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Apennine Mountains

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Title: Apennine Mountains  
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Subject: Abruzzo, Lucania, L'Aquila, Adriatic Sea, San Marino
Collection: Apennine Mountains, Mountain Ranges of Italy, Mountains of San Marino, Physiographic Provinces
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Apennine Mountains

Apennine Mountains
Highest point
Peak Corno Grande (Big Horn)
Elevation 2,912 m (9,554 ft)
Length 1,200 km (750 mi) northwest to southeast
Width 250 km (160 mi) southwest to northeast
Native name Monti Appennini
Relief Map of the Apennines
Countries Italy and San Marino
Range coordinates
Period Mesozoic for formation of rock,
Neogene-Quaternary for orogeny
Type of rock Apennine fold and thrust belt

The Apennines or Apennine Mountains (; Greek: Ἀπέννινα ὄρη;[1] Latin: Appenninus or Apenninus Mons—a singular used in the plural;[note 1] Italian: Appennini )[2] are a mountain range consisting of parallel smaller chains extending c. 1,200 km (750 mi) along the length of peninsular Italy. In the northwest they join with the Ligurian Alps at Altare. In the southwest they end at Reggio di Calabria, the coastal city at the tip of the peninsula. Since about 2000 the Ministry of the Environment of Italy, following the recommendations of the Apennines Park of Europe Project, has been defining the Apennines System to include the mountains of north Sicily, for a total distance of 1,500 kilometres (930 mi).[3] The system forms an arc enclosing the east side of the Ligurian and Tyrrhenian Seas.

The etymology most frequently repeated, because of its semantic appropriateness, is that it derives from the Celtic Penn, "mountain, summit":[2] A-penn-inus, which could have been assigned during the Celtic domination of north Italy in the 4th century BC or before. The name originally applied to the north Apennines. However, historical linguists have never found a derivation with which they are universally comfortable.[4] Wilhelm Deecke said:[5][note 2] "...its etymology is doubtful but some derive it from the Ligurian-Celtish Pen or Ben, which means mountain peak."

The mountains lend their name to the Apennine peninsula, which forms the major part of Italy.[4] They are mostly verdant, although one side of the highest peak, Corno Grande is partially covered by Calderone glacier, the only glacier in the Apennines. It has been receding since 1794.[6] The southern mountains are semi-arid. The eastern slopes down to the Adriatic Sea are steep, while the western slopes form foothills on which most of peninsular Italy's cities are located. The mountains tend to be named from the province or provinces in which they are located; for example, the Ligurian Apennines are in Liguria. As the provincial borders have not always been stable, this practice has resulted in some confusion about exactly where the montane borders are. Often but not always a geographical feature can be found that lends itself to being a border.


  • Geography 1
    • Northern Apennines 1.1
      • Ligurian Apennines 1.1.1
      • Umbrian Apennines 1.1.2
    • Central Apennines 1.2
      • Umbrian-Marchean Apennines 1.2.1
      • Abruzzean Apennines 1.2.2
    • Southern Apennines 1.3
      • Samnite and Campanian Apennines 1.3.1
      • Lucan Apennines 1.3.2
      • Calabrian and Sicilian Apennines 1.3.3
  • Ecology 2
    • Vegetative zones 2.1
      • Ecoregions 2.1.1
      • Alpine zone 2.1.2
    • Transhumance 2.2
  • Geology 3
    • Formation of rocks 3.1
    • Apennine orogeny 3.2
      • Compressional zone 3.2.1
      • Extensional zone 3.2.2
    • Stability of terrain 3.3
    • Glacial ice 3.4
  • Major peaks 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • Bibliography 8
  • External links 9


The Apennines are divided into three sectors: northern (Italian: Appennino settentrionale), central (Appennino centrale) and southern (Appennino meridionale).[7]

A number of long hiking trails wind through the Apennines. Of note is European walking route E1 coming from northern Europe and traversing the lengths of the northern and central Apennines. The Grand Italian Trail begins in Trieste and after winding through the Alpine arc traverses the entire Apennine system, Sicily and Sardinia.

Northern Apennines

The northern Apennines consist of three sub-chains: the Ligurian (Appennino ligure), Tuscan (Appennino toscano) and Umbrian Apennines (Appennino umbro).[8]

Ligurian Apennines

The plaque marking the Bocchetta di Altare

The Ligurian Apennines border the Ligurian Sea in the Gulf of Genoa, from about Savona below the upper Bormida River valley to about La Spezia (La Cisa pass) below the upper Magra River valley. The range follows the Gulf of Genoa separating it from the upper Po Valley. The northwestern border follows the line of the Bormida River to Acqui Terme. There the river continues northeast to Alessandria in the Po Valley, but the mountains bend away to the southeast.

