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Parco Nazionale La Sila/Italy

Introducing Parco Nazionale La Sila

La Sila is a big landscape, where wooded hills create endless rolling views. It’s dotted with small villages and cut through with looping roads that make driving on them a test of your digestion.

It’s divided into three areas: the Sila Grande, with the highest mountains; the strongly Albanian Sila Greca (to the north); and the Sila Piccola (near Catanzaro), with vast forested hills. The three areas cover 130 sq km.

Its highest peaks, covered with tall Corsican pines, reach 2000m, high enough for thick snow in winter. This makes it a popular skiing destination. In summer the climate is coolly alpine with carpets of spring wildflowers and mushroom-hunting in autumn. At its peak is the Bosco di Gallopani (Forest of Gallopani), part of the Parco Nazionale della Calabria. There are several beautiful lakes, the largest of which is Lago di Cecita o Mucone near Camigliatello.

Good-quality information in English is scarce. You can try the Calabrian National Park office (0984 57 97 57) or the tourist office (0984 57 80 91)in Camigliatello Silano. A useful internet resource is www.portalesila.it. The people who run B&B Calabria are extremely knowledgeable and helpful.

For maps, try http://ecommerce.escursionista.it/, where you can buy maps of Sila Grande 1:50, 000 (€6.20) and Sila Piccola (€9.30). Carte Stradali Turistiche La Sila 1:100, 000 is available at local petrol stations, or online at www.globalmap.it (€7).

You can take fantastic trekking trips with Valli Cupe (333 698 88 35/864 36 01; www.vallicupe.it) – on foot or via donkey or jeep – in the area around Sersale (in the southeast), where there are myriad waterfalls and the dramatic Canyon Valli Cupe. Trips cost only €7 per person per day. Specialising in botany, the guides (who speak Italian and French) also visit remote monasteries and churches. Stay in their rustic accommodation in the town.

During August, Sila in Festa takes place, featuring traditional music. Autumn is mushroom season, when you’ll be able to frequent fungi festivals and pile into porcini pasta.