The wild heart of Italy

Bruno D'Amicis/Rewilding Europe

The wild heart of Italy

The wild heart of Italy

Bruno D'Amicis/Rewilding Europe

The wild heart of Italy

The wild heart of Italy

Bruno D'Amicis/Rewilding Europe

The wild heart of Italy

The wild heart of Italy

Bruno D'Amicis/Rewilding Europe

The wild heart of Italy

The wild heart of Italy

Staffan Widstrand / Rewilding Europe

The wild heart of Italy

The Central Apennines are characterized by a rich diversity of ecosystems and wildlife. Among the most important habitats are its beech woods, open hillsides and alpine grasslands.

Who would have thought that you could watch wild wolves and bears in their natural surroundings, just an hour and a half out of “The Eternal City” Rome?

The Apennines is the second main mountain range of Italy and stretches for hundreds of kilometers from the north to the south along the spine of the country.

Large beech forests, many of which are centuries-old and probably among the oldest in Europe, cover the mountain slopes in many areas. Among the huge trees and their mossy stems live large populations of wild herbivores like red deer, roe deer and wild boar. These species in many places share their habitats with large herds of unfenced horses and cattle and together represent the main prey for the wolves, whose density in some Apennine areas is possibly the highest in Europe.

The most charismatic and famous inhabitant of the mountain forests here is the Marsican brown bear, an endemic subspecies to the region.

Rewilding vision

For each rewilding landscape we developed an inspiring vision that shows our ambition for the next ten years. Together with our local partners we work to make this vision a reality.

What are we doing here?

Establishing coexistence corridors

In the Central Apennines rewilding landscape Rewilding Europe is working with local partners to develop large “coexistence corridors” by connecting the local economy with wilder nature in five corridors collectively covering more than 100,000 hectares. These corridors link the national parks of Abruzzo, Molise and Lazio and Majella to the Sirente Velino Regional Park. The aim is to support wildlife within the corridors, which in turn extends the range and abundance of wildlife within the parks.

Within these corridors, local communities will learn to live alongside the spectacular wildlife of the Central Apennines, of which the Marsican brown bear is the most iconic species. By reducing the damage caused by such wildlife, and by allowing communities to benefit from it, people living here will become ambassadors for the landscapes wild nature. Actions in the field are focused on reducing bear mortality and conflict, promoting co-existence, supporting nature-based enterprises in and around corridor areas, and raising awareness amongst local communities and people visiting the landscape.

Boosting Marsican brown bear numbers

A short drive from Rome, the dramatic Abruzzo region is the final refuge of many animals and plants that were once widespread across all of Italy’s mountainous areas. Of these, the Marsican brown bear is both the most iconic and most endangered.

While the current Marsican brown bear population (numbering 50–60 individuals) is relatively safe inside the region’s nature parks (mainly the Abruzzo, Molise and Lazio National Park), outside the park boundaries they are at risk from poaching, poisoning and traffic collisions. There is also conflict with local people who experience problems related to beehives, orchards and livestock, and who don’t benefit economically from the presence of the bears.

Rewilding Europe is working with local partners to reduce bear mortality and conflict by installing traffic accident prevention measures, removing old fencing, restoring and improving signage, and distributing new mobile electric fences. A group of locally recruited “bear ambassadors” has also been set up to communicate with local communities, train landowners, search for illegal snares, support anti-poison patrols, collect bear reports and manage camera traps.

World-class wildlife watching

Boasting several world-class national parks, the Central Apennines are a nature lover’s paradise, with wildlife species such as the iconic Marsican brown bear, wolf and the endemic Apennine chamois, together with high numbers of red deer, wild boar, golden eagle, griffon vulture and others. The region has fantastic wildlife tourism potential.

By working to establish a vibrant nature-based economy in the Central Apennines rewilding landscape, Rewilding Europe is providing local communities with an economic incentive to protect such wildlife. Business plans for several wildlife watching hides have been drawn up, while loans from Rewilding Europe Capital (REC) have underpinned the development of a series of new wildlife and tourist products, many of which will be promoted and sold through Rewilding Europe Travel.

