La Sila National Park is located in the Calabria region of Italy (a.k.a. the toe of the boot). It is off the beaten track, providing visitors with a quiet, less expensive alternative to Italy’s other winter vacation destinations. However, don’t think that its natural beauty is in any way sub-par; sweeping mountains and one of the most stunning valleys in Italy comprise the 650-square-mile park. For those who enjoy skiing, there are trails and lifts throughout the park.
Information on the park is difficult to find in English; here are some of the most important things to know. The park is divided into three sections: Sila Greca, Sila Grande, and Sila Piccola. Sila Grande is home to the park’s tallest mountain, Mount Botte Donato, which stands 6,325 feet high. Sila Piccola composes the southern part of the park and is home to the awe-inspiring Valli Cupe, a beautiful stone-walled canyon. Visitors can walk along its bottom and stare up at the thin sliver of sky left exposed by the sheer rock cliffs.
While several towns are located near the park, few accommodations are offered inside of the park itself, making it necessary to rent a car in order to access the best views and hikes. The best towns to use as home base are Sersale (where the entrance to Sila Piccola is located), Zagarise, Crotone, Albi, and Cosenza.
Hotels are the most common form of lodging in the area. However, many B&Bs and agrotourism accommodations are also available and often charge similar rates to that of hotels. These latter lodgings usually put you in the middle of nature—surrounded by snow and trees—with views of the park. Agrotourism accommodations (“agriturismo” in Italian) are similar to B&Bs, but they provide guests with the opportunity to partake in the daily chores. For example, some teach guests traditional recipes of the region.
The region’s ski resorts are not the largest in Italy, but they do provide unclogged trails for moderate and advanced skiers. Further, the rental fees are low (usually 20 euro for a day pass). The main ski resorts are located near the cities of Cosenza and Crotone and the Sila Grande section of the park. The largest resorts with the most trails are Camigliatello Silano (located on state highway 107, between Cosenza and Crotone) and Lorica (located near Lake Arvo). Lorica’s lifts take you to the top of Mount Botte Donato. If you are planning on renting equipment, don’t forget to bring your driver’s license or passport.
A final note: make sure to consult recent weather reports when planning your trip to ensure a white vacation.
Written by Mattie Bamman for EuropeUpClose.com