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The Regional Park of Colfiorito
From Jesse's Journeys in Italy

Map: MapQuest

Whether driving south from Camerino  or north and east from Foligno, one rises ever upward along winding mountain roads toward the small, unprepossessing town of Calfiorito on the border of Umbria and the Marches. 

Coming round a bend in the road, suddenly the landscape opens into a wide, verdant and rolling plateau, the Piani di Colfiorito, a landscape utterly different than anything usually seen in Umbria, or in the rest of Italy for that matter.

A little to the west of the town are the gates to the Regional Park of Colfiorito, the smallest protected area in Umbria, consisting of a mere 50 square kilometers (338 hectares).  The entire park is between 750 and 800 km above sea level.

Hikers, bicyclists, bird watchers, fishers, photographers, painters, and anyone with an appetite for a serene and beautiful landscape will want to stop here and spend at least a little time. 

The best time of year to see the park is in April and May when the entire area is awash in spring flowers, presenting a a sublime visual and olfactory experience that will implant itself in the memory like few others.

The area consists of seven "bowls", the piani, the most prepossessing of which is a marsh known as the Palude di Colfiorito, where one finds flora and fauna rarely seen elsewhere in Italy.  The marsh, which at its deepest point is a mere 4 meters deep, contains the common rush reed, but also magnificent aquatic orchids. Grey and purple herons and wild geese will fly up suddenly out of the reeds, while mallards, bitterns and shovelers skate along the waters.  Amphibious creatures, toads, lizards, and snakes skulk along the water's edge.  Stoats, fox and hedgehogs find a home on dryer ground.

The other six piani used to be "wet", but have long since been drained for agricultural purposes, either for grain production or the grazing of cattle, sheep and goats.  These bowls are known as Cesi, Popola, Annifo, Collecroce, Arvello, and Ricciano.

If you have the legs for it, walk the dirt road from the marsh to the top of Mount Orve.  Not only will you enjoy a view of almost the entire park and the marsh below, but you will come to the ruins of the foundations of an ancient Roman fort or lookout - encased for the time being, in plaster.  Trails will lead you further north and east to other roman ruins, and ultimately to small villages and settlements high in the hills of the Marches.

The beauty of Parco Colfiorito is striking and memorable, but visitors should also know the geography and hydrology of the area is of huge,  practical importance to all of Umbria.  The impermeable karst topography carries some of the groundwater into the piani, but most of it finds its way into underground cavities and fissures, then down along the substrata where it eventually feeds the springs that are vital to the existence of many other Umbrian towns including Cassignano, Nocera Umbra, Capodacqua, Rasiglia, Bagnara, and Marsciano.

Our suggestion: pack a picnic lunch, carry water, take your time, and listen to the rustle of the enveloping quiet.

For more information about the Park:
Click here.

Region of Umbria



From Rome (130K) go east to Todi, then north past Spoleto to Foligno and then take the SS77 toward Camarino.  From Perugia, go east (35 km) to Foligno and follow the S77. If you are coming from the north, say Fabriano or Anacona on the coast, take Hwy 256 through Camerino to the SS77 then head west toward Calfiorto.


Diagram of the area

During the 2nd Century, a Roman town, Plestia  became an important local economic and political. Located at the foot of Mount Pennino on the Colfiorito plateau, Plestia sat at the crossroads of the most important roads in the central Appenines.  At one time the town was quite large (over 60 hectares) with its own archbishop.  Not much of it remains, but there are ruins of a Roman town hall, basilica and other buildings.

For more info