Natural Reserve, canyon and waterfalls
If you’re a nature lover and already visited the beautiful sights of Sila National Park, then we recommend the regional natural reserve of Valli Cupe as your next destination. Located right in the middle of Calabria, the area of Valli Cupe is known as ‘pre-Sila’. From the Ionian coast, you’ll just need to drive a few kilometers following directions for Sersale.
Sersale is a typical old Calabrian borgo, worth stopping for a stroll, visiting the churches and aristocratic palaces. There is an art gallery with a permanent exposition of sculptures and paintings of the 18th and 19th Centuries, and several museums dedicated to local history. The Botanic Museum (Museo della Botanica ed Etnobotanica) is particularly interesting – there’s an exposition dedicated to natural fragrances and scents, and a section dedicated to the traditional use of the plants in medicine, religion, and superstition.
If you’re interested in booking a guided tour to Valli Cupe, you can do so in Sersale at the tourist office in the town center. When traveling uphill towards the reserve from the coast, the landscape changes very quickly. In the 20 km that separate Valli Cupe from the seashore, the scenery varies from the olive and the fig trees to the typical Mediterranean Scrub with oak and chestnut groves as you venture deeper into the forest. The chestnut trees in Valli Cupe are very impressive in size. As a matter of fact, the area is also known as home to the oldest chestnut tree in Italy – Gigante Buono (Good Giant), which is more than 500 years old and 8 meters in girth. In the olden times when wheat was still difficult to cultivate, flour for baking and cooking was produced from chestnuts. Therefore one of these trees – a symbol of Sersale is located in the town square.
An absolute must-see in the area is the canyon of Valli Cupe, formed by the slow and continuous mudflow from Mount Crozze (about 700 meters high). The walls of this canyon are up to 130 meters and stand close to form a very narrow opening, thus obstructing sunlight. It’s a habitat for several bird species such as the Royal Owl, the Kestrel and the Egyptian Vulture, and is also the natural habitat of rare plants such as the Woodwardia Radicans (Felce bulbifera in Italian), a plant over 350 million-year-old. Along the path leading to the canyon entrance, you will see several carvunere – used in the olden times to produce carbon using the wood from the trees in the area.
There are about a hundred waterfalls in The Natural Reserve, some of which are over 100 meters high and not easy to reach without a local guide. However, there are many that are much smaller and easy for visitors to reach. Cascata Campanaro, for example, is just 22 meters high and only 400 meters away from the closest parking area. Suffice to say, there are many natural pools in the area (for example, Cascatelle del Crocchio) with such crystalline water that it’s hard to resist jumping in for a relaxing as well as very refreshing swim.