Of course, it is the recognisable symbol but the park has much more to offer. In the evening we love standing on the Piano di Sopra looking out over the wide landscape and watching how the sunset slowly changes the view of the mountain ranges and vibrantly yellow hills.
Tall shadows spread across the landscape. Rays of light find their way through the clouds and illuminate single spots of the landscape like spotlights. Then as the light dwindles further the unreal candy coloured clouds start to fade, and as darkness sets thousands of spots of light coming from settlements and single farms start glimmering in the valley. The scenery lies sleeping, only the cold wind whistles its same old song.
When an inclement weather front bringing bad weather arrives, the low hanging clouds become entangled with the sap green beech forests of the mountain slopes. Grey mist wraps around the lichen-covered tree trunks and changes the view from one second to the next. Colours and shapes start to blur just like an aquarelle painting – fleeting, magical moments.
In the last days we spoke to locals and visitors about the opportunities the National Park offers to the region. Naturally, this is a controversial topic which could be discussed for nights on end. Nature conservation in its essence is not possible without the cooperation of the people who live in the region. They have to be integrated and they need to be given possibilities to co-exist with the Park. Prejudices need to be eradicated and it is probably also necessary to reopen the locals’ eyes to the beauty and uniqueness of nature. But it is just as important to remember the traditions and understanding of nature of past generations and to recognise oneself as a part of nature’s very complex balance. The Pollino National Park is in a region of Italy where it is not easy, particularly for young people, to find their own way due to the combination of traditional life, family expectations and the desire for self-realisation. The project “Arte Pollino” is an initiative between private and public institutions and artists who try to create change through the running of different projects. Art work shops, installations, music and theatre projects are designed to help integrate local people and draw international attention to the region.
We believe it is vital that the existing infrastructure for national and international visitors is improved. Although there is no lack of decent hotels, agriturismos, refugios, guides and restaurants offering the famous Mediterranean cuisine in this unique landscape full of beauty, a network bundling all of these different offerings for visitors is missing. Unbelievable but true – there is not a single detailed map of the region showing the different mountain and village paths. This can easily give tourists the impression that they are not welcome. Official hiking trails are almost non-existent and if you find some they are badly marked. This is where the administration of the National Park needs to take initiative in addition to self-government to make the park more accessible to foreigners by installing official hiking paths and issuing a map that shows more than just the surrounding motorways. Nature needs to be experienced in order to establish a connection with it.
The Pollino region has not always made it easy for us as nature photographers, but there are many special moments of the past trips that will be part of our memories forever. We met very open, sincere and down to earth people and we hope they will have the courage and strength to add a few more chapters to the 1,000 year history of the pines of the Monte Pollino, Serra Dolcedorme and Serra di Crispo.
Claudia Müller & Sandra Bartocha / Wild Wonders of Europe
Please note that blogs reflect our photographers' opinions and not necessarily those of the directors of Wild Wonders of Europe.