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In recent years we have been verypleased to introduce some of Italy'slesser-known wildlife reserves to a widerNaturetrek audience. We are proud tocontinue this tradition by the inclusion inour programme of an 8-day tour focusingon the magnificent scenery andoutstanding natural history attributes ofSibillini National Park. Situated in theprovince of Marche which, together withneighbouring Umbria, is known as thegreen heartland of Italy, the protectedlandscape of the national park embracesmore than 20 peaks over 2,000 metres inheight. In addition to these pristinemontane habitats there are extensive tractsof forest, rolling pastoral hills and superbflower-filled meadows creating a naturalhistory paradise. Our base for explorationof the park is a charming family-run hotel,situated in the most unspoilt area of the eastern Apennines, a region steeped inhistory and legend. From the hotel we canenjoy spectacular views of the picturesquetown of Amandola below us and thesurrounding mountains.We fly first to the city of Ancona and thencomplete a 90-minute road transfer to ouraccommodation, passing by hilltop castlesand towers that give an indication of thecolourful history of this region. Once at the hotel, we can begin to savour themagic of the area by a short walk in searchof local orchids such as Orchis fragrans,Ophrys tetraloniaeand Ophrys fuciflorassp.gracilis. After a morning of travel, a moreappealing alternative may be relaxation inthe grounds of the hotel listening to thesoporific buzzing of bees and the flutywhistles of Golden Orioles, which add thebrilliance of their yellow and black plumageto the green of the canopy.For the next six days we undertake dailyexcursions to explore the many facets ofthe national park, an odyssey that will takeus to high alpine meadows filled with wildflowers, marshes, wetlands and aspectacular mountain gorge. Each habitatabounds with interesting natural history andsuperlative scenery. The montane elementsare provided by the peaks of Monte Sibillaand Monte Vettore. Each has its ownmystique and legends; the soothsayer Sibylwas alleged to live in a cave on the formerand it is said that Pontius Pilate was buriedon Monte Vettore. Of more relevance to ourholiday, the fairly steep walks to reach thehigher elevations are rewarded by carpetsof gentians, Edelweiss and other alpinefavourites whilst the lower slopes are abotanist's dream containing variousspecies of orchid, Martagon Lily, AlpineBuckthorn and many other much prizedspecies. With such an abundance offlowers it is no surprise that butterflies arealso much in evidence, a variety thatincludes Eastern Large Heath, SootyRinglet, Amanda's Blue and a host ofpuzzling fritillaries to test our identificationskills. Noisy flocks of Alpine Chough will nodoubt put in an appearance as we near thesummits and a sweet musical song mayreveal an Alpine Accentor amongst theboulders. Snow Finches also inhabit thesepeaks whilst inhabitants of the Beechwoods on the lower slopes include dapperCollared Flycatchers, Bonelli's Warblersand Short-toed Tree-creepers.During our week we will also visit thereedbeds and marshes at Colfiorito, whichprovide an unexpected contrast to themountains. This little-known wetland is setamid an area of open plains and arablefields where traditional farming practiceshave ensured that many of the arable'weeds' such as Cornflower, CornButtercups and Corn Cleavers still flourish.Corn Buntings pour out their jangling songfrom every telephone wire and the fieldsprovide cover for Montagu's Harriers andQuail to raise their young. As we approachthe reeds we will hear the raucous chatterof Great Reed Warblers, whilst other birdsfound here include Bearded Reedling,Marsh Harrier, Penduline Tit and Bittern.Once a glacial lake, the Piano Grande isnow a vast upland plain 1,250 metresabove sea level. We spend a day hereamong carpets of wild flowers whichinclude poppies, wild tulips (Tulipaaustralis), fritillaries and alpine exotics suchas Carex bauxbaumiiand Cerastiumscaranii. This is a magnificent wild placewhere the songs of countless Skylarkscombine to provide a backgroundsymphony to our walks. One final treat awaits as we visit La Goladell'Infernaccio (Hell's Gorge), arguably themost impressive limestone gorge in theApennine range. Once again the scenery iswonderful and a wide range of flora,butterflies and birds will contribute to amemorable day. Away from the better-known tourist magnets in other parts ofItaly, this unexplored national park atop themythical kingdom of Sibilla Cumana holdsa wealth of natural history treasuresawaiting discovery.View towards Monte VettoreMARCHEADRIATIC SEAANCONASARNANOPARCO NAZIONALEDEI MONTI SIBILLINIMT. SIBILLAAMANDOLA88Call now or visit www.naturetrek.co.ukfor your free Trip ItineraryOutline itineraryDay 1Fly Ancona.Day 2/7A daily programme ofnatural history walksfrom our base nearAmandola.Day 8Fly Stansted. AccommodationA comfortable family-run hotel; allrooms have private facilities.FoodAll included in the cost. GradingGrade B. All walks are optional daywalks, some of them on steepground.FocusPlants, birds, mammals andbutterflies. LeaderPhil Thompson.Single room supplement£140.Web quick search: ITA04Italy's SibilliniMountains An 8-day natural history tour to one of Italy's least-visited and most spectacularregions - the majestic Sibillini Mountains in the province of Marche.Wednesday 5th June - Wednesday 12th June Cost: £1,295Pearly HeathLate Spider Orchid

89Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Venice and transferto the Fassa Valley.Day 2/7A programme ofbotanical day walksfrom our base in theFassa Valley. Day 8Fly London.AccommodationA friendly and comfortable family-run hotel (with private facilities), withfine views over the Fassa Valley.FoodAll included in the price.GradingDay walks only. Grade B. FocusPlants.LeaderJessica Turner.Single room supplement£160.ExtensionsAvailable on request, with orwithout car rental. Web quick search: ITA08LIECHTENSTEINSWITZERLANDAUSTRIACATINACCIOPORDOIPASSMARMOLADAVIGO DI FASSAHOTELVAL DIFASSAROLLE PASSNATIONAL PARKOF PANEVEGGIOBRENTAGROUPTRENTOFROM/TOVERONA/VENICETHEITALIAN DOLOMITESBook direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationThe Italian DolomitesAn 8-day botanical holiday exploring the Dolomites Mountains of north-eastern Italy.Wednesday 19th June - Wednesday 26th June Cost: £1,295Many believe the landscape of theItalian Dolomites to be amongst themost beautiful in the country.Situated in north-eastern Italy, it is amountainous region of the eastern Alpswith a particularly unique scenic beautyand distinctive character. The mountainstake their name from the predominantmineral - dolomite - from which they areformed, a type of crystalline magnesiumlimestone. Although these mountains arenot as high as those in the central Alps,they are very dramatic, characterised bytheir towering pinnacles and castellations,and constant changes in rock colour as thecrystals catch and reflect the light. Thecolours of the dolomite rocks stem fromtheir formation as coral colonies andsedimentary deposits. The sediments werelaid over non-calcareous primary rocks(granite) which have been exposed bytectonic movement and now present dark rounded mountain slopes with acidicconditions, that contrast markedly with the neighbouring, needle-like, limestoneformations.This holiday will take the turn-of-the-centuryalpine botanist, Reginald Farrer's book 'TheDolomites' as its pivot. Following in Farrer'sfootsteps, we will have opportunities toexplore both the limestone and the graniticmountains which present both dramaticscenery as well as fascinating habitats foralpine plants. We have been operating thisholiday in the Dolomites since 1997,focusing on the abundant and varied florawhich is representative of the eastern Alps but further enriched by several speciesconsidered to be endemic to theDolomites. Although snow has fallen in themonth of June in this region, we hope thatby visiting during the latter part of June wewill enjoy fine, sunny weather, with longdays and clear skies.We begin our holiday with a flight fromLondon to Verona or Venice, and inprivately hired minibuses drive north to theFassa Valley where we will be basedthroughout the week in a wonderfullyfriendly, family-run hotel, blessed withexceptional mountain views. Our drivenorth from the airport will take us into theprovince of Trentino and the DolomitesMountains, and during the initial part of thisjourney the vegetation will reflect theinfluence of the Mediterranean climate,before we get further north into the AdigeValley, where vineyards and low altitudemountain vegetation will appear. Thisrelaxing week is set amongst themountains but does not involve anystrenuous mountaineering. There will beample opportunity to slowly explore the richmeadows of the valleys with theirspectacular flora of orchids - includingthe Military, Dwarf, Marsh and ScentedOrchids - fine Pedicularisspecies,Pulsatillas, Lilium bulbiferum var. croceumand other flowering herbs.The Fassa Valley itself lies midway alongFarrer's circuitous route, and within reachof the renowned Marmolada and theCatinaccio ranges on which the differenthabitats, each with its own characteristicflora, are to be found. Spectacular amongstthe walks on limestone will be ourexploration of the Catinaccio group (alsoknown as the Rosengarten range), wherepinnacles rise up above precipices andscrees, on which the fragrant tufts ofThlaspi rotundifoliumare abundant, compact and robust. Here we can also hope to find Potentilla nitida,Valeriana supinaand Valeriana saliunca,Campanula zoysii,Soldanella alpina,Ranunculus seguieri,Anemone baldensisaswell as creeping willows, Mountain Avensand Edelweiss in the rocks. Otherlimestone-loving plants will be seenelsewhere, for example, in the region of thePordoi Pass, Androsaceobtusifolia(chamaejasme), Androsace hausmanniiandAndrosace helveticahave all been reported,as well as Ranunculus keupferi, and on theslopes of the Marmolada itself, we hope tolocate the rare Primula tyrolensis.During two days of the holiday we willconcentrate our explorations on theNational Park of Panevéggio. Here, on thelower slopes, magnificent spruce forestsshelter Daphne striata,Anemone trifoliaandCypripedium calceolus, whilst above theforest lies the high Rolle Pass, and views ofthe magical Cimon della Pala, described byFarrer as 'the mountain of mountains'. Wewill spend time on the limestone Castelláz,and on the screes beneath the Cimon dellaPala, where amongst the rich limestoneflora we can expect to find Carlinaacanthifolia,Primula halleriand hopefullyCampanula morettiana, as well as manyother species particular to this habitat.On the nearby granite mountain ofCavallazza, south of Rolle Pass, Farrer wassure Eritrichium nanumwould be found. Wewill look! The flora on this acid substratewill be less rich than that on the limestonebut nonetheless we can expect to find suchspecies as Rhododendron ferrugineum,Loiseleuria procumbens, the erect Huperziaselago, Fir Clubmoss, Soldanella pusilla,Primula glutinosaand Primula minima.Above all, we will enjoy a week ofwonderful botanical walks amongst someof the most spectacular scenery in Italy.Odle-Geisler peaks, DolomitesCampanula barbataMartagon Lily