Fucecchio Marshes: the largest inland marsh in Italy
The Fucecchio Marshes Nature ReserveThe Fucecchio Marshes cover an area of about 1,800 hectares, divided between the Province of Pistoia and the Province of Florence. Although much smaller than the original lakeland-marsh which once covered much of southern Valdinievole, it is still the largest inland marsh of Italy.To protect the naturalistic, historical and environmental exigencies of Fucecchio Marshes, the Provinces of Pistoia and Florence have created Nature Reserves on part of the marshland basin: about 200 hectares in extension divided into two zones, “Le Morette” and “La Monaca-Righetti”.
History and traditionsAs well as its rich landscape and nature, the Marsh still maintains the fascination of historical events related to the great Medici and Lorena families.Important testimonies to the works of man still remain, which over the centuries have modelled and changed the structure of the wetlands themselves: the canals and portal system, signs of ancient and important waterways; the Medicean Bridge at Cappiano (the hub of water control and fishing activity as well as an important stop along the Via Francigena); the Capannone Farm complex, one of the main berthings in the Valdinievole and other buildings now classified as examples of industrial archaeology like the tobacco dryhouses.The commemorative plaques on the huts or along the river banks tell a more recent history: the tragedy of the barbaric massacre by Nazis on 23rd August, 1944.Some activities, related to working the marshland grasses, have managed to survive: a few skilled craftsmen still gather and weave the local “sarello” and “sala” to cover seats and flasks and manufacture other objects of every-day use, as well as “gaggia” and other typical plants.
An ancient floraSituated at the boundary between peninsular and continental Italy, that enjoy a Mediterranean and continental climate respectively, the Marshes simultaneously shelter plants adapted to different climates: for example the Frogbit and Royal Fern, both typical of a warm, humid climate, grow together with a rather special kind of moss called Sphagnum, more typical of cold northern climates, that reached this area during the Ice Ages.Because of its characteristic vegetation and floristic peculiarities, the Fucecchio Marshes has been considered a biotope of particular interest and deserving protection in the list drawn up by the Italian Botany Society.
A surprising faunaThe Fucecchio Marshes play an important role in the migratory route between the Tyrrhenian coast and the hinterland; over the year, about 200 species of birds can be seen here. The marshland offers exceptional opportunities for birdwatchers and nature photographers, especially during the spring migration.The herons are a particularly important feature here, where they are concentrated in a large heronry, a veritable “city of herons” with thousands of birds consisting of the parents, juveniles and last year’s immatures; this is the most important nesting colony in south-central Italy.
The Centre for R.D.P. of Fucecchio MarshesThe Centre for Research, Documentation and Promotion of Fucecchio Marshes, the ONLUS Association, organises both educational and recreational activities, carries out research and monitoring services to check the quality of the environment.It also has a Visitor’s Centre and a Laboratory for Environmental Education at Castelmartini and organises guided tours for school groups and adults. These are led by qualified Environmental Guides Regional Law no. 14/2005.
It is an exciting place being the most extensive internal humid area in Italy is waiting to reveal itself to the knowledge of those who make tourism a way of life. A naturalistic and historical place comparable to the magnificent landscape of the Dolomites or of the delta of the River Po, something new, today in the sun – although it is also something “ancient”. Read More
Credits color photos: Airone cenerino by Alessio Bartolini; Osservatorio Le Morette, Riserva Naturale del Padule di Fucecchio, Visita in Padule by Enrico Zarri