Offering hiking, trekking and wildlife watching in the parks of the Central Apennines, Pescasseroli-based Wildlife Adventures is the first business in the Central Apennines receive loans from REC. A second loan disbursed in 2016 has enabled the business to refurbish and open a mountain refuge in the commune of Bisegna.

“This truly is the wild heart of Italy!”

Mario Cipollone
Mario Cipollone
Team leader of Central Apennines
How would you characterise your rewilding landscape?
Historic villages and dramatic landscapes with outstanding opportunities to experience majestic wildlife and wilderness experiences a short drive from Rome. Brown bears, wolves, large ungulates and large birds of prey are the main attractions, complemented by excellent Italian food, wine and hospitality and the opportunity to meet livestock owners and mountain people and sample their unique culture. I invite every nature lover to come here and enjoy what our surprising nature can offer in the most respectful way. This truly is the wild heart of Italy!

What have the major achievements been in your rewilding landscape to date?
As a project manager for the Salviamo l’Orso team I was involved in a number of  major achievements:

  • Establishing the first “bear smart community” through the provision of electric fences and bearproof waste bins, and the raising of awareness to prevent bear-human conflict with a dramatic reduction of bear-related damage. This successful conservation action has been now expanded to different areas across the entire range of the Marsican brown bear.
  • The mitigation of bear-related traffic accidents through the installation of reflective studs, road signs and optical systems, and a reduction of the speed limit on Road SR83 to 70 km/h.
  • Reduction of bear-beekeeping conflicts by securing several apiaries with electric fences, paying compensation for damage to non-secured properties, and promoting bear smart practices.
  • Promotion of bear-friendly products, creating an extra incentive for local entrepreneurs to protect bears.
  • Organisation of volunteer programs involving Italian and foreign students in conservation actions, bringing new life and energy to local communities.

All of these actions, while specifically aimed at boosting the local bear population, are also having a wider positive impact on Central Apennine ecosystems.

What would you like to see achieved in your rewilding landscape in the next five years?
Over the next five years I would like to see significant growth of the Marsican bear population with an extension of its core area, the comeback of scavengers and raptors which inhabited this landscape before hunting and poisoning took their toll, and the expansion of the European otter in our rivers. I would also like to see an increased environmental awareness amongst our local stakeholders, and the increased adoption of best practices for coexistence with wildlife, which form the basis of our conservation efforts.

Our main achievements

Image gallery

Team members

Mario Cipollone

Team Leader

Angela Tavone

Communications Manager

Valerio Reale

Enterprise Manager

Donato Pinto

Finance Manager

Fabrizio Cordischi

Field Operations Manager

Dara Brodey

Volunteer Coordinator

Filippo Castellucci

Scientific Coordinator

Luca Chiaverini

GIS Analyst

Daniela Gentile

Communications Officer

Bérénice Guinel

Enterprise Officer

Giulia Pace

Finance and Administration Officer

Julien Leboucher

Field Officer

Nicolò Borgianni

Vulture field officer

Pietrantonio Costrini

Bear Ambassador

Board members

Antonio Carrara
Bruno D’Amicis
Izabella Zwack
Piero Visconti
Donato Pinto


Rewilding Apennines
In Central Apennines, Rewilding Europe works with Rewilding Apennines as the preferential partner; a legal entity (association) that was established in 2015 specific for this initiative. Both organisations signed a partnership agreement, including a strategy.

The local NGO Salviamo l’Orso (Associazione per la conservazione dell’orso bruno marsicano – ONLUS) is an important partner of Rewilding Apennines for developing measures for protection of the Marsican brown bear. Other local partners are different municipalities and the Abbruzzo National Park authority, with whom Rewilding Apennines signed and MoU on cooperation for a range of activities.

Starting in 2021, a new partnership with Exodus Travels will support the rewilding of land in five wildlife corridors in the Central Apennines rewilding landscape. A minimum of 100m2 of land will be rewilded for every passenger that books a trip with the company. This will support the ongoing development of the wildlife corridors in the rewilding landscape, thereby promoting biodiversity, locking up atmospheric carbon and indirectly supporting the growth of a local nature-based economy.



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