The Selva of Castelfidardo is a prehistoric 35 hectares forest: for its rich biodiversity it represents a botanical “unicum” known all over Europe. Its peculiarities and scientific features are underlined in various magazines and studies carried by national and international botanists.
With fast and short slopes, it goes from an altitude of 20 meters (MSL) to 120. It has a thick vegetation (shrubs, hedges, centuries old trees 20 meters high) which covers the Northern side of the hill.
Nowadays the Selva is divided into 9 properties, 8 of whom are extremely small, while the biggest one belongs to the Foundation duke Roberto Ferretti of Castelferretto (link to website). Inside of the forest there are many paths: the most known is the “Stradone di Mezzo” which entirely covers the length of the forest. It was anciently used by carts and carriages.
Spring and Autumn blooms of orchids, periwinkles, Iris foeditissima and cyclamen (just to name few of them) create a beautiful scenario. Into the thick forest there are some peculiarities: the “stoups”. They have taken shape into the holes created in the cut trunks (a consequence of the matricinate coppice, technique used in 1960). They collect rain providing a precious font of water for the animals of the forest.
As a Regional Protected Floristic Area, the Selva has a naturalistic management to encourage the rescue of a high level of biodiversity, promoting the spontaneous growth of plant trees.
It is also important to enlighten the ecologic role of the forest, for the purpose of scientific research with didactic and healthy reasons; the forest gained the title of “Forest Bathing Center” in July of 2020 from AIMeF (Italian Association of Forestal Medicine).
In the last 150 years the Selva has been stage of multiple historical events such as the battle of Castelfidardo for Italian Unification: here the forest plays a fundamental role for the final outcome. Its thick vegetation did not give the Papal army the chance to see the number of Sardinian-Piedmontese Bersaglieri who were positioned around there by General Cialdini (the XXVI Battalion was made up of 400 soldiers). They strongly faced the attack of General de Pimodan for three hours, giving the possibility to the rest of the Sardinian army to surround the hill and win the battle.
Another battle to be remembered is the one which took place the 3-4th July 1944. The German infantry clashed with the third allied division for the Liberation of Le Marche from the Nazi domination.
To safeguard the biodiversity, Le Marche declared the Selva a “Floristic Area” (regional law nç 52 of 1974), while with the BioItaly project (Ministry of Environment, Directive 92/43/CEE Habitat e Rete Natura 2000), the forest has been proposed as Site of Community Importance (S.I.C.). It is among the Regional Botanical Emergencies and it is recognized as “Natural Beauty of Le Marche” (Law n° 1497/39 on the safeguard of the Natural beauties).
The forest and the surrounding areas are also submitted to an environmental restriction (law n° 1497/39), with the aim of not altering the features of the rural environment secured to the memory of the historic battle.
The Biodiversity of La Selva
The area is known for its floristic richness: 708 vascular plant trees, 68 hepatic plants and mosses and 23 species of lichens. The current vegetation is characterized by the Roverella and Orniello oak forest on the top, Turkey and East hornbeam oak forest in the medium sector, and by the forestry cenosis of English oaks, Durmast and white hornbeam in the flat zone. This last plant-related association, named Rubio-querco-carpineto represents the remaining patch of the forest that was common on the alluvial terraces of the valley floors of Le Marche. Some conifers (mostly Aleppo pine and cypress) were planted on the edge of the forest in 1950s.
For what concerns the animals, there are less than 60 recognized vertebrates in the forest and in the nearby rural areas; it means that they are one quarter of Le Marche’s fauna. There are typically forestall species like wryneck, woodpecker, tree creeper, winter wren and also species connected to transitional areas such as occhiocotto, little shrike, tit, vespertilio maggiore, mole, badger, hedgehog, aesculapian snake. Relevant is the presence of nocturnal predators (barn owl, scops owl, owl).