The Orbetello lagoon is home to one of the oldest reserves of WWF Italy.
Thanks to its position along the migratory routes, it is the destination of thousands of birds, especially in winter.
How to visit the oasis
The Orbetello oasis includes three itineraries:
- the Ornithological Path is the classic and more equipped one. Departure from Ceriolo accessible from the s.s. Aurelia, passable on Saturday and Sunday, from 1 September to 1 May, from 9:30 to 15:30, either freely or with a guided tour; it allows the observation of the lagoon fauna through a path with 9 observers; the total length is about 1.2 km.
- the Path of the Wood of Patanella: accessed from the "Patanella" exit of the s.s. Aurelia, where a botanical itinerary is set up and there are some observatories, which can be visited all year round freely from 10 am to sunset or with a guided tour by appointment; it is about 1 km long.
- the Hiking Trail, which connects the Ceriolo Visitor Center with the Patanella Forest: it is a longer path, about 3 km, which crosses various environments and can be covered all year round, only with guided tour by appointment.
Furthermore, with free and free access from the Giannella tombolo, there is a small nature trail at the Environmental Education Center "Aurelio Peccei", housed inside a Spanish farmhouse of the '600; there is a shed for the observation of the avifauna and the "Butterfly Garden". Venue for conferences, exhibitions and facilities for summer camps and environmental tourism.
For more information and booking visits, the reference site is https://www.wwf.it/oasi/toscana/laguna_di_orbetello/visita_l_oasi/
Fauna and flora
Today the oasis is home to 257 species of migratory and resident birds.
I will only mention a few ...
grebe, little grebe, sandwich terns, sea swallow, cormorant, common pochard, tufted duck, pesciaiola, codone, teal, mallard, shoveler, shelduck, garganey, wigeon, coot, moorhen, pink flamingo, water rail, bittern, spatula, mignattaio , heron, little egret, redshank, squid, black-winged stilt, avocet, plover, big-eyed, marsh, sandpiper, sandpiper, curlew, snipe, seagulls, reedbill, harrier, osprey, woodpecker green, hoopoe and ibis hermit.
There are also many species of fish and small mammals: water snake, marsh turtle, eel, mullet, sea bass and then wild boar, fox, badger, porcupine.
In these places the Mediterranean scrub is king: cork, strawberry tree, lentisk, phyllirea, myrtle, rosemary, cistus, marruca, broom, heather brugo and then marsh reed, salicornia, tamerice, white poplar, elm, ash and orchids spontaneous.
The pink flamingos
From autumn to spring the west lagoon hosts pink flamingos from the Camargue.
They are easy to spot: they are now part of the landscape. Usually they stay close together, neighbors! Just walk along the lake to see the big pink spots on the water. From the WWF trails you can enjoy a close encounter, thanks to the bird watching huts. A show that you never get used to!
Northern Bald Ibis and the "special" project
Among the many environmental initiatives of the Orbetello lagoon there is a really special one and concerns the hermit ibis, a large black bird with a curved beak. Funny and apparently a bit threatening. From far away he remembers a big turkey ... At the end of summer the birds arrive from Germany to spend the winter in Tuscany, through the European project "Reason for Hope". To do this they must fly more than 1000 km away from their breeding site either independently or as part of the human-led migration. The flock is accompanied on the journey with motor paragliding. Migration can last 4-5 days.
The history of the oasis
Until the 60s of the last century, the whole of the large Maremma lagoon area was open to hunting ... and the migratory birds that lay and nested there were shot at!
It was in 1964 that, Fulco Pratesi and a young German ornithologist, Hardy Reichelt, discovered, in the Laguna di Ponente, near the hamlet of Albinia, some nests of the knight of Italy. This wader, with black wings, white body and long coral red legs, has not nested in our swamps for about a century. It then became the symbol of the oasis.
In 1971, with the help of WWF Italy, the lagoon became a protected area covering an area of about 800 hectares.
This led to an incredible increase in fauna: the Italian knights began to nest quietly and thousands of other birds began to crowd the reserve, especially in winter, thanks to the ban on hunting.
In 1977 the area protected by the Orbetello WWF oasis was declared a wetland of international importance (according to the international Ramsar Convention on wetlands) which protects 300 hectares of brackish lagoon where at times limestone islands covered with marsh vegetation emerge.
Every year, on the first weekend of February, a Ramsar day is celebrated. The WWF Oasis of the Maremma propose various initiatives to reaffirm the importance of the wetlands, both for schools and for all interested parties.