The upper Bormida can be reached by a number of roads proceeding inland at a right angle to the coast southwest of Savona, the chief one being the Autostrada Torino-Savona. They ascend to the Bocchetta di Altare, sometimes called Colle di Cadibona, 436 m (1,430 ft), the border between the Ligurian Alps along the coast to the west and the Ligurian Apennines. A bronze plaque fixed to a stone marks the top of the pass. In the vicinity are fragments of the old road and three ruins of former fortifications.

At Carcare, the main roads connect with the upper Bormida valley (Bormida di Millare) before turning west. The Scrivia, the Trebbia the Taro and the Tanaro (Tanarus), tributaries of the Po River, drain the northeast slopes. The range contains dozens of peaks. Toward the southern end the Aveto Natural Regional Park includes Monte Penna. Nearby is the highest point of Ligurian Apennines, Monte Maggiorasca at 1,780 m (5,840 ft).[8]

The main and only feasible overland route connecting the coastal plain of Liguria to the north Italian plain runs through Bocchetta di Altare. It has always been of strategic importance. Defenders of north Italy have had to control it since ancient times, as the various fortifications placed there testify. Currently however, Trenitalia, the state railway system, highly developed on the coastal plain, traverses the mountains routinely through a number of railway tunnels, such as the one at Giovi Pass.

Monte Cimone (2165 m) is the highest mountain of the northern Apennines in the Emilia Romagna

The southeastern border of the Ligurian Apennines is the Fiume Magra, which projects into the Tyrrhenian Sea south of La Spezia, and the Fiume Taro, which runs in the opposite direction to join the Po River. The divide between the two upper river valleys is the Passo della Cisa (Cisa Pass). Under it (two tunnels) runs the Autostrada della Cisa between Spezia and Parma.

Starting at Cisa Pass, the mountain chains turn further to the southeast to cross the peninsula along the border between the Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany regions. They are also named the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines west of the Futa pass and the Tuscan-Romagnol Apennines east of it, or just the Tuscan Apennines.[8] They extend to the upper Tiber River. The high point is Monte Cimone at 2,165 m (7,103 ft).

A separate branch, the Apuan Alps, goes to the southwest bordering the coast south of La Spezia. Whether they are to be considered part of the Apennines is a matter of opinion; certainly, they are part of the Apennine System. Topographically only the valley of the River Serchio, which running parallel to the coast turns and exits into the Tyrrhenian Sea north of Pisa, separates the Apuan Alps from the Apennines; geologically the rock is of a slightly different composition: marble. The Roman marble industry was centered at Luna, and is now active in Carrara.

As the Tuscan Apennines divide the peninsula between the Po Valley and the plains and hills of Tuscany and Lazio, transportation over them is essential to political and economic unity. Historically the Romans used the Via Flaminia between Rome and Rimini. The montane distance between Florence in Tuscany and Bologna in Emilia-Romagna is shorter, but exploitation of it required the conquest of more rugged terrain, which was not feasible for the ancients. Railway lines were constructed over the mountains in the early 19th century but they were of low capacity and unimprovable.

Since 1856 a series of tunnels have been constructed to conduct "the Bologna-Florence rail line", which is neither a single line nor a single tunnel. The Porrettana Line went into service in 1864, the Direttissima in 1934 and the High Speed in 1996.[9] A few dozen tunnels support the three of them, the longest on the High-Speed Line being the Voglia Tunnel at 16.757 km (10.412 mi).[10] The longest is on the Direttissima, the Great Apennine Tunnel, which at 18.5 km (11.5 mi) is the longest entirely within Italy, although the Simplon Tunnel, which connects Italy and Switzerland, is longer.[note 3] Currently automobile traffic is carried by the Autostrada del Sole, Route A1, which goes through numerous shorter tunnels, bypassing an old road, originally Roman, through Futa Pass.

The southernmost limit of the Tuscan-Romagnol Apennines is approximately Foreste Casentinesi, Monte Falterona, Campigna National Park. The three-way intersection of the borders between Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany and Marches is on the south slopes of Monte Fumaiolo, from which the Tiber originates. The mountain is the furthest south of Emilia-Romagna.

Umbrian Apennines

Source of the Tiber. Marked by a Column decorated with an Eagle and Wolf heads - Part of the fauna of the Apennines and symbols of Rome

The Tiber River at Rome flows from northeast to southwest, projecting into the Tyrrhenian Sea at right angles to the shore. The upper Tiber, however, flows from northwest to southeast, gradually turning through one right angle clockwise. In the north Val Tevere ("Valley of the Tiber") is a deep valley separating the Umbrian Apennines on the left bank from a lesser range, the Tuscan Anti- or Sub-Apennines on its right. They and some of Val Tevere are part of Tuscany, which formerly was enclosed by the Arno River, the Tiber River and the coast, but has lost ground around the Tiber to Lazio and Umbria. Lazio extends a little way up the Tiber. Val Tevere, however, is mainly in Umbria. In the Apennines also and on the west coast is Marche.

