RFI – mid Italy mammals

Vladimir Dinets asked me to post this on his behalf ….Jon

Dear All,
I’ll be in Italy for three weeks in May, in the area between Rome and
Venice. I’d really like to see Pyrenean Chamois, but Abruzzo NP seems
a bit out of the way. There are supposedly some in PN Gran Sasso,
which is closer to Rome. Does anybody know if there are reliable spots
for the chamois in mid-May in Gran Sasso? What about Abruzzo?
Any other useful tips (for bats, dormice, martens, porcupines, voles
etc.) would also be appreciated.
Thank you,


  • Nathan


    Abruzzo NP is the absloute best place to spot chamois. And then, the wildlife there is easier to spot with good chances to see marsican brown bears and wolves.

    If you drive from Roma to Pescara, it should not be a so long drive.

    In May, many of the trails are not close (they close in June because of too much tourists).

    The best place to see them is in Val di Rose (near Civitella Alfedena) or even better (for the landscape) Monte Meta (not far from Alfedena).

    I have been working in a bear & wolf projec there, and I can ensure you that it is worth visiting it.

    Martens have been seen in the NP, whereas porcupines are more abundand in the Fucino plain (Villavallelonga, Gioia dei Marsi) but the chances are quite low. It is worth trying near Roma.


    • Luca Peruzzi

      I perfectly agree with Nathan: only in Abruzzo NP you are 100% sure not to miss chamois. You can even do it driving from Rome to the park early in the morning (two to two&half hours), climbing the Val di Rose trail through mid morning, spotting the chamois (it is very easy as soon as you leave the forest) and running back down to be in Rome again by mid afternoon. Of course, if you can sleep there just one night, everything feels better.
      As for the porcupine, the beast is common all over rural central Italy (lowlands and hills,not the mountains), even in the suburbs of big cities like Rome. But there is no particularly reliable spot for porcupines, simply you have to be enough lucky to encounter ’em during a night drive throgh quiet rural roads. For example, last year I met porcupines thrice (twice in march, once in august) in the countryside of Recanati, a small town in Marche region (north of Abruzzo), during a total of around 15 hours of early-night drives throughout the year: it means a porcupine each 3 hour drive, not so bad a chance, I think.
      Inside Rome itself, you can see squirrels in Villa Ada park (few also in Villa Borghese) and coypus all along the Tiber river in town. Few corsican hares are seen around the city, i.e. Marcigliana Reserve and Castel Porziano (but to be 100% sure of a corsican hare you have to go to Sicily, where there are not european hares). Kuhl’s and Savi’s pipistrelles are the commonest bats in Rome and in all the urban areas in central Italy, but you can also find a big colony of free-tailed bats in Rome in a building in via Migiurtinia in the Quartiere Africano. A mixed roost (Schreiber’s, Capaccini’s, greater and lesser mouse eared, greater horseshoe) is in the Cisterna di Nettuno inside the ruins of Ostia Antica.
      If you have other specific questions, do not hesitate to ask me: I’ll be glad to help.

      • Michaël Dagnelie

        Hello Lucca, Vladimir, and others.

        My name is Michaël Dagnelie from the Netherlands and an avid bird/mammal/herpwatcher. I’m travelling by bicycle and have visited parts of North Italy and Corsica for the last two months, including bird migration counting at Prunette, and hiking part of the GR20.

        At the moment I’m visiting the Abruzzo region and later I go back to Rome and in one week back to the Netherlands. At Abruzzo I already saw bears, wolves, porcupines, fat/edible dormice, chamois and many of the birds. However, unfortunately no wildcats, and bats, reptiles and amphibians are missing so far and there’s not much information around.

        Lucca mentioned a site for bats at Cisterna di Nettuni, Ostia Antica. Vladimir in his trip report said it was a bit difficult to find the entrance. Where can it be found exactly? I might also check the Vittori Emmanuele bridge and the building in via Migiurtinia in the Quartiere Africano, of which Luca was speaking. For the latter, are there still bats there and exactly which building it is at via Migiurinia? And does someone also know some good spots for snakes and amphibians? As I said I’m travelling by bicycle (and train), so I can not cover too much distance in a short period.

        Thanks for an answer, help is much appreciated!

        Kind regards,


    • vladimir dinets

      Thanks, everybody! We’ll definitely check out the Ostia Antica bat site. We’ll also try to make it to Abruzzo, but in case we can’t, is there a good place for chamois at Gran Sasso?

    • Chris


      I am thinking of returning to Abruzzo in May to look for bears after a fairly successful trip in August last year, albeit the sightings were distant. As far as I understand it, May is a better time for seeing animals close to the road in the meadows? Can anyone advise if this is the best time and if the first or second half of May is best?
      Any advice much appreciated.

  • Jon Hall

    THank you Italy! I’m really pleased to see people are reading this there… I must head over to look for Porcupines myself.


  • Stefanie Lahaye

    some info from my friend Arne Iserbyt
    I went to Abbruzzo National park two years in April. That was a rather bad timing to go, because the mountain were still covered with a thick layer of snow up to 1300 m. I also wanted to see these bears and wolfs, and in the end I only saw footprints of both species at two different places. No observations unfortunately. I saw a Chamois though and tons of deer and wild boar.

    I met some locals and they said it would be better to see bears in autumn, when they come down into the valleys to feed in orchards and such. One of the locals has a very cheep hostel in the core of the park. His name is Ruggero Ricci, you can find him on facebook… you should ask him if you want some more details.

    There’s also more info in a previous topic on the mammalwatching forum: “RFI: Crested Porcupine and other mammals, central Italy”

  • Mike Richardson

    I visited the Abruzzo area in October last year but didn’t have much luck with the Crested Porcupine or Brown Bear.

    I did see the Chamois, Garden Dormouse and several other mammal species. My trip report is here:


    It can also be found in the Italy section of mammalwatching.com.

    If I was trying for porcupine again I would wait for warm summer nights and start driving around midnight. I was told by locals that in cold, wet weather porcupines don’t venture far from their burrow.

    Please contact me if you have any questions

    Kind regards

    Mike Richardson


  • Coke Smith

    So are June, July, August bad times to search for these animals in Abruzzo?

    • Luca Peruzzi

      For bears, best period of year is august to mid september,when they get out of the woods at dusk to eat rhamnus fruits. Wolf sightings are completely random. For chamois (mountains),porcupines (lowlands and hills outside the park) and other wildlife summer months are perfect, simply you find far more tourists (july and august) and less wilderness,plus you must reserve in advance the walk on some trails, for example the Val di Rose.

  • Richard

    Might be a little too late to post on this thread, but had a great weekend in Abruzzo NP in late May 2004; 3 bear sighings, 1 wolf, chamois as well as wildcat & marten spot-lighted at night. Met a friendly retired Italian couple from Rome who visit each spring to watch the bears – their advice was that late May (bears low down feeding in meadows below beech woods) or early autumn (bears on higher slopes above beech woods eating berries) is best. The sites in spring were easier to view being lower down and closer to roads / villages. Also went to Gran Sasso, but in late May the higher slopes were still in accessible owing to snow cover.

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