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Il Padule di Fucecchio

Walks and natural attractions in Terre del Rinascimento

The protected area of the Montalbano and the Fucecchio Marshes

Map for 43.736973,11.012926

Terre del Rinascimento is not only history, traditions and culture, it offers many kinds of natural attractions. In particular the protected area od the Montalbano, a wonderful hilly landscape and the Fucecchio  Marshes, the bigger marshland in Italy. The protected area of the Montalbano extends northwards from Capraia e Limite and Vinci. The landscape is basically hilly, with vineyards on the flatter areas or, in some cases, on terraces, olive trees further up and chestnut woods on the summits. Between the 16th and 17th century about 4,000 hectares of the Montalbano were set aside by the Medici for the Barco Reale Mediceo, a vast hunting reserve surrounded by a perimeter wall. Some stretches of the original wall still stand today.

The Montalbano is crisscrossed by an extensive network of footpaths and mountain-bike trails leading to hilltop country villages, archaeological sites and very old, mature wooded areas like the holm-oak wood of Pietramarina. There are lots of trails in the municipalities of Capraia e Limite and of Vinci, some of which start from the towns. From Vinci, path no. 14 leads to the Casa di Leonardo – this first stretch is known as the Strada Verde and then continues on to Santa Lucia and Faltognano, where there is a centuries-old holm oak and the Church of Santa Maria. Paths no. 10 and 10A start from Vitolini.

Path no. 00 passes through the area to the north-east of Vinci, about 3 km north of Sant’Amato (with the Romanesque parish church of San Pietro), and reaches almost as far as Montelupo after having passed the Torre di Sant’Allucio and the Cupolino, and having passed through the municipality of Limite. Here, after Pietramarina (the Abbey of San Giusto is well worth a visit), the path branches into path no. 4A in the Capraia e Limite area, taking in, along the way, the Romanesque parish church of San Jacopo in Pulignano, the Villa di Bibbiani, which has a fine English-style park laid out in the 19th century by Cosimo Ridolfi, and the archaeological site of Montereggi.

The Montalbano also has a theme-based trail devoted to the excellent wines and oils produced in the area. The trail takes in the municipalities of Capraia e Limite, Cerreto Guidi, Lamporecchio, Larciano, Monsummano Terme, Quarrata, Serravalle Pistoiese and Vinci. Covering about 1,800 hectares in the provinces of Florence and Pistoia, the Fucecchio Marshesis the largest non-coastal marshland area in Italy. Part of it lies within the municipal boundaries of Cerreto Guidi and Fucecchio. The Marshes are one of the last refuges for many plant species (the yellow floating heart or water fringe, now very rare in Tuscany, or white and yellow pondlilies, etc.), and are a big attraction for birdwatching enthusiasts, especially during the spring migration. Over 150 species can be observed in the course of the year, at least fifty of which are nesting birds. Of particular interest are the herons, which nest in colonies, and migratory birds like the stilt bird, crane and black stork.

There are 9 nature trails in the marshes, most of which can be done on foot. The Centro di Ricerca, Documentazione e Promozione del Padule di Fucecchio (Fucecchio Marshes Research, Documentation and Promotion Centre) in Castelmartini organizes tours for adults and children, and also runs education programmes that explore environmental issues.