The Apennines or Apennine Mountains (Greek: Απεννινος; Latin: Appenninus — in both cases used in the singular; Italian: Appennini) is a mountain range stretching 1000 km from the north to the south of Italy along its east coast, traversing the entire peninsula, and forming the backbone of the country. The range is characteristically limestones and related sedimentary strata believed to have been uplifted near the end of the Cretaceous when the African plate began to gently collide with the eastern part of the European plate, which tectonic episode, also formed the Alps. The Apennines strata are of particular significance in oceanic anoxic events studies, having triggered off a three-decades-long series of research when a meter thick band of black shale matched core sample from the Pacific ocean signaling a worldwide event.
The name may be derived from the Latin root "penne", meaning a quill or feather, also the source of the word "pinnacle". Thus, is it may be linked etymologically to the English Pennines. The term Apennines was originally applied to the northern portion of the chain, from the Maritime Alps to Ancona. Polybius is probably the first writer who applied it to the whole chain, making, indeed, no distinction between the Apennines and the Maritime Alps, and extending the former name as far as Marseilles. Other Classical authors do not differentiate the various parts of the chain, but use the name as a general name for the whole.
The mountains lend their name to the Apennine peninsula, which forms the major part of Italy. The mountains are mostly green and wooded, although one side of the highest peak, Corno Grande (2,912 m), is partially covered by the southernmost glacier in Europe. The eastern slopes down to the Adriatic Sea are steep, while the western slopes form a plain on which most of peninsular Italy's historic cities are located. The total length is some 1,000 km and the maximum width 80/140 km.
Modern geographers divide the range into three parts: northern, central and southern. Together, they form a distinct physiographic province of the larger Alpine System physiographic division.
The highest point (Monte Maggiorasca) reaches 1,799 m. The range is crossed by several railways - the line from Savona to Turin (with a branch at Ceva for Acqui), that from Genoa to Ovada and Acquit, the main lines from Genoa to Novi Ligure, the junction for Turin and Milan (both of which (There are two separate lines from Sampierdarena to Ronco) pass under the Monte dei Giovi, the ancient Mons Loventius, by which the ancient Via Postumia ran from Genua to Dertona), and that from Spezia to Parma under the pass of La Cisa. (This pass was also traversed by a nameless Roman road). All these traverse the ridge by long tunnels - that on the new line from Genoa to Ronco Scrivia is upwards of 8 km in length.
The Tuscan Apennines extend from the pass of La Cisa to the sources of the Tiber. The main chain continues to run in an east-south-east direction, but traverses the peninsula, the west coast meanwhile turning almost due south. From the northern slopes many rivers and streams run north and north-north-east into the Po, the Secchia and Panaro being among the most important, while farther east most of the rivers are tributaries of the Reno.
Other small streams, e.g. the Ronco and Montone, which flow into the sea together east of Ravenna, were also tributaries of the Po; and the Savio and the Rubicon seem to be the only streams from this side of the Tuscan Apennines that ran directly into the sea in Roman days. From the south-west side of the main range the Arno and Serchio run into the Mediterranean. This section of the Apennines is crossed by three railways, from Lunigiana to Parma, from Pistoia to Bologna and from Prato to Bologna, and by several good high roads, of which the direct road from Florence to Bologna over the Futa pass is of Roman origin; and certain places in it are favourite summer resorts. The highest peaks of the chain are Monte Cimone (2,156 m) and Monte Cusna (2,121 m). The so-called Alpi Apuane, a detached chain south-west of the valley of the Serchio, rise to a maximum height of 1,946 m. They contain the famous marble quarries of Carrara. The greater part of Tuscany, however, is taken up by lower hills, which form no part of the Apennines, being divided from the main chain by the valleys of the Arno, Chiana and Paglia, Towards the west they are rich in minerals and chemicals, which the Apennines proper do not produce.
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 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.
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 (2,248 m). 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 60 km.
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.
The first group extends as far as the isthmus formed by the gulfs of S. Eufemia and Squillace; it is known as the Sila, and the highest point reached is 1,928 m (the Botte Donato). The forests which covered it in ancient times supplied the Greeks and Sicilians with timber for shipbuilding. The railway from S. 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 (1,956 m) to the east of Reggio di Calabria. In both groups the rivers are quite unimportant.
They also furnish considerable summer pastures, especially in the Abruzzi: Pliny (Hist. Nat. xi. 240) praises the cheese of the Apennines. In the forests wolves were frequent, and still are found, the flocks being protected against them by large sheep-dogs; bears, however, which were known in Roman times, have almost entirely disappeared. Nor are the wild goats called rotae, spoken of by Marcus Terentius Varro (Rerum rusticarum II. i. 5), which may have been either chamois or steinbock, to be found.
