The Apennines (from the Celtic word "pen" = mountain) are the mountain range 1,400km/868mi long and 30-150km/19-93mi wide, which extends in a long arc down the whole length of the Italian peninsula from the Alps at the Ligurian Gulf to the southwest tip of Calabria and continues into Sicily.
History and landscape
As a result of late folding during the early Tertiary period the outer side of the range facing the Po plain and the Adriatic has a more gradual slope, composed of sedimentary rocks, while the inner side, in consequence of later collapses, slopes down in a steeper scarp to the sea and the basins of Tuscany, Umbria and eastern Latinum. The northern Apennines, reaching their highest point in Monte Cimone (2,163m/7,138ft), and the Central Apennines have more regular slopes and continuous summit ridges, which are crossed by several traffic routes at heights of between 650 and 1,300m/2,145 and 4,290ft. The rocks are mainly of Cretaceous and Tertiary date. There are large expanses of sandstones and schists, clays and marls, with rounded summits and gentle slopes with only little variation, though when soaked with rain they are very vulnerable to landslides ("frane"). Sharper contours are produced by the dolomites and limestones, which have developed into rugged and contorted karstic land-forms, particularly in the Monti Sibillini (2,478m/8,177ft) and the wild Abruzzi, which reach their highest point in the Gran Sasso d'Italia (2,914m/9,616ft). The lower Neapolitan Apennines, abutting at its southern end of the Abruzzi and the Lucanian Apennines run slowly into the Calabrian Apennines, in which the landscape pattern from the Crati valley onwards is formed by ancient rocks such as granites, gneisses and micaceous schists; the Sila range (1,929m/6,366ft) and the Aspromonte (1,956m/6,455ft) with their beautiful forests of deciduous and coniferous trees are reminiscent of the upland regions of central Europe.
The climate of the Apennines is relatively harsh at higher altitudes. Rainfall in the northern Apennines is very high, while in the lower areas the aridity of the Mediterranean climate predominates. At the foot of the hills there are numerous mineral springs. The water-level of the rivers is irregular.
Flora and fauna
At the foot of the Apennines the flora is of Mediterranean type, with edible chestnuts and fruit-trees. Above this is a zone of open forests, with beeches predominantly at the lower levels and conifers higher up. Long human occupation, however, has destroyed many of the original forests, which have been replaced over large areas by an evergreen macchia. In consequence there is an almost total absence of the larger fauna; the wolf is a protected species here. At heights above 1,800m/5,940ft the slopes are covered with carpets of stones.
Within the mountainous area settlement is confined to the basins and valleys. The principal occupations are stock-farming (goats and sheep), some modest arable farming and forestry.
The numerous passes are very important as far as traffic is concerned. Motorways cross them at heights of between 500 and 1,000m/1,650 and 3,300ft or pass through tunnels. Part of the Autostrada del Sole runs over the Futa pass (903m/2,964ft).