The Val Tevere is marked on the map by Highway A1, the Autostrada del Sole, which enters it in the vicinity of Monte Rotondo north of Rome and follows the course of the river to the point where the latter flows from Lago di Cabara in the vicinity of Baschi and then goes up the valley of the Fiume Paglia. North of the lake the course of the Fiume Tevere is marked by Highway E45 almost to where the Tevere begins at Falera on the slopes of Monte Fumaiolo. That location is in Emilia-Romagna. For that entire distance the eastern slopes of the Apennines are in Marches.[note 4]

South of Monte Fumaiolo the Tevere enters Tuscany. It crosses the Umbrian border in the vicinity of San Giustino and remains in it, becoming part of the border between Umbria and Lazio in the south, entering Lazio unequivocally in the vicinity of Castello delle Formiche. Over the centuries these borders have varied, mainly at the expense of Tuscany. Consequently, there has been considerable imprecision in locating the Umbrian Apennines, and therefore the highest peak in them. The major difficulty is discriminating the Umbrian of the Northern Apennines from the Umbrian-Marchean of the Central Apennines. The mountains of Umbria and Marches are so wide and so tangled, rather than parallel, that the borders are difficult to place and vary according to author. Many do not make the distinction, but one is still recognized, however uncertainly, by the Italian park service. In general, the Umbrian Apennines are located mainly in Umbria, while the great mass of mountains in Marches are considered Central Apennine.

Horses on Monte Nerone
Painting of the Sabine Mountains along the Tiber by Jakob Philipp Hackert

Merriam-Webster's Geographical Dictionary defines the Umbrian Apennines to extend from the "sources of the Tiber" to Scheggia Pass, bounded on the east by the border between Umbria and Marches, which runs along the divide. Similarly the Alto Tevere begins near the border between Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna. The pass is the point where the Roman Via Flaminia crosses the divide, at 575 metres (1,886 ft). Starting from Rimini on the Adriatic coast the old road follows the coast south to Fano, then turns inland and goes up the Fiume Metauro to Ponti di Traiano, then up the Fiume Candigliano to Acqualagna, and by the Fiume Burano to Cagli (ancient Cales). Here the Via Flaminia turns south, approximated today by highway SP3, which climbing the flanks of Monte Fiume arrives at last at the pass. This is the southernmost limit of the Umbrian Apennines, according to the dictionary.[8] The pass goes down to Gualdo Tadino (Tadinium). Gubbio is east of the Val Tevere.

The region specified by the dictionary includes European Union,[11] simply calls it "the Apennine Ridge" of "the Umbria Region," which it locates in "the central and northern mountains of the Apennines."[12] The western part of this range is considered by some to be the Umbrian Apennines; it includes Parco del Monte Cucco, 1,566 m (5,138 ft), which includes the pass, the road and the Umbrian side of the ridge south to Fossato di Vico. Further south are Parco del Monte Subasio around Assisi and Parco di Colfiorito on the border with Marches.

Central Apennines

Gran Sasso and Campo Imperatore

The Apennine System forms an irregular arc with centers of curvature located in the Tyrrhenian Sea. The northern and southern segments comprise parallel chains that can be viewed as single overall mountain ridges, such as the Ligurian Mountains. The center, being thicker and more complex, is geologically divided into an inner and an outer arc with regard to the centers of curvature. The geologic definition, however, is not the same as the geographic.

Based on rock type and orogenic incidents, the northern segment of the arc is divided into the Outer Northern Apennines (ONA) and the Inner Northern Apennines (INA).[13] The inner are located in Tuscany and Umbria and correspond well with the geography, comprising the Apuan Alps and Umbrian Apennines. The outer comprise the outer Ligurian, Tuscan-Emilian and half the Central Apennines, which are the eastern half of the divide marked by the Umbria-Marches border. The Central Apennines, also called the High Apennines, are therefore divided into the Umbrian-Marchean (Appennino umbro-marchigiano) or Roman Apennines in the north and the Abruzzi Apennines (Appennino abruzzese) in the south.[8]

Umbrian-Marchean Apennines

A natural border exists between the Northern Apennines and the Central Apennines: a klippen zone, or band of isolated Liguride rocks, follows the Val Marecchia ("Valley of the Marecchia River") to the Marches-Tuscany border and passes through the Monti Rognosi and Arezzo in Tuscany.[13] If extended the line would touch the northern tip of Corsica, but it is only relevant on the east slopes of the Apennines, where it is located just south of the border between Marches and Emilia-Romagna. The west border of the Umbrian-Marchean Apennines (or "Umbro-Marchean") runs through Cagli. They extend south to the Tronto River, the south border of the ONA.

In the northeast of the range, the Republic of San Marino is located on the slopes of Monte Titano. The highest peak, Monte Vettore, at 2,478 m (8,130 ft), is part of the Monti Sibillini, incorporated into Parco Nazionale dei Monti Sibillini. Further inland is Parco Sasso Simone e Simoncello[14] and further south Parco naturale regionale Gola della Rossa di Frasassi, in which are the Gola della Rossa ("Canyon of the Red") and Frasassi Caves. The Italian Park Service calls it the "green heart" of Italy. The region is heavily forested, such as the Riserva Naturale Statale Gola del Furlo, where Furlo Pass on the Via Flaminia is located. Both the Etruscans and the Romans constructed tunnels here.

