The first time Robert Langdon, the main character in Dan Brown’s Inferno, gazed at the Apennines was from a train going from Florence to Venice. Langdon saw the vineyards and farms gradually become less frequent and the landscape of plains be replaced by the Apennines.
The Apennine Mountains, also called the Apennines, are a series of mountain ranges bordered by narrow coastlands that form the physical backbone of peninsular Italy. They start from Cadibona Pass in the northwest, close to the Maritime Alps, and form a great arc, which extends as far as the Egadi Islands to the west of Sicily.
The total length was measured at approximately 1500 kilometers (930 mi) in 2000 by the Ministry of the Environment of Italy following the recommendations of the Apennines Park of Europe Project, which has been defining the Apennines System to include the mountains of North Sicily. Their width ranges from 30 km(19 mi) to 250 km (155 mi). The system forms an arc enclosing the east side of the Ligurian and Tyrrhenian Seas.
The highest peak of the Apennines is Mount Corno, at 2912 metres (9554 feet), in the mountain group of Gran Sasso (Great Rock), in the Abruzzo region. The summit is covered by snow most of the year, and on the north slope of Corno Grande is the small Calderone glacier, the only one in the Apennines and the southernmost in Europe.
The Apennines orogeny developed through several tectonic phases, mostly during the Cenozoic Era (about 65 million years ago), and came to a climax in the Miocene and Pliocene epochs (about 23 to 2.6 million years ago).
The Apennines consists of a thrust-belt structure with three basic trending motions: toward the Adriatic Sea (the northern and central ranges), the Ionian Sea (Calabrian Apennines), and Africa (Sicilian Range).
During Plio-Pleistocene times (about 5,300,000 to 11,700 years ago), ingression and regression of the sea caused the formation of large marine and continental sedimentary belts (sands, clays, and conglomerates) along the slopes of the new chain.
In the past million years, numerous large faults have developed along the western side of the Apennines, which may be connected to the crustal thinning that began about 10 million years ago and resulted in the formation of a new sea, the Tyrrhenian.
Most of these faults have also facilitated strong volcanic activity. Some of these Volcanoes, like Mount Amiata, Mount Cimino, the Alban Hills near Rome, and the Ponza Islands, are extinct, while Mount Vesuvius, the Eolie Islands, and Mount Etna are all still active.
The Apennines are divided into three sectors: northern (Appennino settentrionale), central (Appennino centrale), and southern (Appennino meridionale).
The Northern Apennines consist of three sub-chains: the Ligurian (Appennino ligure), Tuscan (Appennino toscano), and Umbrian Apennines (Appennino umbro).
The Central Apennines, also called the High Apennines, are divided into the Umbrian-Marchean (Appennino umbro-marchigiano) in the north and the Abruzzi Apennines (Appennino abruzzese) in the south.
The Southern Apennines consist of five sub-chains: Samnite Apennines (Appennino sannita), Campanian Apennines (Appennino campano), Lucanian Apennines (Appennino lucano), Calabrian Apennines (Appennino calabro), and finally, the Sicilian Range (Appennino siculo).
The rivers of the Apennines have short courses. The two principal rivers are the Tiber (455 Kms long), which follows a southerly course before flowing through Rome into the Tyrrhenian Sea, and the Arno (241 Km long), which flows westerly through Florence into the Ligurian Sea.
In spite of the limited length of the rivers, the action of running water is the chief agent of erosion responsible for molding the contemporary Apennine landscape. The character of the physical geography depends on the varying nature of the rocks in each region and their resistance to water action.
Plant and animal life
The flora of the Apennines is Mediterranean and varies with both latitude and altitude. In the north, woodlands with oak, beech, chestnut, and pine predominate. To the south, ilexes, bays, lentisks, myrtles, and oleander abound.
Prevailing crops are represented by the olive trees. Citrus fruits are well developed in Campania, Calabria, and Sicily, and grapes are in abundance in Tuscany, Lazio, Campania, and Puglia. In the highland areas, pasturing remains the main form of land utilization.
In addition to typical Mediterranean fauna, there are many indigenous Apennine species, including some insects, the brown “marsicano” bear, the wolf, and the wild boar, all of which are now preserved in two natural reserves (Abruzzo National Park and Sila Park) and several regional parks.
Since prehistoric times, the Apennines have been the home of Italic peoples. These beautiful and rugged mountains are renown for their numerous railroad tunnels and highway passes, their quaint villages built on the hills to escape floods, malaria, warlike tribes, and some of the most famous Roman roads like the Appian, Cassian, Flaminian, and Salarian ways.
Picture by www.faustoviaggi.it