Trekking in the Calabrian snow? Sure, why not, when you’re in southern Italy…
With an invitation to join friends on a trek in the mountains on this winter’s day, how can anyone refuse?
Unless you have a car, it’s pretty tricky to catch public transport from Cosenza to where we are going today, in the Sila National Park.
The drive from Cosenza to Monte Scuro in the mountains takes about forty-five minutes.
You can expect about a 10-degree variance from Cosenza to the mountains, and today is a definite weather forecast for around 20 centimetres of snow.
Wearing two pairs of socks, beanie, gloves, full thermals, scarf, a couple of woollen layers, a minus eighteen-degree jacket, layered with another minus ten-degree jacket, I am prepared. Not to mention, armed with chocolate, almonds, Jaffa biscuits, Panini, and water for the trek – all’s well with the world.
Our destination: The Sila National Park
I’ve written scatterings in previous posts about this stunning part of Calabria but today, is going to be different. This will be an immersion in the mountains during the winter, in the heart of the Sila National Park – whilst it’s snowing, heavily.
Diverse pristine woods and mountains make up the five-hundred-thousand hectares of the Sila National Park, which spans over the Cosenza, Crotone, and Catanzaro provinces in Calabria; and is one of Italy’s oldest national parks.
Really hope to also catch a glimpse of Il Lupo (wolf) today, which is the ever-illusive presence that makes this a mysterious animal and legend amongst these mountains.
With so many activities available to nature lovers in summer and winter, The Sila is a popular spot for locals, nationals, and the occasional ‘lost’ foreign tourist.
A chilly stroll in the snow
Leaving the cars parked on the side of the road, we headed for the panoramic snow-ladened Strada delle Vette (road of the peaks), which is the start of the trek. This road stretches about thirteen kilometres and descends right down into Lorica eventually, using the ski lift, which we’re not visiting today.
Although there is quite a lot of fresh snow about with around thirty centimetres on the road we’re walking on, the snow is much deeper off-road and to the sides. It’s still snowing now and doesn’t look like it’s stopping anytime soon.
Icy air bites our faces as we walk amongst postcard surrounds of pure fresh whiteness, fit for a Christmas card.
This is a stunning region and reminds me a lot of the vistas you experience when trekking in the Tatras Mountains in Poland in Zakopane – another beautiful European region.
The deep silence whilst walking at this height of over 1,600 metres, surrounded by gorgeous tall Pine and Beech woodland is not only relaxing and calming, but also helps to still your mind. Nature is wonderful for clearing your head.
Walking along this road in the snow mostly with ease, although sometimes slipping, but overall, this is not a difficult trek, even at this height and on undulating slopes.
With worsening weather, the thunder grows louder and the occasional lighting is seen in the distance, whilst pushing ahead through this pristine park. A collective decision is made to walk for another half-hour before stopping for a Panini – of course, then heading back.
I never knew that thunder and lightning occurs simultaneously whilst it’s snowing heavily…I have a lot to learn about snow conditions, clearly.
If continuing on this elevated trek, you will arrive at Monte Curcio, which is around 1,788 metres and where ski lifts are, then on to Monte Botte Donato at around 1,939 metres. Both are located in the Sila Grande with Monte Botte Donato as the highest peak in the Sila’s plateau.
Although today isn’t the day to reach the scenic lookout of the three peaks (Monte Scuro, Monte Curcio, and Monte Botte Donato), it’s still an excellent trek, with great friends, laughs, and about nine kilometres covered in the round-trip, by the time we return to the restaurant. So, good exercise, regardless of whether we push ahead in blizzard conditions! (Exaggerating, but is is snowing heavily.)
Back to warmth
After our little jaunt in the snow and feeling quite energetic but cold, it’s time to head for the warmth. Apart from your car, the only place close by is a lovely inviting restaurant, come haven.
Ristorante Rifugio Montescuro
All that awaits you when arriving in Monte Scuro is the Ristorante Rifugio Montescuro and a little distance from this restaurant, is a hotel.
Knocking the snow from our boots and dusting more snow from our clothes, opening the door pushes a warm draft across your face and body, whilst you enter the restaurant.
An open stoned fire place blazes a glowing and inviting warmth in the large room, which is surrounded by many patrons escaping the cold. At the back of the restaurant, a massive intricate mural of a wolf is painstakingly painted on the wall – beautiful.
Finding our place at the lovely rustic wooden tables and benches, thick chocolate Fondente, hot drinks, Panini, and a little alcohol to warm the cockles of your heart, is the flavour today.
Great service in this very cosy restaurant.
Returning to Cosenza
After scraping the ice and snow off the cars, we are off again and return to Cosenza for more warming drinks. It’s still quite icy out but descending down to Cosenza, the temperature quickly creeps back up from -2 degrees to 5 degrees, so, much more civilised.
Can’t wait for another adventure trek in the Sila, as there is so much to see in this gorgeous national park, and what better way to enjoy a trek than with friends?