillini Mountains, central Italy

See the spectacle of wild flowers in the Sibillini Mountains

In spring the mountain sides are covered with flowers. There are some rare varieties including the Apennine Edelweis (Leontopodium nivale). The Ragnolo Meadows in the north of the Park is a protected area for flowers, where you can see many varieties including orchid and paeonies. The Grand Piano to the south is famous for the brilliant spectacle of wild flowers blooming among the lentil plants in late June. Another product of the Sibillini Mountains is Pecorino cheese made from the milk of the sheep, which spend their summers on the slopes. Boar salami is sold in the town of Norcia (on the Umbrian side) on a large scale but is available throughout the area. Mushrooms and truffles from the area are highly prized, both the black and the rarer white truffle are found in the park.
Walking above the Valle di Rio Sacro in the Sibillini Mountains, Italy

Myths and Legends abound in the Sibillini Mountains

The name of the mountain range is derived from Sybille, a mother godess, who could foretell the future. She lived in a cave on what is now Monte Sibilla. According to legend she lured men into the cave. If they stayed longer than a year they were doomed. Ancient tribes, who followed pagan or animist rites, originally inhabited the Sibillini Mountains. It is possible the myth of the mother godess has developed from then. The name Sybille may stem from Kubele or Cybele the name of a Greek godess. However the mountains were also the refuge of those fleeing the invaders of Italy in post-Roman times and those condemned as heretics or witches escaping the Church authorities in the Middle Ages. This is how the mountains have gained a reputation of being populated by demons, necromancers and fairies.
Looking toward Monte Priora in the National Park of the Sibillini Mountains, central Italy

The Sibillini Mountains have long been settled

Other attractions in the park are the historical and cultural riches of the various small towns such as Visso or San Ginesio, as well as important religious sites. The Santuario Madonna dell'Ambro, for instance, stands at the place where a young shepardess is supposed to have seen a vision of the Madonna. There are also a number of museums, celebrating local life and customs such as the anthropological museum in Amandola or the museum of charcoal production in Cessapalombo.

The website of the National Park provides a comprehensive list of things you can do in the park in English and publishes a number of guidebooks and maps (some in English), also on sale online.

In the Sibillini National Park there are a number of Case del Parco. These are tourist information centres for the park. The main one is in Visso. You can buy all the publications produced by the Sibillini National Park and also get information and help regarding any activities you may wish to participate in. As a result of the earthquakes many of these offices have moved, please check the following list for further information.

The town of Montefortino in the National Park of the Sibillini Mountains, Italy

Get a preview of the Sibillini Mountains

There is a wide range of videos on the website YouTube that will give you an idea of what the mountains look like. Satelite images on Google Earth were updated last year and you can now see the mountains in 3D - especially useful for planning walks or bike rides. In both cases just search with the words 'Sibillini Mountains'.

Admiring them from his distant Recanati home the famous Italian poet Leopardi described the mountains as the Monti Azzurri (blue mountains). Take time to visit them and you will find lush green slopes replete with natural beauty, peace and quiet.

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