Visit the Park: Lake and Marsh of Massaciuccoli
Oasis LIPU Lake of Massaciuccoli
Tel. and fax 0584.975567 - fax 0584.975488
Web site: www.oasilipumassaciuccoli.org
The lake of Massaciuccoli and the surrounding marsh areas, wide more than 2000 square kilometres, form the widest moist zone of retrodunal origin in Tuscany. The lake has now lost its ancient salty lagoon aspect and because of its average depth below 2 metres (the maximum is 4,40) and its saltiness below 500 mg/l, it is considered a typical lake-pond; the lake bed is below the sea level. Its shape is circular with a more than 10 kilometres perimetre. In the last centuries, the basin area has been subject to a drastic reduction due to continuous drainages, especially during the 20th century.
The birth of the small village of Massaciuccoli dates back to the Roman age. To the first century AD belong some residential villas as the one of the Venulei – Roman patricians of Pisa – with annexed thermal complexes, as the still visible one close to the church, in a panoramic position on the lake. The other important center, Torre del Lago, dates back to the 13th century, time of the most important drainage operations. The locality is famous tanks to the great composer from Lucca Giacomo Puccini, who lived there for a long time in a villa now turned into a museum.
During the last years, the waters of the Massaciuccoli basin have been subject to a progressive pollution both because of the industrial development of Versilia seacoast and the modern agricultural development of the surrounding zones, with a consequent massive use of weedkillers, pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
This fact provoked the eutrophication and the alteration of the hydro-biologic balance and a serious threat to the flora and fauna survival. At the borders of the marsh crater, in the canals and in the marsh, there is a predominance of a partially or totally submerged vegetation (hydrophytes) with a presence of Potamogeton sp.pl and Certophyllum demersum, food plant par excellence for many water birds – nowadays unfortunately in rarefaction – and the Hydrocotyle ranunculoides, tertiary relict. The canals water is hung with small floating plants (Lemna minor and L. gibba) “common chickweed”, quickly in multiplication by vegetative channels. Unfortunately, the water lilies (Nymphaea alba) are more and more rare, as well as the Hydrocharis morsus-ranae and the odd Utricularia australis, whose leaves are provided with small utricles. Freer from the liquid environment, the helophytes as the Cmn reeds (Phragmites australis), the Sedge (Cladium mariscus) and the Typha latifoglia and T. angustifolia dominate the bank and the peaty zones of the marsh. The “floating islands”, floating peat islands kept up by cannas rhizomes tangles are typical of Massaciuccoli. Upon these peat bogs we find the sphagnum bogs, so called because of the exceptional presence of particular mosses, (Spaghnum sp.pl), typical of cold climates and relict of the last glaciation. Nowadays Massaciuccoli is the only Mediterranean station on the sea level where this kind of plant associations are present. The census carried out underlines the presence of an important nidifying avifauna: at least 70 couples of Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea) in the colonies of the northern marsh areas, more than 10 couples of Western Marsh-harrier (Circus aeroginosus) and at least 5 couples of the very rare and mimetic Eurasian Bittern whose call is unmistakable. Serious imbalances to the lake ecosystem have been determined by the unintentional introduction, in the 90s, of the North American Procambarus clarkii.
The pathway stretches entirely on piling walkways realized by the Park Authority for the observation of the vegetation and the avifauna.
Point of departure is the small port of Massaciuccoli, where the Visitor Center managed by LIPU is located, made up by a guest quarters and the “Museum of the Marsh Ecology, with dioramas representing the different lake environments.
From the small port, visitors can directly enter the reserve of Chiarone (44 hectares) through walkways crossing the typical plant formations of marsh environments, mainly characterized by the Sedge, with its typical denticulated and cutting edges.
After the visit of Chiarone, we will also have the possibility to make a guided tour aboard the typical flat-bottomed marsh boats (barchini) addressing directly to the Oasis LIPU guides. The marsh boats (barchini) tour is not accessible for disabled people.
Sailing on the lake
Typical marsh boat excursion
Obligatory reservation. Max 14 people.
