The Pigelleto Nature Reserve extends over a territory of 862 hectares between Siena and Grosseto. It is located near Piancastagnaio, a small town south east of Monte Amiata. It used to be home to one of the most important cinnabar (from which mercury is extracted) mines of the Monte Amiata area, although today the activity has ceased. The area extends for 1,743 hectares, dominated by Mediterranean woods and oak groves, while the most peculiar feature of this Nature Reserve is the flora growing on the outcrops of serpentinite rock.
The Pigelleto Nature Reserve takes its name from the ancient term 'Pigello', the local name for the silver fir which is one of the most common trees in this part of Tuscany. The silver fir or Abies Alba is a tree that can grow to up to 50m tall. Its bark is smooth, thin and dark gray. Other trees found in the area include beeches, maple trees, turkey oaks, hornbeams and ash trees. There area is also rich in evergreens such as junipers, holly trees, butcher's brooms, cornelian cherry trees and golden privets. Among the many animals to be found in the park are roe deer, wild boars and many endangered species. The land has remained as it has been for hundreds of years and this fact together with the beautiful climate make the Pigelleto Nature Reserve the ideal place to observe interesting mammals, raptors, insects and reptiles in their natural habitat.
The reserve is full of cool streams where you will find amphibians such Italian stream frogs and cane toads. The rarest amphibian of all however is the spectacled salamander which is considered an endangered species in Italy and Europe. The most common reptiles are vipers. Birds in the park include jays, wood pigeons, gold crests, blue tits, great tits, robins, wrens, blackbirds and blackcaps. Among the many raptors there are buzzards, honey buzzards, sparrow hawks, harrier eagles and goshawks. The most common mammals are roe deer and wild boars. You will also be able to find footprints and other signs of stone martens, porcupines, foxes, badgers and dormice.
Hollow trees are the perfect place for tawny owls which are very common in the reserve whereas ruins and abandoned farm houses provide nesting places for barn owls.
The woods also host many species of woodpeckers such as the green woodpecker and the great spotted woodpecker.
In the past the Siele mines were a major feature of the landscape. The major cinnabar mines are located at Santa Fiora, Castell'Azzara, Piancastagnaio and Abbadia San Salvatore. For decades Italy was one of the major producers of mercury thanks to the mines around Monte Amiata. Mercury has been mined and extracted here since the Etruscan times. The Etruscans started using mercury to decorate their clay material and tombs and they dug as deep as 40m below the ground to find it. The industrialization of the Siele mines dates back to the 19th century. At the beginning of the 20th century, technological innovation turned the mines around Mount Amianta into the most important mine settlements in the world together with the Halmaden mines in Spain. Towns were built up around them as production grew. The mines were only completed abandoned in 1976.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Pigelleto Nature Reserve is in the south of Tuscany along the main road that connects Rome to Florence. The easiest way to reach the reserve is to take the A1 toll road and follow the Aurelia and Cassia roads.
From Siena - take the Cassia highway (that connects Siena and Viterbo), exit at Bagni di San Filippo and follow the signs to Monte Amiata and Piancastagnaio.
From Grosseto - take the route that connects Grosseto and Siena and follow the signs to Amiata and Piancastagnaio.
From Rome - take the A1 toll road, exit at Chiusi-Chianciano Terme and follow the signs to Monte Amiata and Piancastagnaio.
From Piancastagnaio - take the road to Castell'Azzara. The Nature Reserve is only 6 Km away.