Diaccia Botrona Natural Reserve

Diaccia Botrona Natural Reserve

A biodiversity treasure in the heart of the Tuscan Maremma.

The area currently known as the Diaccia Botrona Natural Reserve, once housed a salt water
reservoir connected to the sea, which for centuries was an important economic source that
ensured the livelihood of the surrounding areas thanks to fishing, the trade in fish and the
supply of salt. This enormous “piscaria” or fishpond, on which the castle stood, then became the place name of the town, called Castiglione della Pescaia. Over the centuries, Prile lake first lost its salinity (being declared a freshwater pond in 1386) and then dried up, forming marshy basins that characterize the wetland area.

With the gradual swamping of the lake, the spread of malaria became more and more
frequent, leading to a decrease in population and therefore in employment in the area,
forcing the inhabitants, especially in the summer months to retreat to healthier areas. From
the middle of the eighteenth century onwards, the Grand Dukes of Lorena encouraged
numerous drainage and rehabilitation initiatives, which improved the living conditions of this area. Pietro Leopoldo commissioned Leonardo Ximenes, a Jesuit mathematician who
designed the Red House in 1767, to carry out these first projects. The building had the task
of regulating and controlling the outflow of water between the marshy area and the sea,
through a system of locks. This project was therefore intended, on the one hand, to
encourage fishing using currents and water exchange and, on the other, to prevent the
spread of the disease.

Clodia Island, situated on the opposite shore of the ancient Lake Prile, appears to have
ancient origins. It became very important because of the strategic positioning, which on one side allowed to overlook the navigable part of Prile, and on the other side it faced the roads that connected Castiglione della Pescaia to the hinterland.
With its 1273 hectares, this is one of the most important coastal swamps in Italy and since
1971 it has been declared a Wetland of international relevance according to the Ramsar
Convention. The Reserve is classified as a SCI (Site of Community Importance) and SPA
(Special Protection Zone) by the Italian Ministry of the Environment. This area is extremely
important because it is used for resting, wintering and nesting by aquatic bird species. There are more than 200 registered ornithic species, 70 of which are nesting and about 20
registered in the Habitat Directive.
The aim of the Habitat Directive is “to preserve biodiversity through the conservation of
natural habitats and wild fauna and flora in the European territory of the Member States to
which the Treaty applies”. The reserve includes also several plant species and subspecies
as well as numerous amphibians, reptiles and insects.

a cura di Olivia Bruschettini