Our journey continues, in order to discover the most interesting places of Valdichiana, in the most hidden corners and among the internationally renowned excellence. We couldn’t miss an issue dedicated to the Lake Montepulciano, that is what was left of the great swamp that once characterized Valdichiana.
The Lake Montepulciano is a lake formed by the Canale Maestro of Chiana, the only affluent and the only effluent; it’s close to the Lake of Chiusi and Trasimeno Lake, and its southern shores mark the border between Tuscany and Umbria. The lake testifies to a millennial history: the swamp originated from the Pliocene Sea that invaded the depression of Valdichiana a half a million of years ago. The fossils found belonged to mammoth, hippos and deers which prove the size of the lake; when southern Tuscany was concerned by several liftings, caused by the volcanic activities of Monte Amiata, the valley became a river basin and originated the Clanis river. The diversion of its waters between the river Tiber and Arno rivers characterized the secular swampy waters which belonged to these lands and the Lake Montepulciano is a perfect witness of the recovery of the lands.
In addition to its historical importance, the Lake Montepulciano is also one of the most important wetlands of central Italy and it is a protected natural area since 1996, when it was invested with the title of Natural Reserve by Tuscany, together with some adjoining farmland and part of the Canale Maestro of Chiana. The Natural Reserve covers about 300 hectares in the southern part of the municipality of Montepulciano.
The protection of the natural area and the path of development started over twenty years ago. Already in 1989 the municipalities of Montepulciano and Siena entrusted the management of the area to LIPU, making it a natural oasis. With the birth of the real Natural Reserve there was then an attempt at reorganization and relaunch of the protected area, whose management was entrusted to the “Associazione Amici del Lago di Montepulciano”.
Birdwatchers know this Lake very well, because it is an important staging point for birds that migrate from Africa to Europe. Within the Reserve, there are several species of birds, which use it for overwintering and nesting. Not to forget fishing, because within the lake waters there are species such as the eel, the chub and the stickleback, and some species have been introduced, such as the pike, the carp and the tench. Entire generations of Valdichiana fished in these waters, while the share-croppers cultivated the surrounding land.
The Visitor Center “La Casetta”, belonging to the Natural Reserve of the Lake Montepulciano, is located close to the lake and the trails that surround it, and it is easy to reach from Acquaviva and Valiano. In the Centre you can find educational and informative material on the territory, as well as a museum, that collects objects and artifacts found in the surrounding settlements. There is also a seminar room that hosts exhibitions, seminars, workshops and an ongoing series of events throughout the year, as well as a food court and a large parking area even for campers.
At the visitor centre you can book guided tours on the trails and excursions by boat, to take full advantage of the natural area. The trail crosses the grove of reeds ends with a watch tower, in addition to bordering with the Trail of Recovery, a hiking trail also for bicycles, that runs through the entire Valdichiana from Chiusa dei Monaci of Arezzo, to Chiusi Scalo. Whether you are birdwatchers, or lovers of protected natural areas, or simply tourists looking for a quiet place where to enjoy the memory of the ancient swamp of Valdichiana, the Lake Montepulciano is definitely a must see.