Brigandage appears to have been prevalent in Roman times in the more remote parts of the Apennines, as it was until recently: an inscription found near the Furlo pass was set up in AD 246 by an evocatus Augusti (a member of a picked corps) on special police duty with a detachment of twenty men from the Ravenna fleet.
Snow lies on the highest peaks of the Apennines for almost the whole year. The range produces no minerals, but there are a considerable number of good mineral springs, some of which are thermal (such as Bagni di Lucca, Monte Catini, Monsummano, Porretta, Telese), while others are cool (such as Nocera, Sangemini, Cinciano, &c.), the water of which is both drunk on the spot and sold as table water elsewhere.
The zone of the Brianconnais may be followed as far as the Gulf of Genoa, but scarcely beyond, unless it is represented by the Trias and older beds of the Apuan Alps. The inner zone of crystalline and schistose rocks which forms the main chain of the Alps, is absent in the Apennines except towards the southern end.
The Apennines, indeed, consist almost entirely of Mesozoic and Tertiary beds, like the outer zones of the Alps. Remnants of a former inner zone of more ancient rocks may be seen in the Apuan Alps, in the islands off the Tuscan coast; in the Catena Metallifera, Cape Circeo and the island of Zannone, as well as in the Calabrian peninsula. These remnants lie at a comparatively low level, and excepting the Apuan Alps and the Calabrian peninsula do not now form any part of the Apennine chain.
But that in Tertiary times there was a high interior zone of crystalline rocks is indicated by the character of the Eocene beds in the southern Apennines. These are formed to a large extent of thick conglomerates which are full of pebbles and boulders of granite and schist. Many of the boulders are of considerable size and they are often still angular. There is now no crystalline region from which they could reach their present position; and this and other considerations have led the followers of Eduard Suess to conclude that even in Tertiary times a large land mass consisting of ancient rocks occupied the space which is now covered by the southern portion of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
This old land mass has been called Tyrrhenis, and probably extended from Sicily into Latium and as far west as Sardinia. On the Italian border of this land there was raised a mountain chain with an inner crystalline zone and an outer zone of Mesozoic and Tertiary beds. Subsequent faulting has caused the subsidence of the greater part of Tyrrhenis, including nearly the whole of the inner zone of the mountain chain, and has left only the outer zones standing as the present Apennines.
Be this as it may, the Apennines, excepting in Calabria, are formed chiefly of Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous, Eocene and Miocene beds. In the south the deposits, from the Trias to the middle Eocene, consist mainly of limestones, and were laid down, with a few slight interruptions, upon a quietly subsiding seafloor. In the later part of the Eocene period began the folding which gave rise to the existing chain. The sea grew shallow, the deposits became conglomeratic and shaly, volcanic eruptions began, and the present folds of the Apennines were initiated.
The folding and consequent elevation went on until the close of the Miocene period when a considerable subsidence took place and the Pliocene sea overspread the lower portions of the range. Subsequent elevation, without folding, has raised these Pliocene deposits to a considerable height - in some cases over 1,000 m and they now lie almost undisturbed upon the older folded beds. This last elevation led to the formation of numerous lakes which are now filled up by Pleistocene deposits. Both volcanic eruptions and movements of elevation and depression continue to the present day on the shores of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
In the northern Apennines the elevation of the sea floor appears to have begun at an earlier period, for the Upper Cretaceous of that part of the chain consists largely of sandstones and conglomerates. In Calabria the chain consists chiefly of crystalline and schistose rocks; it is the Mesozoic and Tertiary zone which has here been sunk beneath the sea. Similar rocks are found beneath the Trias farther north, in some of the valleys of Basilicata.
Glaciers no longer exist in the Apennines, but Post-Pliocene moraines have been observed in Basilicata.
The Apennines traverse Italy in a direction from about north-north-west to south-south-east, almost precisely parallel to that of the coast of the Adriatic from Rimini to Pescara. Major mountains in the range include:
|Corno Grande||2,912 m|
|Monte Nerone||1,525 m|
|Monte Catria||1,701 m|
|Monte Maggio||1,853 m|
|2,050 m||Monte Pennino||1,560 m|
|Monte Sibilla||2,173 m|
|Monte Vettore||2,476 m|
|Pizzo di Sevo||2,419 m|
|Monte Terminillo||2,217 m|
|Monte Velino||2,486 m|
Another line of defence, the Barbara Line, crossed the southern Apennines.