Santa Luce

The WWF Oasis of Santa Luce

An oasis of natural beauty and a bird watchers paradise

Santa Luce
How to get there
By plane: Pisa Galileo Galilei Airport
By car: Take the A12 motorway, turn off at Rosignano and continue on the SS 206 road towards Santa Luce. Driving along the Florence-Pisa-Livorno dual carriageway (SGC FI-PI-LI), continue on the SS 206 road towards Cecina and turn off towards Santa Luce. Note: Cars must be parked along the road and visitors must continue on foot to the sanctuary entrance through the Visitors’ Centre.

Area: 320 hectares.
Commune in charge: Santa Luce Managing administration: Pisa Province in collaboration with LIPU (Italian Society for the Protection of Birds). The Visitors’ Centre can be contacted to book guided tours for groups. Access for the disabled is guaranteed for part of the route (1km) and includes a panoramic view of the lake. The reserve is also equipped with an educational and artistic lab and observation huts. Information and educational material is available from the Visitors’ Centre.

The Santa Luce Sanctuary is situated in the gentle Pisan hills, characterized by centuries-old woods, harmonious landscape and small medieval villages. Here the peaceful and colourful wildlife has helped to preserve many rural traditions. The sanctuary, located some 6km from the village of the same name, covers about 320 hectares, including the artificial lake Santa Luce. Lake Santa Luce was created in the early 1960s by the Solvay Italia Company, which still owns the area, by damming a small local river as a measure against possible fires in the chemical plant located on the coast. As time went by, wildlife began to thrive around the lake.

The shores were colonized by an increasingly dense population of marsh plants and aquatic fauna. Increasing numbers of birds are choosing the sanctuary as a resting place during their long migration, so much so that the reserve has drawn the attention of the Italian Society for the Protection of Birds (LIPU). After many years of painstaking monitoring, LIPU recognizes the area as being of high naturalistic value on both a regional and a national level. The Santa Luce LIPU Sanctuary was established in 1992 through an agreement with Solvay Italia and in 1997 the sanctuary became a Local Protected Area (ANPIL).

The year 2000 saw the institution of the Provincial Nature Reserve of Lake Santa Luce (Provincial Council Resolution no. 48 of 9 June 2000) and the signing of an agreement between Florence Province, Solvay Italia and LIPU. The high naturalistic value of the area was thus officially recognized with the establishment of a protected area of greater importance whose main aims are environmental protection and education.

Although rather bare in appearance for most of the year, the area offers a blaze of joyful colours in springtime around the shimmering lake. Wild hawthorn, blackthorn, broom, thorn trees, tamarisks and willows trees grow above a thick bush made of mastic trees, mock privet, eglantine, smilax and honeysuckle. Algae, myriophillium and ceratophillium are the undisputed protagonists and main oxygen producers among underwater vegetation There are also vast expanses of ditch reeds preceded by cat’s tails, purple loosestrife, rush and sedge. Near the shores, where the water is shallow, the duckweed covers the lake surface like a soft green carpet. Willows, tamarisks, elms and white poplars are accompanied by spontaneous tree species such as the stone pine and the Holm oak. Uncultivated fields provide a feast of colours, with flowers of all shapes and sizes. Worthy of note among these are sword-lilies, anemones and orchids.

Inside the nature reserve bird life is represented by over 150 species and large number of birds are present all year round. Each season is characterized by an alternation of species. In the winter the lake becomes populated with multi-coloured ducks such as pochards, teals, wild ducks, widgeons and cormorants, whereas in the spring it becomes a resting place for migratory birds such as heron, night heron, egret, little bittern and purple heron. The sanctuary is symbolized by the great crested grebe, a large black and white marsh bird with a tuft of feathers on its head and receding legs that give it its characteristically upright position. In the summertime, reed thickets are inhabited by reed warblers, Cetti’s warblers, great reed warblers, pendulines and bee-eaters. In the morning the kestrel and the buzzard are the first visitors to the reserve along with the marsh harrier; during the night they are replaced by birds of preay such as the barn owl and the owlet.

At sunrise and sunset, roe deer, wild boars and other mammals carefully approach the watercourses in the adjoining woods. During the day the fox and the beech marten, the main predators in the area, are on the prowl, accompanied by the nutria, a frequenter of humid environments imported from America in the last few decades. The survival of birds of prey is ensured by rodents such as the shrew, the dormouse and the wood mouse. The hedgehog is a frequent sighting and amphibians and reptiles are ubiquitous in the reserve. Aquatic fauna is largely represented. Many fish species, including the chub, carp, bleak and, among non-native species, the sunfish and the largemouth bass, which have recently been introduced for sport fishing purposes. A world of colour is represented by invertebrates such as dragonflies, coleopterans, worms and naturally butterflies, including species such as the red admiral, the painted lady, the swallowtail, the scarce swallowtail and the common blue butterfly. There are also large moths such as the sphinx and the giant peacock mot.

Routes and accessibility
The reserve offers plenty of paths and accessibile roads winding through thick pinewoods. The most interesting route starts from the village of Santa Luce and comes to Chianni via the Pian del Pruno Road and through the pinewood of the same name. A 2km ‘nature path’ created along the southern shore of the lake leads to a trellis screen with observation slits. ‘Nature events’ organized all year round in the sanctuary include bird-watching and nature drawing courses, public release of wild animals, musical events and themed days. These ‘nature events’, along with all actions aimed at preserving and improving the environment and intensifying research on and monitoring of birdlife, receive resources from regional funds obtained by Pisa Province under the programme ‘Flying with Migrators’ in recognition of the key role played by the sanctuary in environmental education.

Santa Luce
A medieval village with a rich history situated in lush Tuscan countryside
This delightful village takes its name from the medieval ‘Sancta ad Lucam’. The castle, which used to rule over the valley below, has preserved its medieval feudal layout and the village houses are built in rings around the castle fortifications. ...