Abruzzean Apennines

The Abruzzi Apennines, located in Abruzzo, Molise (formerly part of Abruzzo) and southeastern Lazio, contain the highest peaks and most rugged terrain of the Apennines. They are known in history as the territory of the Italic peoples first defeated by the city of Rome. Coincidentally they exist in three parallel folds or chains surviving from the orogeny.[8] These extend in a northwest-southeast direction from the River Tronto to the River Sangro, which drain into the Adriatic. The coastal hills of the east extend between San Benedetto del Tronto in the north and Torino di Sangro in the south.

The eastern chain consists mainly of the southern part of the Monti Sibillini, the Monti della Laga, the Gran Sasso d'Italia Massif and the Majella Massif. Among them are two national parks: Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park and Majella National Park; and the Regional Park of the Monti Simbruini. Gran Sasso contains Corno Grande, the highest peak of the Apennines.

Other features between the western and central ranges are the plain of Rieti, the valley of the Salto, and the Lago Fucino; while between the central and eastern ranges are the valleys of Aquila and Sulmona. The chief rivers on the west are the Nera, with its tributaries the Velino and Salto, and the Aniene, both of which fall into the Tiber. On the east there is at first a succession of small rivers which flow into the Adriatic, from which the highest points of the chain are some 20 km distant, such as the Potenza, Chienti, Tenna, Tronto, Tordino, Vomano and others. The Pescara, which receives the Aterno from the north-west and the Gizio from the south-east, is more important; and so is the Sangro.

The central Apennines are crossed by the railway from Rome to Pescara via Avezzano and Sulmona: the railway from Orte to Terni (and thence to Foligno) follows the Nera valley; while from Terni a line ascends to the plain of Rieti, and thence crosses the central chain to Aquila, whence it follows the valley of the Aterno to Sulmona. In ancient times the Via Salaria, Via Caecilia and Via Valeria-Claudia all ran from Rome to the Adriatic coast. The volcanic mountains of the province of Rome are separated from the Apennines by the Tiber valley, and the Monti Lepini, part of the Volscian chain, by the valleys of the Sacco and Liri.

Southern Apennines

The Mount Pollino
The Pizzo Carbonara, 6,493 feet (1,979 m), is the highest peak of the Sicilian Appenino siculo, which forms part of the Calabrian southern Apennines.

The southern Apennines can be divided into four major regions: (1) Samnite Apennines, (2) Campanian Apennines, (3) Lucan Apennines and (4) Calabrian Apennines including the Sicilian Apennines.

Samnite and Campanian Apennines

In the southern Apennines, to the south of the Sangro valley, the three parallel chains are broken up into smaller groups; among them may be named the Matese, the highest point of which is the Monte Miletto 2,050 metres (6,725 ft). The chief rivers on the south-west are the Liri or Garigliano with its tributary the Sacco, the Volturno, Sebeto, Sarno, on the north the Trigno, Biferno and Fortore.[15]

The promontory of Monte Gargano, on the east, is completely isolated, and so are the Campanian volcanic arc near Naples. The district is traversed from north-west to south-east by the railway from Sulmona to Benevento and on to Avellino, and from south-west to northeast by the railways from Caianello via Isernia to Campobasso and Termoli, from Caserta to Benevento and Foggia, and from Nocera Inferiore and Avellino to Rocchetta S. Antonio, the junction for Foggia, Spinazzola (for Barletta, Bari, and Taranto) and Potenza. Roman roads followed the same lines as the railways: the Via Appia ran from Capua to Benevento, whence the older road went to Venosa and Taranto and so to Brindisi, while the Via Traiana ran nearly to Foggia and thence to Bari.[15]

Lucan Apennines

The valley of the Ofanto, which runs into the Adriatic close to Barletta, marks the northern termination of the first range of the Lucanian Apennines (now Basilicata), which runs from east to west, while south of the valleys of the Sele (on the west) and Basento (on the east)—which form the line followed by the railway from Battipaglia via Potenza to Metaponto—the second range begins to run due north and south as far as the plain of Sibari. The highest point is the Monte Pollino 2,233 metres (7,325 ft). The chief rivers are the Sele—joined by the Negro and Calore—on the west, and the Bradano, Basento, Agri, Sinni on the east, which flow into the gulf of Taranto; to the south of the last-named river there are only unimportant streams flowing into the sea east and west, inasmuch as here the width of the peninsula diminishes to some 64 kilometres (40 mi).[15]

