The king of the forest

Il re della foresta

A narrow road leads us away from the village of Senerchia, in upper Irpinia, to penetrate the mountain.

Houses become more and more sporadic, noises more and more distant, the air cleaner. So pure as to seem pungent. The sky seems closer. The roar of the water gives advance notice of the entrance to the Oasis Valle della Caccia: a 450 hectares treasure, rich in biodiversity, today a WWF presidium. Wherever you look, the lush and wonderful nature of the Monti Picentini Regional Park fills your eyes with its colors.

A buzzard twirls over the foliage of beech and oak trees, probably looking for a secluded branch to nest. A brave Golden Retriever explores the white stones in the waters of the Acquabianca stream. Which is said to be so called because the light color of the gravel makes the water particularly clear. Who knows where the Apennine wolf hides, a frequent visitor to these woods. And the wild cat? Someone says that some rare specimens frequent the most remote areas of the park, feeding upon rodents and birds.

The spotted salamander, on the other hand, does not show itself so easily, not to betray its reputation as a discreet animal, despite living right next to the water springs. Lucky visitors could meet her briefly after a day of intense rain. The frogs croak cheerfully, and show themselves jumping between rocks.

It would take some time and patience to observe the dipper, a good connoisseur of clear and healthy waters and a certain guest of the Oasi Valle della Caccia. There is not much hope instead of bumping into the river's nightingale, shy as it is. It avoids people and moves almost clandestinely, if it is not protected by dense vegetation. But his powerful and melodic song, celebrated since ancient times, is an unmistakable sign and a gift from the forest.

Wood pigeons, turtle doves, cuckoos, jays, great tits, finches and imperial ravens populate this enchanted world: they do not always show up, but sometimes daydreaming is enough to feel satisfied. Imagine them flitting in the mountains or scouring one of the many caves of the Oasis: that of Muschio, of Profonnale, Grotto od Diavolo (Devil).

The wooden bridges built on the Acquabianca stream, among colored lilies and wild orchids, turn on the adventure spirit of adults and children. Whoever hesitates, those who walk with a sure step, those who bend down to taste the cold and transparent water, those who stop suddenly enchanted by the verse of a bird.

Here the king of the forest is the noble and ancient Black Pine (Pinus nigra Arnold). You have to get at least 600 meters to admire it in all its beauty. But not to see this force of nature would be a pity: to meet one with the same characteristics of longevity and splendor, we should move towards the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise, in Villetta Barrea, with which the Oasi Valle della Caccia has been twinned since 1996.

It is called Oasi Valle della Caccia, but despite its name, it is one of the most protected and controlled areas of the Picentini Mountains, due to the great variety of flora and fauna and the richness of its waters, infallible antidote to the summer heat wave.