Thanks to a loan from Rewilding Europe Capital, the high altitude Bisegna Mountain Refuge offers wild nature lovers a unique experience in the heart of Italy’s stunning Apennine mountains. The converted shepherd’s hut welcomed its first guests in July.
Beyond the shuttered windows of your beautifully renovated mountaintop cottage, the wind whips through the walnut trees. Fortified by a meal of delicious, locally prepared food and a few glasses of fine local wine, you sit back and contemplate a day of wildlife watching beside a roaring fire. Then, high above the noise of the wind, comes howling of a very different kind….
Where in Italy can nature lovers see a pack of wolves loping through the winter snow, or a brown bear ambling across a springtime hillside, all from the window of their accommodation? Thanks to a loan from Rewilding Europe Capital (REC), the answer is the newly opened Bisegna Mountain Refuge, one of the most spectacular properties in the Central Apennines.
Perched on a saddle of land between the towns of Pescasseroli and Bisegna, only a two-hour drive from the cafes and colonnades of Rome, the Bisegna Mountain Refuge is located at an elevation of 1780 metres on the edge of the Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park (PNALM). The property is run by by Wildlife Adventures, a Pescasseroli-based company founded in 2009 that offers hiking, trekking and wildlife watching in the parks of the Central Apennines.
A Euro 40,000 loan from REC, Rewilding Europe’s rewilding enterprise investment vehicle, enabled complete restoration of the Bisegna Mountain Refuge. After the loan was disbursed in July 2016, the abandoned shepherd’s hut took around a year to restore. It now boasts a wood burning stove, solar-powered electricity, kitchen and cosy communal area. With an additional en suite double room and separate shared sleeping area for hikers, it can accommodate up to 12 people.
“Without the loan from REC we simply wouldn’t have been able to undertake this exciting project,” explains Umberto Esposito, a hiking instructor and nature photographer who founded Wildlife Adventures. “We’re delighted to support rewilding by opening the refuge, and to be able to show more people the wild beauty of this special area that we call home.”
Launched in 2013, the goal of REC is to demonstrate that rewilding can create thriving wildlife and nature-focused rural economies that generate new business opportunities, jobs and income for society. To date it has financed 19 businesses in six European countries, with a commitment totalling Euro 520,000.
“We are thrilled about the opening of the Bisegna Mountain Refuge,” says Matthew McLuckie, Rewilding Europe’s Enterprise Development Manager. “The refuge is one tourism product developed through our partnership with Wildlife Adventures. In combination with wildlife watching hides and the Apennines Tented Camp, resources such as these are opening up new experiences and opportunities for exploring one of Europe’s most dramatic and naturally rich landscapes.”
Boasting several several world-class national parks, the Central Apennines are a nature lover’s paradise. A complex system of mountain ridges and vast tablelands, this great topgraphic knot is the final refuge of many animals and plants that were once widespread across all of Italy’s mountainous areas. These include the endemic Apennine chamois and the iconic Marsican brown bear.
The Bisegna Mountain Refuge is sited close to the land bridge between the PNALM, the Majella National Park and the Monte Genziana Regional Reserve. It is here that Rewilding Europe is focusing its efforts in the Central Apennines to provide the critically endangered, 50-strong endemic Marsican brown bear population with a safe corridor between these protected areas. The value of these corridors, so vital to the survival of the bears, can be improved by involving local communities and giving them economic incentives to protect these majestic animals.
Wildlife Adventures is now starting to offer guided tours in the refuge area, and is looking to employ more local people and young nature lovers to assist with these over the coming months.
Discover more about the Central Apennines and Rewilding Europe’s rewilding efforts there here.