Calabrian and Sicilian Apennines

The railway running south from Sicignano to Lagonegro, ascending the valley of the Negro, is planned to extend to Cosenza, along the line followed by the ancient Via Popilia, which beyond Cosenza reached the west coast at Terina and thence followed it to Reggio. The Via Herculia, a branch of the Via Traiana, ran from Aequum Tuticum to the ancient Nerulum. At the narrowest point the plain of Sibari, through which the rivers Coscile and Crati flow to the sea, occurs on the east coast, extending halfway across the peninsula. Here the limestone Apennines proper cease and the granite mountains of Calabria begin.[15]

The first group extends as far as the isthmus formed by the gulfs of South Eufemia and Squillace; it is known as the Sila, and the highest point reached is 1,930 metres (6,330 ft) (the Botte Donato). The forests which covered it in ancient times supplied the Greeks and Sicilians with timber for shipbuilding. The railway from South Eufemia to Catanzaro and Catanzaro Marina crosses the isthmus, and an ancient road may have run from Squillace to Monteleone. The second group extends to the south end of the Italian Peninsula, culminating in the Aspromonte (1,960 metres (6,420 ft)) to the east of Reggio di Calabria. In both groups the rivers are quite unimportant.[15] Finally, the Calabrian southern Appeninne Mountains extend along the northern coast of Sicily (the Sicilian Apennines, Italian Appennino siculo) —Pizzo Carbonara (6,493 feet (1,979 m)) being the highest peak.


Vegetative zones


The number of vascular plant species in the Apennines has been estimated at 5,599 — 728 of which (23.6%) are in the treeline ecotone. Hemicryptophytes predominate in the entire Apennine chain.[16]

Alpine zone

The tree line ecotone is mainly grasslands of the Montane grasslands and shrublands biome; with Temperate broadleaf and mixed forests, and Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub below it. The tree line in the Apennines can be found in the range 1,600 m (5,200 ft) to 2,000 m (6,600 ft).[17] About 5% of the map area covered by the Apennines is at or above the tree line —or in the treeline ecotone. The snow line is at about 3,200 m (10,500 ft), leaving the Apennines below it, except for the one remaining glacier. Snow may fall from October to May. Rainfall increases with latitude.[6] The range's climates, depending on elevation and latitude, are the Oceanic climate and Mediterranean climate.



The particular shape of the Pietra di Bismantova, Tuscan Apennines, Emilia-Romagna region
A pillow lava from an ophiolite sequence, Northern Apennines, Italy.

The Apennines were created in the Apennine orogeny beginning in the early Neogene (about 20 mya, the middle Miocene) and continuing today.[18] Geographically they are partially or appear to be continuous with the Alpine system. Prior to the explosion of data on the topic from about the year 2000 many authors took the approach that the Apennines had the same origin as the Alps. Even today some authors use the term Alpine-Apennine system. They are not, however, the same system and did not have the same origin. The Alps were millions of years old before the Apennines rose from the sea.

Both the Alps and the Apennines contain primarily sedimentary rock resulting from sedimentation of ancient Tethys Sea in the Mesozoic. The northward movement of the African Plate and its collision with the European Plate then caused the Alpine Orogeny, beginning in the late Mesozoic. The band of mountains created extends from Spain to Turkey in a roughly east-west direction and includes the Alps. The Apennines are much younger, extend from northwest to southeast, and are not a displacement of the Alpine chain.

The key evidence of the difference is the geologic behavior of the Po Valley in northern Italy. Compressional forces have been acting from north to south in the Alps and from south to north in the Apennines, but instead of being squeezed into mountains the valley has been subsiding at 1 to 4 mm (0.16 in) per year since about 25 mya, before the Apennines existed.[19] It is now known to be not an erosional feature but is a filled portion of the Adriatic Trench, called the Adriatic foredeep after its function as a subduction zone was discovered. The Alps and the Apennines were always separated by this trench and were never part of the same system.

Formation of rocks

Apennine orogeny

The Apennine orogeny is a type of mountain-building in which two simpler types are combined in an apparently paradoxical configuration. Sometimes this is referred to as "syn-orogenic extension", but the term implies that the two processes occur simultaneously during time. Some scientists imagine that this is relatively rare but not unique in mountain building, whereas others imagine that this is fairly common in all mountain belts.

The RETREAT Project[note 5] have this specific feature as one of their focus points [20] In essence the east side of Italy features a fold and thrust belt raised by compressional forces acting under the Adriatic Sea. This side has been called the "Apennine-Adriatic Compressional Zone" or the "Apennines Convergence Zone." On the west side of Italy fault-block mountains prevail, created by a spreading or extension of the crust under the Tyrrhenian Sea. This side is called the "Tyrrhenian Extensional Zone." The mountains of Italy are of paradoxical provenience, having to derive from both compression and extension:

"The paradox of how contraction and extension can occur simultaneously in convergent mountain belts remains a fundamental and largely unresolved problem in continental dynamics."

Both the folded and the fault-block systems include parallel mountain chains. In the folded system anticlines erode into the highest and longest massifs of the Apennines.

