Beech forests characterise the landscape of many mountain areas in Italy, from the Alps to the southern regions of the Mediterranean. The primeval beech forests are part of the Central Mediterranean Beech Forest Region.
Today, beech covers 9.4% of the country's total forest area. Over the centuries, the wood from the beech forests was a primary resource for the people living in the mountain areas, mainly for charcoal, construction, furniture and firewood. Intensive use thus significantly changed the distribution, composition, and structure of beech stands throughout the country.
Italy's World Heritage properties are spread across the entire country. Five of them are located in the Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park. The only Italian primeval beech forest is found here, in the Valle Cervara. Cozzo Ferriero is a Strict Nature Reserve within the Pollino National Park, which is home to the oldest known European beech (620 years of age). Foresta Umbra comprises two forest reserves within the Gargano National Park. Biogeographically isolated from the main beech stands in the Apennine Mountains, it represents one of the most important refuge areas of the beech.
The beech forests of Monte Cimino and Monte Raschio have both survived on the top of a small volcanic mountain, where they grow on deep, fertile soils. The Sasso Fratino Strict Reserve is the first strict nature reserve in Italy; even though some peripheral areas have been logged in the past, the oldest part has remained untouched.