The slow pleasure of enjoying nature

For curious travellers, for those who love to be outdoors, for those who wish to restore their energy and for those who want to find something new every day, Valdinievole is the ideal destination in the very heart of Tuscany.

A land of generous waters and of thousand-year old grottos, the Vallis Nebulae, the fog-filled valley, is a green paradise, nestling in the gently sloping hills between Pistoia and Lucca. Far from the busy cities and from mass tourism destinations, it is the perfect place for an experience which brings you into contact with nature, as a couple, as a family or as friends. Walking and cycling will beat out the rhythm of your days spent in Valdinievole, along paths cutting through woods, across century-old olive groves or climbing up hills to arrive at picturesque and sheltered hamlets with wonderful panoramic views all around.

You will be amazed by the extraordinary natural richness of the Fucecchio Marshland, by the beauty of the hills around Montalbano and the ‘Svizzera Pesciatina‘ – the area around Pescia which is reminiscent of Switzerland – and you will be fascinated by the atmosphere found in the underground grottos and in the paths running through the rocks.

To breathe fresh air, to taste genuine dishes and to recuperate your physical and mental balance: a holiday in the heart of nature is the best choice if you wish to improve your own wellbeing, if you wish to leave everyday stress behind you and if you wish to really look after yourself, immersed in utter peace and quiet. A silence only broken up by the sounds and noises of nature.

The Natural Reserve of the Fucecchio Marshland is a paradise for herons, cranes, black storks and for those who love to observe them in the quiet of nature. This is an area of important naturalistic interest, and with its 1.800 hectares of land lying between the Provinces of Florence and Pistoia, it is the largest internal marshland in Italy.

Valdinievole is an excellent departure point for setting off along the various routes and walks. Birdwatching enthusiasts can start from the visitors’ centre of Castel Martini (Larciano) following the ‘Le Morette’ itinerary, ideal for naturalistic observation all the year round, and especially in spring.

The wealth of animal and plant life looked after by the Marshland Reserve is a precious treasure to be carefully cared for so as to hand it down to future generations. It is for this reason that the Centre of Research, Documentation and Promotion of the Fucecchio Marshland carries out many activities: from excursions to thematic guided visits, to conferences, to courses, such as the one which teaches you how to recognize and use officinal plants which here grow spontaneously and abundantly.

Standing on the migratory routes between the Tyrrhenian coast and its hinterland, the Marsh is a home for 200 species of birds, and so it attracts birdwatching enthusiasts and lovers of naturalistic photography.Screened paths and faunal observatories, like that of “Le Morette”: an old hunting and fishing lookout, which has a perfect viewing point, without disturbing the avifauna.

Apart from the uniqueness of this amazing natural reserve, Valdinievole offers you green spaces, woods, natural grottos, panoramic views and enticing glimpses of nature.

Vineyards and olive groves grow on the gentle hills of Montalbano, crossed by roads that open out on to breathtaking vistas, perfect for motorbikes, like the SP9 (Provincial Road 9) which in the past was used for a special test for the Rally of Pistoia.

Surrounded by nature, Valdinievole is the ideal destination for an outdoor holiday. A cure-all for the mind and body.The walk around Colle di Monsummano is a ring road that departs from the thermal plant of the Grotta Giusti, and goes along the Geological Path, so called because it enables you to appreciate the geological features of the hill, and the rock formations, which – like an open book – recount the very long history of the place.

The grotto Maona, approximately 15 million years old, unites geological interest to speleological interest. It lies inside the hill of the same name, between the valley and Montecatini Alto. Shaped by the slow dripping of water – which has consequently moulded stalactites and stalagmites – it is the only grotto in Italy to have two wells, one at its entrance and one at its exit. The route through it is 200 metres long, at a depth of 20 metres and at a constant temperature of 15°C, and the visitor is catapulted into an atmosphere of dantesque-like hell. Special inhabitants of the grotto are the approximately 30 examples of bats, belonging to a rare and protected species.

The Butterfly House
At Collodi, inside the Villa Garzoni’s Garden, the Butterfly House is home to hundreds of butterflies, originally from tropical and equatorial areas, free to fly about in an environment full of plants and flowers, typical of the zones they came from.
The visit enables you to get to know better these splendid creatures, understanding the various stages of their development and the reason or use of the diverse designs that embellish their wings.

Out of all the possible outdoor experiences not to be missed is the itinerary of the ten ‘Castella della Valleriana‘, or ‘Svizzera Pesciatina‘  – so called by Charles Léonard Simonde de Sismondi, an economist, historian and Swiss literary critic who, at the end of the 18th century, settled down near Pescia, as it reminded him of his homeland in Switzerland. The ten hamlets, all built in pietra serena, are still to this day authentic and uncontaminated so they are perfect as the setting off point on the way to discovering art treasures, high quality products, and colourful traditions.

The garden of citrus fruits
In Pescia, close to Pinocchio’s Park, is the Hesperidarium, a place unique of its kind, a garden entirely dedicated to citrus fruits, with more than 200 types coming from all over the world. A true botanical park with ancient varieties coming from collections of the Medici family in the 16th century, and some examples of rare and exotic ones coming from the Far East.

Ancient paths, hidden amongst olive groves, will lead you to unexpected places: to San Baronto (Lamporecchio), along an old path once used by wayfarers on their way to prayer, where the Oratory of the ‘Madonna delle Grazie’ is to be found. This is only one of the numerous paths around Montalbano, a thick network of routes of different lengths of distance and with different levels of altitude, suitable therefore for every kind of walker.

Luxuriant nature, clean air, silence and tranquillity: the way from Massa to the Sanctuary at Croci, on foot, by bike or on a horse, goes through a wood and then crosses over the Volata stream, until it reaches the track of the ancient Via Crucis that leads straight to the Sanctuary. Ideal for training the body and for relaxing the mind, immersed in the green Valdinievole hills.

The ‘sarello’
For centuries, the marsh has supplied raw materials for cattle breeding, for the making of artefacts, such as padding for chairs, for “cappellotti” or special corks, for demijohns, for braid and rope.
The large sedge – locally known as ‘sarello’ – has always been an important resource for the inhabitants of the Valdinievole area: it is a perennial and sturdy plant that grows along ditches and canals, in marshy land, constantly soaked in water.
It is made by means of an ancient tradition, kept alive thanks to courses and laboratories organized by the ‘Intrecci Onlus’ association, which is dedicated not only to the ‘sarello’ but also to other textile and dyeing grasses of the Marsh.The artisan culture of the Marshland is the principal character of the ‘Museo Della Civiltà Contadina Casa Dei’, (The Museum of Peasants’ Civilization) at Larciano, inside an old farmhouse..