According to the older theories (originating from the 1930–70's) of Dutch geologists, including Van Bemmelen, compression and extension can and should occur simultaneously at different depths in a mountain belt. In these theories, these different levels are called Stockwerke. More recent work in geotectonics and geodynamics of the same school of geoscientists (Utrecht and Amsterdam University) by Vlaar, Wortel, and Cloetingh, and their disciples, extended these concepts even further into a temporal realm. They demonstrated that internal and external forces acting upon the mountain belt (e.g., tectonic plates) result in both longer episodes and shorter phases of general extension and compression acting both upon and inside mountain belts and tectonic arches (See e.g. for extensive reviews, bibliography and discussions on the literature: Van Dijk (1992),[21] Van Dijk and Okkes (1991),[22] Van Dijk & Scheepers (1995),[23] and Van Dijk et al. (2000a)[24]).

Compressional zone

The gradual subsidence of the Po Valley (including that of Venice) and the folding of the mountains of eastern Italy have been investigated using seismic wave analysis of the "Apennine Subduction System."[20] Along the Adriatic side of Italy the floor of the Adriatic Sea, referred to as the "Adriatic lithosphere" or the "Adriatic plate," terms whose precise meaning is the subject of ongoing research, is dipping under the slab on which the Apennines have been folded by compressional forces.

Subduction occurs along a fault, along which a hanging wall, or overriding slab is thrust over an overridden slab, also called the subducting slab. The fault that acts as the subduction interface is at the bottom of the Apennine wedge, characterized by a deep groove in the surface, typically filled with sediment, as sedimentation here occurs at a much faster rate than subduction. In north Italy the dip of this interface is 30° to 40° at a depth of 80–90 km.[25]

The strike of the Apennine subduction zone forms a long, irregular arc with centers of curvature in the Tyrrhenian Sea following the hanging wall over which the mountains have been raised; i.e., the eastern wall of the mountains. It runs from near the base of the Ligurian Apennines in the Po Valley along the margin of the mountains to the Adriatic, along the coastal deeps of the Adriatic shore, strikes inland at Monte Gargano cutting off Apulia, out to sea again through the Gulf of Taranto, widely around the rest of Italy and Sicily and across inland north Africa.[25] The upper mantle above 250 km (160 mi) deep is broken into the "Northern Apennines Arc" and the "Calabrian Arc", with compressional forces acting in different directions radially toward the arcs' centers of curvature. The overall plate tectonics of these events has been modeled in different ways but decisive data is still missing. The tectonics, however, are not the same as those which created the Alps.

Extensional zone

The west side of Italy is given to a fault-block system, where the crust, extended by the lengthening mantle below, thinned, broke along roughly parallel fault lines, and the blocks alternatively sank into grabens or were raised by isostasy into horsts. This system prevails from Corsica eastward to the valley of the Tiber River, the last rift valley in that direction. It runs approximately across the direction of extension. In the fault-block system the ridges are lower and are more steep-sided, since the walls are formed by faults. Geographically they are not considered part of the Apennines proper but are termed "sub-apennine" or "anti-apennine." These mountains are found mainly in Tuscany, Lazio and Campania.

Stability of terrain

The terrain of the Apennines (as well as that of the Alps) is to a large degree unstable due to various types of landslides, including falls and slides of rocks and debris, flows of earth and mud, and sink holes. The Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (Istituto Superiore per la Protezione e la Ricerca Ambientale), a government agency founded in 2008 by combining three older agencies, published in that year a special report, Landslides in Italy, summarizing the results of the IFFI Project (Il Progetto IFFI), the Italian Landslide Inventory (Inventario dei Fenomeni Franosi in Italia), an extensive survey of historical landslides in Italy undertaken by the government starting in 1997. On December 31, 2007, it had studied and mapped 482,272 landslides over 20,500 km2 (7,900 sq mi). Its major statistics are the Landslide Index (LI here), the ratio of the landslide area to the total area of a region, the Landslide Index in Mountainous-Hilly Areas (here LIMH) and the Density of Landslides, which is the number per 100 km2 (39 sq mi).

Italy as a whole has a LI of 6.8, a LIMH of 9.1 and a density of 160. Lombardia (LI of 13.9), Emilia-Romagna (11.4), Marches (19.4), Molise (14.0), Valle d'Aosta (16.0) and Piemonte (9.1) are significantly higher.[26] The most unstable terrain in the Apennines when the landslide sites are plotted on the map are in order from most unstable the eastern flanks of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines, the Central Apennines and the eastern flank of the southern Apennines. Instability there is comparable to the Alps bordering the Po Valley. The most stable terrain is on the western side: Liguria, Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio. The Apennines are slumping away to the northeast into the Po Valley and the Adriatic foredeep; that is, the zone where the Adriatic floor is being subducted under Italy. Slides with large translational or rotational surface movements are most common; e.g., a whole slope slumps into its valley, placing the population there at risk.

