The sound of footsteps, rhythmic, make the wooden beams of the walkway creak. All around, only the chirping of birds and the wind rustling the grass can be heard. We’re in the Versilia, that corner of Tuscany nestled between the Apuan Alps and the sea, in the norther part of the region. A few kilometres from the popular boardwalk in Viareggio, a centuries-old marshland is home to a thriving animal and plant community, Massaciuccoli Lake, which at more than 2,000 square kilometres in size, is the largest retro-dunal wetland in Tuscany.
What is today a large swamp was once a salt water lagoon that underwent slow reclamation efforts. Human settlements began to pop up as early as the Roman era, which are still visible today in the Massaciuccoli Romana archeological area: this is where you can visit the local archeological museum and the ruins of the Venulei Villa, built at the beginning of the 1st century CE, with its bath complex in a position that dominated over the lake and, further down, the coast.
In Massaciuccoli, near the archeological area, many birds reside in the LIPU Oasis of Chiarone, founded in 1979 along with the Migliarino, San Rossore and Massaciuccoli Park. The marshland is located in a place that made it a stop on many people’s journeys and the perfect place to holiday thanks to the variety of the birds here, from the osprey and black-winged stilt to the purple heron and rare glossy ibis.
On the other side of the lake is the village of Torre del Lago, a small hamlet known for being a favourite spot of Giacomo Puccini, who moved into a villa there that is now home to a museum dedicated to the composer.
Around the lake, there are many trails and itineraries that lead visitors through the most evocative environments and which offer excellent vantage points of those corners where water gives way to land and marshy plants.