Biosfera Collemeluccio, heritage of biodiversity 

In the heart of central Italy, in the province of Isernia in Molise, lies the Collemeluccio-Montedimezzo Biosfera, a natural area of extraordinary beauty and biodiversity. This valuable ecosystem embraces a variety of unique habitats, housing a wide range of flora and fauna, as well as offering wonderful landscapes. 

History and Birth of the Biosphere 

In ancient times, the wood of Collemeluccio, 500 hectares in all, belonged to a local nobleman, the Duke D’Alessandro di Pescolanciano. 

The woods remained the property of the nobles D’Alessandro until 1865, when the Bank of Naples sold them to the most important families of the place.

Passing from property to property, the woodland was divided into smaller and smaller plots, In 1968, the former State Forestry Company began a demanding work of land consolidation that led in 1971 to the creation of a Nature Reserve with the first 187 hectares of the forest.

In 1977, a further 160 hectares of forest were declared Bosco da Semi-Riserva Biogenetica, then a substantial nucleus of 347 hectares was formed in front of about 500 hectares of the original ancient forest.

Finally, with D.M. 23/12/1977 all 347 hectares, including the acquired nucleus of Montedimezzo, were inserted, in a single Biosphere Reserve.

A Biosphere Reserve is an international qualification awarded by UNESCO for the conservation and protection of the environment within the Human and Biosphere Programme (MAB – Man and Biosphere.)

The world biosphere reserves in 2020 were 701 in 124 countries and are areas of coastal, marine and terrestrial ecosystems, in which, through appropriate land management, combines the conservation of the ecosystem with its biodiversity and the sustainable use of natural resources for the benefit of local communities.

In Italy there are a total of 20 biosphere reserves, treasure chests of biodiversity and safeguards for environmental sustainability.

The biosphere of Collemeluccio-Montedimezzo, unlike almost all other Italian UNESCO areas, thanks to the voluntary process of local communities, is the first Italian Biosphere Reserve completely autonomous by park authorities, both regional and national.

The municipalities of the province of Isernia that fall within the Biosphere are seven: Carovilli, Chiauci, Pescolanciano, Pietrabbondante, Roccasicura, San Pietro Avellana, Vastogirardi.

In 2006 these municipalities created a partnership: the Consorzio Asso MAB Alto Molise, which represents the authentic realities of the inhabitants of the reserve, characterized by common values and economic activities.

The human settlements of the seven municipalities of the Biosphere are concentrated in villages at the foot of hills and the presence of buildings, scattered according to a discontinuous pattern, is very limited.

Foto : Cipriani Park Hotel

Geography of the Biosphere

The reserve has a mainly wooded landscape with large areas formed by natural pastures and meadows with typical morphological characteristics of mountain areas (alternation of hills and small river plateaus – lakes) with a height between 450 and 1730 meters above sea level.

The hydrographic network includes streams and streams all flowing into the river Trigno that crosses both the Abruzzo and Molise.

In the territory of Chiauci, one of the seven municipalities of the Biosphere, was built in the 80s, at the behest of the Molise Region, a dam for the construction of an artificial reservoir to be used as a reservoir of water for the crops of the Trigno valley and for the water supply of Abruzzo and Molise. In the north of the reserve there is the ancient source Fonte Cupa, where tourists can drink fresh mountain water.

Flora and fauna in the Collemuccio-Montedimezzo Biosphere 

Nature, with its animals, plants and beautiful landscapes is the undisputed queen to admire in the biosphere.

The Collemeluccio-Montedimezzo Biosphere (they are two overlapping protected areas) has a varied and numerous wild fauna: hares, roe deer, wild cats, wild boars, foxes, badgers, martens, European polecat, weasels and squirrels.

The Apennine wolf, thanks to the conservation of the biosphere forests, has made its reappearance in the area.

The avifauna of the Biosphere includes among the birds of prey: the majestic peregrine falcon, the honey buzzard, the red kite, the buzzard, the short-toed eagle. Other specimens of birds belong to the family of the passerines and similar species such as the ortolan, the collared nurse, the tottavilla, the small shrike.

Among the amphibians, the Italian frogand the southern spectacled salamander, both live in the wetlands of the reserve.

In the river Trigno lives the crayfish.

Among the characteristic insects of the area are the cerambice of the oak, the cerambice of the beech, the beautiful ivy moth with bright colors and the moth Eriogaster catax, also known as blackthorn bowler.

In particular as regards birds, in 2007 a survey recorded 37 species of birds in the Montedimezzo wood and 32 species in the Collemeluccio wood. 

