Southern Italian Odyssey!

Calabria – Basilicata – Campania 

Italy boasts some of Europe’s highest levels of biodiversity, as well as many of the world’s finest cultural treasures. Join Naturalist & Wildlife Biologist Vincent Pinto for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure in Italy’s sublime and least-visited natural areas – far away from the throngs of tourists at the usual Italian destinations.  This unique Eco-adventure will expose you to the nature and culture in Calabria, Basilicata, and Campania in Autumn – a season with far fewer tourists. Spectacular mountain and coastal scenery, unique wildlife, and unforgettable culture and cuisine await you in some of the largest protected natural areas in all of Europe!

Venturing into Pollino National Park (founded 1993) – Italy’s largest and a Unesco World Heritage Site – you’ll discover ancient hilltop villages steeped in history, replete with local architecture and art, and set in stunning mountain landscapes.  There we’ll wander the narrow, winding streets of each fortress town, learning about their detailed histories, savoring local cuisines, and delving into time-honored crafts set in quaint shops.  Along the way we’ll meet local townsfolk whose genuine hospitality characterizes the region. Each day we’ll enjoy the region’s incredible cuisine, showcasing a wide range of delicious, locally-grown plants and animals – all paired with an impressive variety of local Italian wines.

Traditional shepherds tend flocks of sheep and herds of cattle in the surrounding countryside, ultimately providing us ample opportunity to savor local dairy products and meats. Pastas, home-baked breads, soups, mouth-watering pastries and other desserts are also sure to enthrall even the most fickle of palettes!

The backcountry of Pollino – over 500,000 acres – where we will spend a great amount of time, harbors a wide variety of species-rich habitats. There we’ll explore a variety of forest types, including ones dominated by Oaks, Beeches, and Conifers – all set amidst mountains that often tower to over 7,000’.

Little-traveled roads wind through the landscape, affording us access to beautiful wilderness walks, as well as providing a defacto Italian safari.  Scenic rivers with rushing rapids punctuate many valleys, while alpine areas, and prairies accentuate the forested regions. 

During our wild wanderings we’ll search for some of the area’s rich assortment of wildlife.


The Italian peninsula hosts many species characteristic of Europe, as well as a good number of local, endemic ones. Italy has recorded 108 Mammal species, including a number we hope to see, including:

  • Red Fox
  • Abruzzo Wolf
  • European Otter
  • 2 species of Marten
  • European Badger
  • European Polecat
  • European Wildcat
  • European Roe Deer
  • Red Deer
  • Wild Boar
  • Western Hedgehog
  • Crested Porcupine
  • Calabrian Black Squirrel 
  • Corsican Hare 
  • Roman & Balkan Moles

You’ll certainly want to bring a pair of good binoculars, as Pollino is also rich in Birds, including such diverse species as:

  • Griffon Vulture
  • Red Kite
  • Common Buzzard
  • Golden Eagle
  • Lanner Falcon
  • Eurasian Eagle-Owl
  • Little Owl
  • Tawny Owl
  • Common Wood Pigeon
  • Eurasian Hoopoe
  • European Bee-eater
  • Black Woodpecker
  • Great Gray Shrike
  • Hooded Crow
  • Eurasian Jay 
  • White-throated Dipper
  • Blue Rock Thrush
  • White Wagtail
  • Eurasian Golden Oriole
  • Eurasian Blue Tit
  • Long-tailed Tit
  • Wallcreeper
  • Sardinian Warbler

Reptiles and Amphibians offer fascinating glimpses here and there with unique species on offer: 

  • Wall Lizard
  • European Pond Lizard
  • Hermann’s Tortoise, 
  • Italian Crested Newt
  • Spectacled Salamander

Native Wildflowers, stunning Butterflies, and Fall colors will add diversity to our journeys at every turn amidst a climate that is generally very amenable to travel and exploration.  With temperatures varying from the coast to the mountains you can expect daytime highs in the 60’s to 80’s with nighttime lows in the 40’s and 50’s.

A visit to the Nation Park’s visitor Center and Museum will provide further insights into the natural history of this truly special region. To complement this off-the-beaten-path experience, Vincent, an experienced Ethnobotanist, will teach you which wild Italian plants are edible, adding greatly to your personal culinary experience.  Local Chestnut festivals provide a detailed glimpse into this time-honored culinary mainstay, while locally-harvested and fire-roasted Chestnuts provide an incomparable treat.

From Pollino we’ll do a memorable day-trip to the stunning ancient town of Matera another Unesco World Heritage Site.  There we’ll walk the old town – one of the oldest continuously-inhabited places on Earth – where caves and grottos served and serve as home for the town’s residents.

We’ll also ramble through the countryside of Murgia National Park, which encompasses much of Matera’s countryside, hoping to glimpse rare Egyptian Vultures and other wildlife – all-the-while enjoying the deep canyons that characterize this dramatic landscape.

Next we’ll head to another gorgeous World Heritage Site – Cilento National Park, within whose massive boundaries are included dramatic coastal landscapes, towering mountains, alluring caves, and rushing springs.  Here you’ll immerse in the beauty of the Tyrrhenian Sea (part of the Mediterranean Sea) while walking coastal routes highlighting its beauty and diversity.  There will also be several chances to swim and snorkel in the azure waters, providing opportunities to marvel at the dazzling colors of Marine Fish and Marine Invertebrates of this iconic sea.

In addition to hosting many of the same species as Pollino, Cilento National Park also offers opportunities to enjoy such coastal species as:

  • Waterfowl
  • Shorebirds
  • Yellow-legged & other Gulls
  • Several species of Cormorant
  • Herons & Egrets
  • Eurasian Spoonbill

Though it would take some good fortune, we will also have a chance to spot Marine Mammals, including the critically endangered Mediterranean Monk Seal, while on the coast.  Cilento habitats include the richly diverse Mediterranean Evergreen Coastal Scrub, Mediterranean Forest, Sandy Beaches, Rocky Coast, and Riverine Forest, and Grasslands.

At a World Wildlife Fund preserve in Cilento we’ll delve into otherworldly grottos with gushing springs, where a rare and enchanting Temperate Rainforest clings to the wet zone.  The music of cascading water and the verdant forests surround you here as in few other locales.

While in Cilento we’ll visit the ancient Greek city of Paestum with its classic, stately temples, as cultures of antiquity come vividly to life.

Amazing culture treasures and history awaits

A leisurely tour of a diverse cave system and nearby river complement our stay in this astounding region.

En route back to Rome and our flight home we’ll stop at the incomparable city of Pompeii, where you’ll marvel at the doomed ancient town, destroyed by Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD.

No matter what you have read, walking the remnants of this ill-fated city is an experience like no other.

Throughout your 11-day Italian Odyssey you’ll also visit a few key regional museums that will help put the natural and human history of the various areas in clear context.  In addition Vincent’s expertise, you’ll benefit from the knowledge of local guides and hosts, who will impart their hard-earned knowledge of each region and topic.

Don’t miss this rare opportunity to see the real Italy!