The areas of the territory
For centuries, local populations have considered Majella a sacred mountain, the mother of all human beings. The people of Abruzzi have an almost filial relationship to the mountain: they all know and love it, and some even revere it.
After Gran Sasso d’Italia, the Majella massif is the second highest in the Apennines and it rises alone, surrounded by the Pescara River valley, the Caramanico tectonic rift, the Orta River valley, the San Leonardo and Forchetta Palena fords, the Aventino valley and the Subappennino Frentano high grounds. Seen from above, Majella’s comma-like shape turns northeast, closing the course of the Apennines which begins with the Monti della Laga high grounds at the north and then passes through Gran Sasso.
According to ancient legend, the mountain was once called Monte Paleno, but later its name was changed to Majella, when the Phrygian semi-goddess Maya arrived there looking for herbs to save the life of her son, who was injured in battle. As testimony to the legend, a statue of Maya was erected at Pennpiedimonte (Chieti), a town located at 655 m in altitude on the limestone ridge of the Eastern Majella massif and home to the small mountain community Maielletta.
In terms of physical geography, Majella is a great limestone dome that reaches its highest point at the Monte Amaro peak (2,793 m), followed by sixty further peaks, of which about thirty exceed 2,000 metres. Amongst these are: Monte Acquaviva (2,737 m), Monte Focalone (2,676 m), Monte Sant’Angelo (2,669 m), Monte Pesco Falcone (2,667 m), Monte Macellaro (2,646 m), Cima delle Murelle (2,596 m), Cima dell’Altare (2,542 m), Tavola Rotonda (2,403 m), Blockhaus (2,142 m) and Monte Porrara (2,137 m). Just below the 2,000-metre mark is Maielletta (1,995 m), and above it is the peak of Monte Morrone (2,061 m), a continuation of the Gran Sasso massif morphologically very similar to Majella and separated from it by the San Leonardo ford.
Nature and History
Majella is a mountain with a highly varied appearance which characterised by deep gorges, especially on its eastern side, such as Valle di Santo Spirito, Val Serviera, Valle di Selvaromana, and Vallone delle Tre Grotte, which have become famous amongst canyoning enthusiasts. The western side has a more uniform appearance due to the absence of valleys, the only change in the landscape being the wild Orfento canyon located near Caramanico (Pescara), known for its thermal springs. To the south, Majella Mountain stretches out in two ridges creating the Vallone di Femmina Morta, and then it slopes down, passing by Tavola Rotonda until reaching Guado di Coccia (1,650 m).
Majella’s entire summit area appears to be almost completely covered with debris, a sort of cloak of crushed stones from which the domes of the peaks emerge. Karst phenomena are evident in both superficial erosion and underground phenomena. There are numerous grottoes, such as Canosa (2,604 m), which has the highest entrance of all of the massif’s cavities; the Bue and Asino grottoes; and the famous Cavallone grotto, the setting for the second act of D’Annunzio’s La figlia di Iorio and the only grotto in the Majella Park open to visitors. This grotto is found in the municipal territory of Lama dei Peligni (Chieti), where the “Majella Man”, an 8000-year-old human burial, was found in Contrada Fonterossi. Finally, numerous fossils have been found, amongst which nummulites, ammonites, and corals, in the limestone layers which formed over the course of 100 million years.
From a botanical point of view, the mountain’s great variation in altitudes and its exposition have created different vegetation zones. Moving progressively toward the peaks, we find a mixed forest of downy oak and holm oak; the characteristic Abruzzi beech wood with lindens and hop hornbeams; and finally, mountain pine, especially on the ridge between Monte Focalone and Blockhaus. Mention must also be given to the black pines, twisted and often clinging to the rocks near Far San Martino. On the high grounds and the steep rock walls, our attention is drawn to Apennine edelweiss, Majella buttercups, ottonis columbines, Majella violets and various species of orchids.
The animal life is also remarkably rich, including species particular to Abruzzi: the Mariscan brown bear, Abruzzi wolf and the recently reintroduced chamois, the red deer and roe deer, golden eagle, peregrine falcon, and buzzard.
Human presence on Majella has been equally important, as shown by the numerous archaeological findings. Amongst these are occasional refuges where Palaeolithic hunters often shaped flint and the Piccioni di Bolognano grotto, a sanctuary once frequented by Neolithic peoples.
The Park and Human Presence