23rd - 30th May 2020
The Sibillini is one of Italy’s finest national parks. It is situated on the borders of Umbria and Le Marche in central Italy and is a paradise for wildflowers and butterflies as well as threatened species such as wolves and golden eagles in small numbers.
Our tour to the Sibillini introduces you to a paradise of scenery, wildflowers and insects. Numbers are kept deliberately small so that you can have a great deal of personal tuition as well as time to put what you learn into practice. As well as photographic opportunities - it is a wonderful area for flower-filled landscape photography as well as for macro photography of wild orchids and butterflies...you will have excellent company and superb local food and wine - a wonderful chance to get a feel for the region: the nature, history, food and customs.
Within the Sibillini it takes just half an hour to move from experiencing meadows with distinctly Mediterranean orchids, to screes with dwarf high alpines such as rock jasmines (Androsaces) and gentians. Many species of wild orchids (and their hybrids) flourish in the extensive woodlands and meadows. We visit mountain hillsides with masses of yellow tulips and white narcissus whilst a short walk higher up brings us to alpine meadow turf coloured with mountain flowers such as thymes, forget-me-nots and rockroses spreading to tint whole areas of hillsides in yellows, whites, pinks and blues.
For the first part of our tour we are based at a small agriturismo near Preci close to flower meadows often with abundant wild orchids: all of our sites and ambles lie within a short drive. We then move to Norcia staying in a family run hotel in the centre which specialises in local dishes which allows us to travel to the heights with no shortage of colourful plants along the road verges. Nothing, however, quite prepares you for the sight when the ridge is topped and the immense Piano Grande stretches out before you, enclosed by a ring of mountains and dominated by the bulk of Monte Vettore, beneath which, on its glacial spoil heap sits Castelluccio di Norcia. For the last 2 nights we move to another agriturismo near Monteleone di Spoleto - simple accommodation but with excellent home-farmed produce and meals which gives us easy access to the heights of Monte Terminillo.
The Piano Grande, once a glacial lake, is now a vast pasture where skylarks make the air throb with song. Castelluccio di Norcia is a picture postcard town (from afar) atop a knoll that is ringed with fields of poppies and cornflowers in early July. Earlier in the year, there are other spectacular plants such as yellow tulips (Tulipa australis), white narcisssus (Narcissus poeticus), fritillaries (Fritillaria montana) and peonies (Paeonia officinalis). It is an area whose diversity and natural riches one could probably never exhaust.
The Piano Grande is probably the jewel in the crown of our Sibillini tour. During our 2017 visit all access was closed because of the severe earthquake damage the previous August when villages and towns were decimated and roads destroyed. We did some quick thinking and contacted clients to explain (everyone had expected some access after political promises but this is Italy…). We had to change accommodation and arranged to stay for two nights near Monteleone di Spoleto to give us access to Monte Terminillo and the high alpine pastures…It worked incredibly well and we have now incorporated this area into the tour as well as the Piano Grande which is now thankfully accessible again to visitors.
The pace of the week is relaxed with a modest amount of gentle walking to get us to the best spots. This is somewhere we love and have made many friends - we want to do all we can to bring this region to people whom we know will appreciate it.
A detailed article about this tour written by Sue Parker of First Nature can be seen here...
Arrival in Rome and transfer to our base in the picturesque Campi valley (approx 2.5 hrs).
Day 2 Campi valley
In the morning we explore the fields and paths around about - along lanes and through traditionally managed meadows and woods where some 16 orchid species thrive - to say nothing of an assortment of butterflies and birds such as hoopoe, nightjar, cirl bunting and scops owl. We travel a short distance to picnic and wander in an orchid meadow high above the valley. After lunch we explore parts of nearby Monte Mericone with flower-strewn slopes and views over the Sibillini area to the distant snow-capped slopes beyond.
Day 3 Campi valley
We explore the woods and meadows along and above the Campi valley travelling up to several hill top villages in a leisurely fashion with numerous stops for flowers along the way. Then we head up to high pastures further west where butterflies abound and skylarks, quail, cirl buntings and shrike compete.
Day 4 Piano Grande
We transfer to Norcia then head up towards Castelluccio di Norcia sited on a glacial spoil heap at the far end of the Piano Grande. The first sight of the vast plain of the Piano Grande, is an unforgettable experience especially just before the morning mist disperses from the ‘bowl’ ringed by mountains. We descend to the plain stopping for wild tulips and narcissus then travel to the south facing slopes of Monte Vettore where we picnic amongst the peonies and wander along easy paths.
Day 5 Piano Grande
With appetites whetted, we explore the hills ringing the plain looking for the best displays of flowers we can find as camera subjects - each year they change as fields are tilled. We make use of the low angle and warmth of the evening light to get those poppy and cornflower shots to remember.
Day 6 Mte Terminillo
Our transfer to Monteleone di Spoleto takes us via mountain roads and spectacular scenery with frequent stops for roadside flowers…orchids included: sword-leaved helleborine (Cephalanthera longifolia), violet limodore (Limodorum abortivum) and bird’s nest orchid (Neottia nidus avis)…in several places there are interesting butterflies such as Black-veined whites. and a bewildering range of ‘blues’ and fritillaries.
Day 7 Mte Terminillo
Our base allows us to reach the heights of Monte Terminillo travelling through dense beech woodlands to the heights beyond. Scenically, the limestone crags give the impression of a mini-Dolomite range: here is a true alpine realm where the short turf is studded with gentians, Androsaces (rock jasmines), colourful pansies and spring crocus (Crocus verna) near the edges of patches of melting snow… Orchids include the distinct magenta and yellow colour forms of elderflower orchid (Dactylorhiza sambucina) as well as pale-flowered orchid (Orchis pallens)
Day 8 Return to Rome and the flights home
NB Our time in and around the Piano Grande and Terminillo has to be a moveable feast - we literally keep a ‘weather eye’ open in this complex mountain system according to local conditions.
23rd - 30th May 2020
Cost - €1780
For the first 3 nights we are based at a small agriturismo near Preci close to flower meadows. All of our sites and ambles lie within a short drive. We then move to Norcia for the next 2 nights and are based in the centre of town at a family run hotel specialising in local dishes. For our last 2 nights we move to a simple but very special agriturismo near Monteleone di Spoleto which gives us easy access to the high alpine pastures of Monte Terminillo. All rooms have private en suite bathrooms.
- Pick up to and from airport (usually Rome). Flights to be coordinated with others in group but we aim to pick people up around midday on the first day and drop people back at the airport on the last day again, at around midday.
- All transport during the tour
- All accommodation and meals including wine at lunch and dinner
What's not included
- Personal expenses e.g. drinks, coffees, gelato...
Contact us for a booking form