The flora of the biosphere includes white fir forests, oaks and beech forests and river woods with the presence of willow.

The white fir forest is a distinctive feature of the landscape of this area, both as a dominant species and together with other broad-leaved trees. 

The white fir is a majestic tree, slender and long-lived, and given its considerable height, on average 30 meters, even if some specimens can exceed 50 meters, it is considered the prince of the woods.

To all these species of trees, are added the white hornbeam, the country maple, the ash tree.

In the lush undergrowth of the Biosphere, you can admire holly, hawthorn, blackthorn and hazel. Along the edges of the glades it is easy to come across apple trees and wild pear trees, rowan trees, rosehip bushes and wild plums.

 What to see and do in the Biosphere

Tourists who want to visit the Biosphere of Collemeluccio-Montedimezzo, in addition to the opportunity to admire a lush nature with unique landscapes, can walk the hiking routes proposed in the Trekking Guide & MTB of the Reserve MAB Collemeluccio-Montedimezzo Alto Molise, completely free and to download from the official website of the Biosphere Reserve.

The proposed itineraries are eleven, below the list:

  • Faione Trail
  • The ring of Collemeluccio
  • Monte Miglio
  • Monte Ferrante
  • The ring of Monte Pizzi
  • The ring of Bosco Pennataro
  • The ring of the Reserve
  • Tratturo Castel di Sangro-Lucera – first stop Chiauci – Roccasicura
  • Tratturo Castel di Sangro-Lucera – second stage Roccasicura-Castel di Sangro
  • Montecaraceno
  • Valle Frazzina-Faione

On the Trekking & MTB Guide of the Reserve tourists will find all the necessary information for trekking and to move around the territory independently. Many proposed paths follow forest tracks and carriageways unfortunately without a standard signage, so the tourist hiker must rely on the information and digital content of the guide.

The guide advises you to follow the simple suggestions proposed, in order to face the excursions in peace, fully appreciating the tratturale landscape, the sentieristica net of the Natural Reserves Oriented of Montedimezzo and Collemeluccio, and secondary viability present in the Biosphere territories. 

For each suggested route, the tourist will find indications for clothing, including suitable shoes, the difficulty of the route and the estimated time to walk it, useful numbers in case of difficulty.

The territory of the Biosphere, moreover, allows you to visit the seven countries that are part of it, both to discover the artistic beauties, the museums, the archaeological areas and to taste the local products of the typical gastronomy of the Alto Molise.

In the area there are museums and archaeological areas to visit, for these we suggest you to find out about the sites of the various municipalities of the MAB Consortium.

The Collemeluccio-Montedimezzo Reserve offers various private and public tourist facilities, including B&Bs, farms and small restaurants. The local community, in all about 5000 inhabitants, is rooted in the territory and is increasingly linked to the ancient cultural values of the past, in particular to agricultural and pastoral activities.

In the Collemeluccio-Montedimezzo Reserve, the activities related to tourism are: eco-tourism, agritourism, educational tourism, tourism related to sport, health, wine and food, art. Other tourist activities are: bird watching, camping, hunting, cycling, solo walks, guided tours with particular attention to fauna and flora, horse riding.

Gastronomy typical of the Biosphere

The local products represent the typical gastronomy of Alto Molise and are the truffle, sausages, ham, soups based on legumes and all products related to sheep farming, such as meat and sheep cheese.

The white truffle of San Pietro Avellana, one of the seven municipalities of the Biosphere, is considered the white gold of Molise and every year, at the beginning of November, there is the Exhibition of Fine White Truffle right in the tiny village of 500 inhabitants.

Among the cheeses there is plenty of choice between pecorino cheese, caciocavallo and stracciata Carovillari (another common of the Biosfera) considered the mozzarella Molisana.

As main courses, local restaurants offer lamb or kid meat.

Another ancient recipe of the place is the pied, these are sheep parts, boiled together with mountain herbs and cooked in a copper pot directly on the fire.

How to reach the Collemeluccio-Montedimezzo Biosphere

The Reserve is located in the north-west of the province of Isernia, in the Upper Molise, on the border with Abruzzo.

By car it is easily accessible by the various Italian motorways, so just follow the directions.

By train from the railway station of Isernia leave the replacement buses that reach the stations: Pescolanciano-Chiauci; Carovilli-Roccasicura; Vastogirardi; Villa S. Michele; S. Pietro Avellana-Capracotta.

Copertina: Cipriani Park Hotel

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