Last month, our first small group departure travelled to the quaint mountain town of Pescasseroli on our brand-new Rewilding the Apennines trip. Partnering with leading conservationists, Rewilding Europe, we’ve co-launched the Nature and Carbon Corridors Project that aims to rewild 5,000 hectares of the Italian Apennines over the course of 5 years, which will create five nature corridors to connect the surrounding National Parks. And this new adventure is particularly close to our hearts as it allows our travellers to see first-hand the beneficial impact of rewilding and the importance of using wildlife corridors to connect protected areas so that iconic indigenous species can return and thrive.

Led by highly skilled nature guides, this six-day trip takes you on an incredible journey into the Central Apennines where you can truly explore Italy’s “wild heart” and witness the intimate relationship between wild nature and local communities while also enjoying the finest local food and wine along the way. Read on to find out what one of our travellers, Gwilym Pugh, thought about the trip.

When asked what Gwil found most interesting about his experience of witnessing the rewilding process, he explained, “It was the most engaging part of the trip, to be around the people who are doing the work first hand, the real change-makers”.

Gwil continued, “To spend time with experts whose passion transcends their ‘job-role’ is incredibly inspiring and heart-warming. I initially found the scale of the re-wilding project quite intimidating, but hearing it broken down with passion and energy was invaluable and I came away inspired and motivated to develop my understanding of rewilding and skills.”

Aerial view of the Apennines, Italy

Many people in our first group of travellers who made it to the Italian Apennines decided to use Exodus Travel’s expanding rail booking service and travelled by train in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint.

Gwil, who also travelled by train was keen to comment, “Travelling by train was unexpectedly one of the highlights. Even though it obviously takes longer, it’s a real lesson in the benefits of living slowly. I find flying sometimes a bit of a false economy too, often we look at short flights of a few hours, but don’t consider the travel to the airport, time to check-in, security, boarding etc. It’s often far longer than it seems.” He pointed out, “The train departs and arrives from the middle of the city, and the views are like a painting. To sit comfortably travelling through the alps without the harsh air conditioning and pressurised cabin – I’ll take that any day!”

Hiking with Exodus travellers in the Apennines

One of the benefits of travelling with Exodus is that you get to travel in small, covid-clear groups. Gwil mentions, “There’s something really special about travelling with small groups. Often, you’ll be surrounded by people from all walks of life, but you all have the one common thread of the trip you’ve chosen.

He continues, “It makes you realise how interconnected we all are, even if we seem so different. It gives us the opportunity to connect and learn from people who you wouldn’t usually have the chance to. The people in the group make the trip memorable – it’s a really undersold benefit in my opinion!”

Bear walks in the Apennines

When asked what the best part of the trip was for him, Gwil said, “Hiking through the forest to the refuge was a clear highlight. It’s a relatively gentle walk, but as you ascend you transition through different scenery as the vegetation varies with altitude. Passing the signs for bears adds an element of excitement and mystique to know that you’re sharing the path with ancient and vulnerable wildlife, such as Marsican brown bears and wolves, that a normal walk in the woods at home simply just doesn’t have.”

He goes on to describe, “At times it felt like I was walking in an immersive fairy tale as you can really feel the life all around you. As we entered the final stretch the sun was setting behind the refuge. Honestly, it was magical! A sky full of stars quickly replaced the setting sun which only heightened the feeling of magic and remoteness.”

Italian dishes in the Apennines

Like the rest of Italy, the Apennines also puts great emphasis on creating delicious dishes that are either locally sourced or homegrown. Gwil smiled and said,  “all of the food was incredible, as you would expect from Italy, although the meal at the refuge was a definite favourite.”

He continued, “You can never beat a good heart-warming meal after a long trek in the mountains, but that aside, every dish had a story to tell. At the refuge, Valeria, one of the locals, took time to explain the origins of the food and how they’re made along with her secret family recipes. Each course was paired with organic wine. It felt like a true fine dining experience.”

If you’d like to follow in Gwil’s footsteps and discover Italy’s wild heart on our Rewilding the Apennines trip then you can find out more about this adventure here.  

All profits from the sale of this trip will go directly to Rewilding Europe’s vital biodiversity restoration work.