Where Are the Apennines. Geography
The Apennines Mountains divide peninsular Italy – the long boot-shaped part of Italy that stretches far in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, as opposed to continental Italy, located between peninsular Italy and the northern border of Italy, and includes the Alps – into two sections with more difficult communications than the connection along the same coast.
This is why the Adriatic Coast, on the east, apart from the exception of Venice, has always been a Cinderella, a bit of an orphan left into the background, behind the focus of attention in comparison to the main coastal and Apennines ridge line, the western one.
Italy’s contacts with the countries on its West have historically been stronger than those on its East.
The Apennines were described in Naturalis historia, an encyclopedia in 37 books on the natural sciences, intended to be a summa of ancient scientific knowledge, which is one of the largest works survived from the Roman Empire to today.
The Natural History was written by the Roman writer and scientist ante litteram, before science existed and ahead of his time, Pliny the Elder (Como 23 AD – Stabia 79 AD), who was also army and fleet commander and held civil offices.
In The Natural History Pliny the Elder described the Apennines as “the most considerable of all the mountains of Italy, the chain of which extends unbroken from the Alps to the Sicilian sea.”
Strange as it seems, the Apennines do start from the Alps. In Liguria, the north-western region (one of the 20 regions of which Italy is composed) that includes Portofino and Cinque Terre and is a strip of hilly and mountainous land in the form on an arc squashed against the sea, the Maritime Alps end and the Ligurian Apennines begin.
Each section of the Apennines is named after the region or regions where it is located, for example the Appennino Tosco-Emiliano is between Tuscany and Emilia.
The Apennines have been inhabited since antiquity.
They were home to ancient peoples like the Samnites, who lived high in the Apennine mountains in a large part of south-central Italy, the Samnium, and were engaged in several wars with the Romans until their defeat.
But many breathtaking mountaintop villages, Medieval walled towns, fortress cities and castles from various times of the past are still scattered all over the Apennine mountains.
It took the earthquakes which a few years ago affected some of those areas for Italy to rediscover its “Apennine civilization”, namely the Italy of the villages clinging to the hills and mountainous ridge of the peninsula.
But there is more to this “Apennine Italy” than picturesque hamlets built of stone.
It is the cradle of Christian Europe, the place from which Christian Europe began to rise: from the mountains of Norcia where St. Benedict (see Rod Dreher’s book), and with him Western monasticism, was born; from the hills of Assisi where St. Francis was born and lived, and where Giotto achieved the decisive turning point in Italian figurative art; from Greccio, home to the first nativity scene, one with living figures; from Cascia, birthplace of Saint Rita; from Gubbio, where St Francis tamed the famous wolf.
The “Italy of the Apennines” is that “humble Italy” that Dante evokes at the very beginning of the Divine Comedy, linking it to the heroes that Virgil sings of in the epic of the birth of Rome: the “virgin Camilla”, Eurialo, Niso and Turno.
Dante loved this pre-Roman Italy, which then became Latin, and then Franciscan and Benedictine.
A unique village on the Apennines, in the Marches region, is Loreto, where the poor walls of the Holy House are mysteriously located.
A section of the Apennines Mountains which stands out because its characteristics are more similar to those of the Alps are the Apuan Alps.
The Apennines Mountains have been at the center of a phenomenon of depopulation and urbanization, which has been going on since the 1960s.
It’s not infrequent, walking in the alleys of Apennines villages, to see empty houses or cottages displaying For Sale or Rent Signs.
A rural civilization, after twelve thousand years, has disappeared in a much shorter time.
We have, on the Apennine ridge, a country which is depopulating, where are some of the most beautiful villages in Europe, where there is a soul of our tradition, absolutely abandoned.
We are losing, or risking to lose, these special places.