Amidst canyons and pathways discover the Valli Cupe Regional Nature Reserve which was described by Belgian naturalist, John Bouquet, as "the best kept secret in Europe" because its splendid beauty had lain undiscovered for such a long time.
Lying at the foot of the Sila you will find a place of great charm which, until recently, was unknown to many Calabrians. The area is characterised by sites of great natural and geographical interest, including gorges, canyons, waterfalls and monoliths. The Valli Cupe Regional Nature Reserve was established in 2016 with the aim of promoting ecotourism and increasing awareness of this hidden gem nestled in the heart of Calabria which is home to an immense variety of flora and fauna.
The reserve is equipped with ten different paths just waiting to be discovered, either independently or accompanied by a nature guide.
This path leading to the Valli Cupe Canyon departs from the Sersale-Raga municipal road and is also known as the sentiero dei monasteri (Monasteries Path), because it previously led to four Basilian monasteries. After parking your car, follow the route downhill towards the canyon for just over a kilometre. Once you reach the bottom you will be able to admire a picturesque view of this highly evocative place whose morphological features are completely unique in Italy. Teeming with plant species, it is characterised by vertically cut walls with niches formed by weathering that have become nesting areas for the numerous bird species that inhabit the area (kestrels, buzzards, kites, imperial crows, owls). Visitors will be impressed by the contrasting areas of light and shadow created by the gaps, which in some sections are a few metres wide and more than a hundred metres deep.
The route starts at Sersale and continues along the municipal road of Rione Colla-Tre Fontane and that of Molino Parisi to reach the Petra Aggìallu (stone of the bird) monolith. The monolith is about 18 metres high and is named after the fact that it resembles the head of a bird. There are many ancient folktales surrounding this imposing granite monolith that have been handed down through the generations. According to one such tale, the monolith guards treasure contained in an earthenware vase. Another states that you may encounter a hen with little golden chicks at the base of the monolith.
This path is around 1400 metres long and leads to the monolith of Misorbo which is 18 metres high and composed of two separate blocks of granite positioned on top of each other. The larger, lower block resembles the profile of a man, whilst the upper block is flat. It also has steps suggesting that the cave dug into the body of the monolith may have been used as a shelter by shepherds and woodcutters from days gone by.
This path takes its name from an ancient legend which claims that the pool formed by the waterfall is so deep that it reaches the Hell. The route is challenging and intended for experienced hikers. After a stretch of about 4km travelled in a 4x4 off-road vehicle, the route follows a challenging path of about 600m, passing through a laurel grove.
The waterfall is 27 metres high and its water squeezes through a narrow gorge before gushing out into a very deep pool called Hell's volcano which attracts many outdoor swimming enthusiasts. Among the surrounding flora are the rare oriental plane tree, acanthus and maidenhair ferns.
This path leads to the highest waterfall of the whole Campanaro stream, which has two drops totalling 57 metres. Its clear waters are an excellent example of a natural swimming pool where you can cool down after a long walk and admire the natural rocks shaped by the continuous flow of water.
As you continue along the course of the stream you will come across the cascata del Salice (Waterfall of the Willow) which is named after the ancient white willow standing nearby.
This short and easy path amazes visitors thanks to its natural wealth of unspoilt beauty. Along the way there are various springs, small pools of water, a pagliaro ( a traditional shepherds’ hut), a brickwork bridge and wooden bridges placed to cross the stream. These are just some of the wonders that can be encountered on the path, which is dug directly into the rock in some places, before you reach the 22-metre-high waterfall. There is also a large variety of flora here including red algae on the sides of the stream, ferns, willows, manna trees and many other species.
This touristic route is suitable for everyone and easy to follow. It is about 500 metres long and leads to the deep Crocchio Gorge, whose river is punctuated with spectacular waterfalls and pools deep enough to swim in. Along its banks you will find alders, willows, laurels and the very rare royal fern.
As you walk along this 800 metre long tourist path you will come across the Gigante Buono (Good Giant), a chestnut tree which is around 500 years old with a diameter of about 8 metres. Its name is not only a reference to the Good Giant’s imposing size but is also a sign of gratitude as the tree fed many generations of the local inhabitants. It is also known as the albero del pane (bread tree), as its chestnuts were used to make bread flour when wheat was scarce.
This kilometre long path is dedicated to hikers and leads to the Silane Giant of the Olive Trees, a 35 metre tall and 2 metre wide larch pine that stands out on a slope of olive groves.
The name Giants of Cavallopoli refers to the huge chestnut trees that grow along this path which are not far from a small waterfall surrounded by blocks of granite and mosses. Among them stands the so-called Gigante Malandrino (Giant Rascal), a chestnut tree which is considered a “rascal” because, despite its large size, it produces very few chestnuts.