A 10-year vision

Making the Apennines a much wilder place. For the benefit of nature and people.

The Central Apennines is now a true biodiversity hotspot, with real wilderness at the very heart of rustling Italy, only 1, 5 hours from Rome. Something which inspires people in other natural areas to also use rewilding as a tool to create opportunity out of problems.

The Central Apennines, a majestic range of limestone peaks reaching an altitude of almost 3,000 meters, concealing caves, deep canyons, some of Europe’s oldest beech forests and a wide range of grasslands – inhabited by brown bear, wolf, wild cat, Apennine chamois, red deer, wild boar, golden eagle, vultures and an astonishing set of endemics.

Since all the way from the high plateaux via the slopes to the foothills of the mountains, traditional livestock herding and mountain farming have been increasingly abandoned for socio-economic reasons, nature here has been left to a natural rewilding process. Vast areas have been allowed to become much wilder than before. Large herbivores, carnivores and scavengers are coming back in their natural numbers to this rich mosaic landscape. People, previously struggling to be able to remain in their villages through making a living in the traditional style, have now found new, additional or alternative sources of income from wildlife, wild values and wild nature.

In combination with sales of products from the surrounding areas where people still use the landscape in traditional, sustainable ways, this is a vital part of the income for people in the region. The land use changes, rural exodus, loss of biodiversity and fading traditional culture has been turned into new opportunities, attracting both young and old entrepreneurial people as well as many more and better paying visitors from far outside the region.

A number of large core rewilding areas that have no-take regimes, are connected through wildlife and wilderness corridors and surrounded by zones for different kinds and levels of sustainable use. In the core rewilding areas, nature to a great extent is regulated by natural ecological processes, with wildlife and fish in natural densities and with the original native species present.

This provides opportunities for truly Mediterranean wilderness experiences in the Apennines – the Wild Heart of Italy. Once again, large herds of red deer and chamois roam the grandiose landscapes. The wolf and bear are allowed to play their important roles in the ecosystem, influencing the movements and numbers of deer, wild boar, chamois, wild horse and aurochs, and providing the food base for the many scavenging species. Hundreds of griffon vultures soar the skies in search of carrion, followed by majestic lammergeiers who take care of the remaining bones.

The oak woodlands and grasslands are roamed by aurochs and wild boar; lynx pursue Apennine chamois along the steep rocky cliffs, with golden eagles and choughs soaring above them. Rumbling streams are full of brook trout, patrolled by otters and wolves, and with large patches of endemic orchid species growing on their banks. A vast wild landscape, dotted by charming, thousand-year-old villages that fit perfectly in their natural surroundings, merging the unique flavours of history, culture, gastronomy and nature into a unique mix, attractive both to its inhabitants, as well as to its visitors from near and afar. Great wildlife watching tourism is paired with other business opportunities, changing the issues of land abandonment and man/wildlife conflict into great opportunities. Agreements with land owners, communities, hunters and livestock breeders allow the establishment of a network of different experiences of wild nature.

Traditional products, such as sheep cheese, mountain flower honey and herbs are produced in tandem with wild nature. People who live here really value the new opportunities from this novel mix of qualities in a modern and more profitable setting.

Protected areas and rewilding areas are re-connected through ecological corridors, all included in the Natura 2000 system, to form a unique Central Apennines system of fully functional nature without much need for any costly management.