The oasis Lipu of Massaciuccoli will offer you the opportunity to enjoy guided tours aboard the typical marsh boats in order to discover the most suggestive corners of the Lake and Marsh of Massaciuccoli and to dedicate yourself to the observation of water-birds. The Massaciuccoli basin is a strategic stop-off area for the migratory avifauna, especially during Spring, when birds pass by the Mediterranean basin to reach the Northern Europe nidification areas. Provided with silent electric motors, the small boats allow us to penetrate among very thick reed-beds, along alders small woods and floating peat islands. This way, we have the possibility to go close to various species of birds such as Cormorants, Western Marsh-harriers, different ducks species, Great Crested Grebs, Black-necked Grebs and Herons, as well as many species of wading birds as the limicolous.
A good part of the tour takes place inside the bounds of the Natural Reserve of Chiarone and it aims at the knowledge of the typical lake environments: the reed-beds, the “chiari” (stretches of water) and the free waters of the lake.
Leaving from the Oasis Lipu we head toward north up to the locality Piaggetta where it is possible to admire the wonderful 19th century Villa of the Marquis Ginori, dipped into a lush exotic vegetation of palms and cedars. We quickly head toward the Burlamacca canal, the only outlet of the lake, a very favourable position to listen to the Eurasian Bittern song (Botaurus stellaris), hearable in springtime. Moreover, the canal open spaces allow the observation of the continuous displacements of the Purple Heron and the parasailing of the Western Marsh-harrier. Left the Burlamacca we reach the “chiari”, more suitable zone for birdwatching. Then, we will come back to the Oasis of Massaciuccoli.
Length of time: 1 hour
For groups (minimum 20 people) with obligatory reservation.
March – May: every Sunday afternoon and on public holidays departure from Massaciuccoli, (minimum 10 people) with optional reservation.
The boat excursion can leave from the oasis of Massaciuccoli, accompanied by a Lipu guide, or from the Belvedere Puccini in Torre del Lago, situated on the opposite shore of the lake. From inside the boat we will become aware of the reed-bed size (1500 hectares) which characterizes a good part of the marsh representing the ideal environment for the reproduction of different water-birds species. The massive presence of scales, observable along the path, is connected with the plenty of fishes living in the lake and marsh waters and of some typical marine and brackish environment species which reach the lake through the Burlamacca canal, the only outlet. Once left Torre del lago, we head toward north to reach “Le Venti” canal which, together with other canals, contributes to form a network stretching among the most inaccessible zones of the marsh. When we come out of the main canal, we can observe a several metres deep stretch of water which highlighted some prehistoric archaeological evidences. Once left definitively the marsh, the boat will come back quickly to the point of departure.
After the excursion, you will have the possibility to visit Villa Puccini Museum in Torre del Lago or to enjoy a free tour of the Roman period archeological areas of Massaciuccoli (Archaeological Museum, Nymphaeum of the Roman Villa with baths) at the small port of Massaciuccoli.
People keen about canoe with a minimum of experience, can rent in the Oasis kayak and canoes from 1 to 3 seats.
On the occasion of the 150° anniversary of the Maestro Giacomo Puccini, the last navicello of the lake has been restructured. The navicello is an historic watercraft used up to the 60’s for the freight transport on the lake, especially for the transport of the sedge and pit stones. The valorization project of the navicello forecasts to use it for guided tours on the lake.
Daily mixed tours: walking and on boat
Lake of Massaciuccoli
Tour of the Museum of the Marsh Ecology and excursion on the piling walkways. The tour will be concluded through a boat excursion. Sailing through the marsh, we will dip into the secret sounds of the cane thicket and observe the free flight of hawks, herons and colored ducks.
The lake of the Marquis
Daily excursion starting with the tour of the Oasis and going on with the tour of the exotic garden of Villa Ginori, in the locality of Piaggetta, from where we will embark for the boat trip.
The lake between Nature and History
Daily excursion including the tour of the Oasis, the boat excursion and tour of the archaeological zone to understand the evolution of the landscape and the historic marks.
The lake between Music and Nature
Daily excursion including the guided tour of the Oasis, the boat excursion and the guided tour of Villa Puccini Museum, to discover the places which inspired the “Maestro”.