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Birdwatching in the Fucecchio marshlands

  • Birdwatching in the Fucecchio marshlands

    Just 6km north of San Miniato await the mysterious marshlands known as the Padule di Fucecchio, to the north of Fucecchio. These ancient wetlands are the last remaining tract of the extensive marshes that once stretched from the Arno Valley in the south to the Pistoian Apennines to the north. These wetlands are still Italy’s biggest inland marsh, covering about 1,800 hectares, even if only 230 hectares are fully protected as a designated nature reserve.

    In medieval times, the marshes were fishing grounds, with eels the main catch, which continued under Florentine Medici rule in the 16th century. The Padule di Fucecchio marshes were Medicean fishing grounds, and Cosimo I had a bridge and weirs built to facilitate the sport. The monumental Medici bridge, the Ponte a Cappiano, still survives as a testament to these times. Much of the marshes were later drained by the Tuscan Grand Dukes in the 1780s, leaving what we have today. This area is still considered a major wetland centre, all the more important as it lies close to industrialised parts of Tuscany. The marshland habitat attracts over 200 species of birds, including cranes, black storks, marsh falcons and the most important heron nesting colony in central and southern Italy. In addition, you can spot ducks, coots and wintering water birds.

    Near the Castelmartini visitor centre in Larciano (Centro Padule di Fucecchio) is a path framed by weeping willows and poplars, with guided walks available if booked in advance. Serious birdwatchers consider March to mid-June the best period for spotting birds, particularly as the vegetation then helps conceal visitors. SOS Tuscan Wetlands is battling to reverse the drastic loss in biodiversity of all the inland wetlands in northern Tuscany, from the loss of waterlilies to the invasion of non-native species, such as the American marsh crayfish. Hunting is allowed in areas close to the nature reserve so only visit out of the hunting season or on days when hunting is banned (currently Tuesday and Friday).
    Address: Il Centro Padule di Fucecchio, via Don Franco Malucchi 115, Localita Castelmartini, 51036 Larciano

    Tel: +39 573 84540 

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