Sila lakes in Calabria

Sila is a large plateau in the heart of Calabria. As you head through the deep valleys that lie on it, you come across a number of expanses of water that integrate beautifully into the surrounding land. In reality, these are artificial reservoirs, with the oldest one, Lake Ampollino, being less than 80 years old. Today, there are five lakes that add beauty and variety to the Sila landscape, and all of them are so well inserted into the surrounds that they seem like natural lakes and not manmade constructions.
The first studies into the potential use of water to create hydroelectric power in the Sila region were conducted at the end of the 19th century by the engineer Angelo Omodeo.

He developed this work further, adapting it to take on board later research and, in about 1911, he devised the first system of interconnected plants. His plans involved the creation of four hydroelectric power stations that would be fed by the Neto, which runs into the Ionian Sea, and various tributaries of the same river, namely the Garga, Arvo and Ampollino. The general scheme was only adopted and launched in 1919, following the Great War, and these reservoirs where then built in two distinct phases. The Ampollino basin was created from 1923 to 1927 by blocking the Ampollino river at the Trepdiò strait with a 26 m-high gravitational dam with a curved layout. This formed a basin with a capacity of 67 million m3 of water, a perimeter of 26 km and a length of about 9 km. Lake Arvo, created between 1927 and 1931, covers a section of the northern valley of the same river, with a dam wall at Nocelle Soprana that is 21.5 m high. This dam can hold 83 million m3 of water and is 24 kilometres around and 8.7 km long. The Arvo and Ampollino reservoirs are linked by a penstock in a tunnel to ensure the amount of useful capacity in the Arvo does not exceed 67 million m2. Lakes Cecita and Ariamacina are more recent additions to the landscape.
The former, surrounded by a dense forest and beech, pine and larch trees, was created in 1951 along the Mucone river by blocking the Mucone valley with an arched gravitational dam that is 166 m long and 55 m high. This lake can now hold a maximum of 108 million m3 of water; the perimeter is 46 km and the length is 7.5 km. Lake Ariamacina, with a capacity of 4 million m3, was created in 1955 along the Neto river in a flat basin surrounded by the highest ridges in the Sila zone. Ampollino Lake
The first hydroelectric power stations in this zone came into operation between 1926 and 1933. Producing 750 million kW per year, this system was the largest source of energy in southern Italy. In 19 55 with the addition of the Cecita plant, the production capacity reached over a billion kW, with nearly a third of this power being ‘exported’ to Sicily, Cilento and Puglia (or Apulia). Over the years, Calabria has slowly stopped exporting power as energy production in this region has not kept pace with most other Italian regions, thus pushing Calabria down the power production standings. The Sila The Sila is an immense circular plateau covered with woods and clearings across a series of valleys and gentle mountain ridges. It covers about 150,000 ha in the heart of Calabria. It is commonly split into 3 sections: Sila Greca, Sila Grande and Sila Piccola. Sila Greca has numerous towns and villages with Greek links that lie on the hilly slopes at the northern edge of the plateau.
These centres, with their strong historical and cultural values, are beautifully inserted into the territory, in a zone where olive groves and vineyards predominate. Sila Grande lies to the south of the Trionto and Mucone rivers, stretching to the Savuto and Ampollino valleys. This is the geographic heart of the plateau, where firforests spread out across the horizon, only broken by the large meadows and pastures that lie along the base of the fluvial bowls. The centre of Sila Grande is characterised by bowls surrounded by wooded ridges. Nowadays, these form the artificial lakes mentioned above: Cecita, Arvo, framed by wonderful forests, and Ampollino, as well as the smaller Votturino and Ariamacina pools, protected in a nature reserve that lies in the shadow of the imposing Mt Volpintesta (1,730 m). Sila Piccola lies to the south of the Savuto and Ampollino. It is a convex- shaped area that starts from Val di Tacina (the loveliest and most beautiful valley in the Sila area) in the east and runs to the Savuto valley in the west.
This whole territory is part of the Parco Nazionale della Calabria, which is divided into various parts, two of which are precisely Sila Grande and Sila Piccola. Mixed forests are the dominant aspect of the protected zone, with beech and fir trees being common, but the European black pine (or Silano pine) is predominant and so is the botanical symbol of the park.
The European black pine can live for centuries and reach enormous proportions. It is found across the entire plateau, sometimes in black pine forests (such as Fossiata, Gallonane), sometimes together with beech trees (Paleparto, Botte Donato, Montenero) and sometimes with beech and silver fir trees (Val di Tacina, Gariglione). The largest trees are found at Fallistro and known, unsurprisingly, as the Giants of Sila. There are 53 of these giants, including 5 sycamore maples that are roughly 450 years old. This type of tree can also be seen in Sicily, Corsica and Tuscany.
The beech is also widespread, sometimes in beech groves like on Mts Mancuso and Condr√≤. The animal life on the Sila was once abundant, but these days it is greatly reduced, both in terms of numbers and variety. Nonetheless, it is home to one of the largest wolf packs in Italy, with about 30 animals. The list of hoofed-animals includes the roedeer, which is now ‘genetically contaminated’ with similar species that have arrived from other Italian regions, the fallow deer and the common deer.
The latter is present following its reintroduction by man. The hollows in the trunks of the oldest trees also form wonderful dens for pine martens and wild cats. The squirrel, dormouse and wild boar are also widely found. Otters still live along the banks of some of the rivers that flow into Lake Cecita. Birds are also well represented, with species like the golden eagle and the Egyptian vulture, although these are hard to spot. The birdsof prey include the short-toed eagle, goshawk and the eagle owl, a rare species that has confirmed nests in the zone. The same can be said about the great black woodpecker. Lake Cecita has become a favoured spot of numerous water birds, especially ducks and herons, which migrate here and sometimes nest on the banks.

How to get there

At Cosenza take the SS107 road for Crotone; for Lake Cecita, when you get to Camigliatello Silano, branch off onto the SS177 and go north for 12 km; for Lake Ariamacina, from Neto Valente take the road that runs along the north of the lake (5 km); for Lake Arvo, from San Nicola Mansio station, go south towards San Nicola Mansio, and after 12 km you reach the north shore of the lake; Lake Ampollino can be reached from Lake Arvo (SS108 and 179) or from the SS107 road, turn south onto the SS108 when you reach San Giovanni in Fiore.

Useful addresses

Parco nazionale della Calabria viale della Repubblica 26 Cosenza
tel. 098476760.

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