The Italian Almanac

ancient tree

Italian News - January 1

Italy's ancient and majestic trees make its natural treasures as worthy of protection as its cultural and artistic heritage. The Forestry Corps, engaged in a systematic census of Italian trees and woodland since 1982, has now published a book of photos featuring some of the country's most memorable examples. In total, the forest guards have examined and recorded 22,000 trees across the country, singling out 1,235 as being of "particular environmental and cultural interest".

The biggest tree is the "Chestnut of the 20 Horses" in the Sicilian province of Catania, which has a 20-metre circumference trunk. Italy's oldest example is an olive tree in Luras on the island of Sardinia. It has taken over 2,000 years to grow to its current size, with a 15-metre high trunk spanning 11.8 metres in circumference.

Ten of Italy's 20 regions have already passed laws protecting their natural assets but environmentalists want more to be done at a national level. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has asked the government to pass a law declaring the country's so-called monumental trees "assets of significant public interest". Such a measure would put them on the same footing as other elements of Italy's treasure trove of artistic, historical and architectural gems.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently reported that the percentage of Italian soil covered in woodland was greater than ever, even though forests were decreasing at a global level. On average, there are 100,000 more hectares of forest in Italy every year, said the FAO report, which looked at the period from 1990 to 2005. In total, around a third of Italian land is now covered by forest, amounting to nearly 10 million hectares.