Driving along the road from Cansano to Pescocostanzo, near the lower ridges of Majella National Park, visitors will suddenly find themselves driving through a stunning forest known locally as Bosco di Sant’Antonio.
The forest and protected area covers over 500 hectares and was originally a lucus, a sacred forest dedicated to Jupiter, the Roman god of the sky and thunder. However, it was later associated with Saint Anthony and the small medieval hermitage built on the fringes of the forest. The hermitage dates back to the 14th-15th centuries and consists of a small church with a wooden statue of Saint Anthony and living quarters.
The forest is particularly bio-diverse. Other than the predominant beech trees, visitors can find maple, oak, and pear trees, along with rare orchids. Wolves and bears are known to roam the forest’s glades and dark paths. It has been spared clear-cutting for centuries and some of its maple and beech trees are hundreds of years old. Through pollarding, many have now acquired candlestick shapes and massive trunks. Some of the most impressive trees have been given fantasy-themed names such as Fangorn and Sauron.
The forest is particularly beautiful during autumn and can be explored quite during all seasons thanks to several trails and cross-country skiing tracks.
Know Before You Go
Most trails depart from the Piazzale del Bosco di Sant'Antonio where you can also find a restaurant. Trail n. 10 is a two kilometers long trail and runs through the forest to the hermitage.