Glacial ice

Glaciers no longer exist in the Apennines outside the Gran Sasso d'Italia massif. However, post-Pliocene moraines have been observed in Basilicata.

Major peaks

The Apennines include 21 peaks over 1,900 m (6,200 ft), the approximate tree line. Most of these peaks are located in the Central Apennines.[17]

Corno Grande
Monte Vettore
Name Height
Corno Grande
(Gran Sasso massif)
2,912 m (9,554 ft)
Monte Amaro
(Majella massif)
2,793 m (9,163 ft)
Monte Velino 2,486 m (8,156 ft)
Monte Vettore 2,476 m (8,123 ft)
Pizzo di Sevo 2,419 m (7,936 ft)
Monte Terminillo 2,217 m (7,274 ft)
Monte Sibilla 2,173 m (7,129 ft)
Monte Cimone 2,165 m (7,103 ft)
Monte Cusna 2,121 m (6,959 ft)
Montagne del Morrone 2,061 m (6,762 ft)
Monte Prado 2,053 m (6,736 ft)
Monte Miletto 2,050 m (6,730 ft)
Alpe di Succiso 2,017 m (6,617 ft)
Monte Pisanino 1,946 m (6,385 ft)
Corno alle Scale 1,915 m (6,283 ft)
Monte Alto 1,904 m (6,247 ft)
La Nuda 1,894 m (6,214 ft)
Monte Maggio 1,853 m (6,079 ft)
Monte Giovarello 1,760 m (5,770 ft)
Monte Catria 1,701 m (5,581 ft)
Monte Gottero 1,640 m (5,380 ft)
Monte Pennino 1,560 m (5,120 ft)
Monte Nerone 1,525 m (5,003 ft)
Monte Fumaiolo 1,407 m (4,616 ft)

See also


  1. ^ Apenninus has the form of an adjective, which would be segmented Apenn-inus, often used with nouns such as mons (mountain) or Greek ὄρος oros, but just as often used alone as a noun. The ancient Greeks and Romans typically but not always used "mountain" in the singular to mean one or a range; thus, "the Apennine mountain" refers to the entire chain and is translated "the Apennine mountains". The ending can vary also by gender depending on the noun modified. The Italian singular refers to one of the constituent chains rather than to a single mountain and the Italian plural refers to multiple chains rather than to multiple mountains.
  2. ^ A large number of place names reflect pen: Penarrig, Penbrynn, Pencoid, Penmon, Pentir, etc. and ben: Beanach, Benmore, Benabuird, Benan, Bencruachan, etc. (Blackie 1887, pp. 21, 154). In one derivation Pen/Ben is cognate with Old Irish cenn, "head", but an original *kwen- would be required, which is typologically not found in languages that feature   goes so far as to suggest pin and pen come from Latin pinna, "feather", in the sense of the horn of the quill. This view has the word originating in Latium inconsistently with the theory of the northern origin. None of these derivations are unquestionably accepted.
  3. ^ Claims of being the longest or second-longest in the world have been soon outdated. See List of longest tunnels in the world.
  4. ^ Ancient Umbria included most of Marches (which did not then exist) except for the Adriatic coast and did not include Val Tevere, which belonged to Etruria all the way to the Tyrrhenian Sea. Names of regions and the geographical features associated with them; for example, "the Tuscan Hills" depend on the historical period.
  5. ^ The Retreating-trench, extension and accretion (RETREAT) Project is a study conducted by a consortium of scientific organizations in different countries including in the US the National Science Foundation.


