A chain of mountains in the very heart of Italy that, with Mount Vettore, reaches a height of 2,476 m. (over 8,123 ft). It is here, in the realm of the legendary Sibylla, that in 1993 the Sibylline Mountains National Park (over 70,000 hectares – nearly 173,000 acres) was created with the aim of safeguarding the environment, encouraging sustainable socioeconomic development, and fostering use by all categories of people – “a park for all”. Wolves, golden eagles, peregrine falcons and numerous indigenous species are the most evident signs of a biological wealth and diversity, which, together with the appeal of the abbeys and historical mediaeval centres, spread like a crown on the slopes of the group of mountains, have helped to create an ancient and suggestive world where, even today, time seems to have stood still to pay homage to a place of extraordinary beauty.
The Park not only comprises an area of outstanding naturalistic significance, but also widely differing landscapes, situations and qualities. Visitors can therefore undertake a wide range of interesting guided excursions, with a focus on either history or nature.
The core of the park is Norcia – the birthplace of Europe’s patron saint St. Benedict – famous for its splendid historical town center, the square with the church (14th—18th century) dedicated to the saint, the Cathedral (18th century) and other interesting historical buildings. This is the starting point for the various excursions. Destinations include (a) the water meadows – known as the “marcite” in Italian – the inventive system of permanent irrigation of fields created, according to some, right from the times of the original Benedictine monks) - which can be admired immediately outside the town’s totally intact walls; (b) the Castelluccio plateaux – the fulcrum of the park’s naturalistic beauty, consisting of two extensive plateaux of karst origin in which the eponymous inhabited hamlet is set, well known also for the cultivation of Castelluccio lentils, which in 1997 received the EU’s PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) mark; and (c) the Abbey of St. Eutizio (in the outlying country hamlet of Piedivalle di Preci), founded in the 5th century AD, made famous by the monks’ ability to treat the ill using the precious medicinal herbs of the Sibylline Mountains, and the home of the museum of the first Italian school of surgery.
On 22 May 2003, on International Biodiversity Day, the Sibylline Mountains National Park was awarded the Golden Panda for the implementation of its project “Reconstitution of shrubs and re-introduction of the Dwarf Mountain Pine (pinus mugo) and Spruce Fir”
With the Golden Award the WWF wants to promote good practices in the protection of species and habitats, encouraging the many environmental conservation initiatives undertaken – often little known by the general public.