  1. ^ Strabo, Geography, book 5
  2. ^ a b Lewis, Charlton T.; Short, Charles (1879). "Apenninus". A Latin Dictionary. Oxford; Medford: Clarendon Press; Perseus Digital Library. 
  3. ^ Gambino, Roberto; Romano, Bernardino (2000–2001). Territorial strategies and environmental continuity in mountain systems: The case of the Apennines (Italy) (PDF). World Commission on Protected Areas. 
  4. ^ a b Lake 1911, p. 161.
  5. ^ Deecke 1904, p. 23
  6. ^ a b Pederotti 2003, p. 75
  7. ^ Martini 2001, p. 3.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Merriam-Webster 2001, p. 59.
  9. ^ Lunardi 2008, pp. 413–414.
  10. ^ Lunardi 2008, pp. 425–437.
  11. ^ "cultural routes and landscapes, a common heritage of Europe". European Institute of Cultural Studies. Archived from the original on 22 March 2010. Retrieved 5 March 2010. 
  12. ^ Camicia, Sandra (ed.). "Umbria Region - Apennine Mountain Range" (pdf). LOTO - Landscape Opportunities for Territorial Organization. p. 69. Retrieved 9 March 2010. 
  13. ^ a b Barchi 2001, p. 216.
  14. ^ "Parks, Reserves and other Protected Areas in the Marches". 1995–2010. Retrieved 15 March 2010. 
  15. ^ a b c d e Lake 1911, p. 162.
  16. ^ Pederotti 2003, p. 79.
  17. ^ a b Pederotti 2003, p. 73.
  18. ^ James, Kristen (2004). Determining the source for the magmas of Monte Amiata (Central Italy) using strontium, neodymium, and lead isotopes (PDF). Carleton Geology Department: Geology Comps Papers. Liberal Arts Scholarly Repository (LASR). pp. 3–4. During the  
  19. ^ Ollier, Cliff; Pain, Colin (2000). The origin of mountains. London: Routledge. p. 77. Apennine thrusts move in from the south, and Southern Alps thrust in from the north, but instead of collisional compression there is subsidence and horizontal sedimentation. 
  20. ^ a b Margheriti 2006, p. 1120.
  21. ^ van Dijk, J.P. (1992). "Late Neogene fore-arc basin evolution in the Calabrian Arc (Central Mediterranean). Tectonic sequence stratigraphy and dynamic geohistory. With special reference to the geology of Central Calabria". Geologica Ultrajectina 92: 288. 
  22. ^ van Dijk, J.P.; Okkes, F.W.M. (1991). "Neogene tectonostratigraphy and kinematics of Calabrian Basins. implications for the geodynamics of the Central Mediterranean". Tectonophysics 196 (1-2): 23–60.  
  23. ^ van Dijk, J.P.; Scheepers, P.J.J. (1995). "Neogene rotations in the Calabrian Arc. Implications for a Pliocene-Recent geodynamic scenario for the Central Mediterranean". Earth Sci. Rev. 39 (3-4): 207–246.  
  24. ^ van Dijk, J.P.; Bello, M.; Brancaleoni, G.P.; Cantarella, G.; Costa, V.; Frixa, A.; Golfetto, F.; Merlini, S.; Riva, M.; Toricelli, S.; Toscano, C.; Zerilli, A. (2000). "A new structural model for the northern sector of the Calabrian Arc". Tectonophysics 324 (4): 267–320.  
  25. ^ a b Margheriti 2006, p. 1124.
  26. ^ Trigila, Alessandro; Iadanza, Carla (2008). "Landslides in Italy: Special Report 2008" (pdf). Rome: Istituto Superiore per la Protezione e la Ricerca Ambientale (ISPRA). pp. 15–16. 


  • "Apennines". Merriam-Webster's Geographical Dictionary (3rd ed.). Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. 2001. 
  • Blackie, Christina; Blackie, John Stuart (1887). Geographical etymology, a dictionary of place-names giving their derivations. London: Murray. 
  • Deecke, W; Nesbitt, H A (Translator) (1904). Italy; a popular account of the country, its people, and its institutions (including Malta and Sardinia). London; New York: Macmillan Co.; S. Sonnenschein & Co. 
  • Lunardi, Pietro (2008). Design and construction of tunnels: analysis of controlled deformation in rocks and soils (ADECO-RS). Berlin: Springer. 
  • Margheriti, Lucia; et al. (August–October 2006). "The subduction structure of the Northern Apennines: results for the RETREAT seismic deployment" (PDF). Annals of Geophysics 49 (4/5). 
  • Martini, I. Peter; Vai, Gian Battista (2001). "Geomorphologic Setting". In Martini, I. Peter; Vai, Gian Battista. Anatomy of an orogen: the Apennines and adjacent Mediterranean basins. Dordrecht [u.a.]: Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 1–4. .
  • Barchi, Massimiliano; Landuzzi, Alberto; Minelli, Giorgio; Pialli, Giampaolo (2001). "Inner Northern Apennines". In Martini, I. Peter; Vai, Gian Battista. Anatomy of an orogen: the Apennines and adjacent Mediterranean basins. Dordrecht [u.a.]: Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 215–254. .
  • Pedrotti, F.; Gafta, D. (2003). "The High Mountain Flora and Vegetation of the Apennines and the Italian Alps". In Nagy, László; Grabherr, G.; Körner, Ch.; Thompson, D.B.A. Alpine biodiversity in Europe. Ecological studies, 167. Berlin, Heidelberg [u.a.]: Springer-Verlag. pp. 73–84. .

External links

  • "Italy". Catholic Online. Retrieved 21 February 2010. 
  • "Ligurian Apennine". Summit Post. 2006. Retrieved 16 February 2010. 
  • "Italian Cultural Landscapes: wood-pasture and wood-meadow in the Ligurian-Tuscan-Aemilian Apennines, Italy". The ECL project. Retrieved 16 February 2010. 
  • "Appenine deciduous montane forests". Terrestrial Ecoregions. World Wildlife Fund. Retrieved 16 February 2010. 
  • Irlam, Michael J. (2009). "The Great Apennine Tunnel". Mike's Railway History. Retrieved 16 February 2010. 
  • "10th Mountain Division - The Formative World War II Years". Dartmouth College Class of 1965. 2008. Retrieved 16 February 2010. 
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