The parco dell’Orecchiella is a natural reserve situated a little north of Corfino in the upper reaches of the Serchio valley. It is probably one of the best walking areas in Tuscany, if not in Italy, and offers countless itineraries of varying difficulties and lengths.
We’ve walked the three main ones or “aironi” which take one through the most varied countryside. Leave a good day for each one to enjoy them at their best.
The amount of wild flowers at this time of year is astounding as these photos taken on one walk in June 2006 show: entire meadows covered with wild peonies.
It is ideal country to enliven the spirit as in those famous lines of Keats’ ode to melancholy:
…… when the melancholy fit shall fall
Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
Or on the wealth of globed peonies;
Apart from the amazing flora, (there are also dog-roses and lovely rainbows after the showers) there is also lots of fauna in the form of deer, wolves, mouflons, bears (fenced in a paddock) boars, plus frequent sightings of eagles and buzzards.
The history of the parco dell’Orecchiella, which actually consists of three parts: Lama Rossa, Corfino, is interesting as being one of the first attempts at conservation in Italy.
At the end of the First World War there was a major agricultural crisis leading, especially in this area, to rapid depopulation and land degradation. At that time, in fact, the territory suffered from an abuse of natural resources. In particular, repeated deforestation and erosion through over-grazing led to degradation and continuous landslides. For this reason, in 1927, the Lucca district Forestry commission presented a project for the area’s re-afforestation and soil conservation.
In 1936 reforestation began and continued throughout the 1950’s under the management of the Forestry commission. Eventually, in 1960 the Orecchiella Park was established. Old photos at the Orecchiella park reception show how bare the landscape used to be once.
The park itself is included within the National Park of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines.
We regularly visit this beautiful part of the Apennines. There is an excellent visitor centre with nearby refreshments. There are several events including crafts and food fairs and there is also an interesting and well-labelled botanical garden at Corfino.
It’s also a great place to find waterfalls and rock pools to cool off in the summer heat:
The Pania di Corfino itself is the easiest mountain to tackle, with a gentle north side ascent and a steeper south-facing scree descent. Other mountains to ascend are Monte Prado (the highest in Tuscany at 6738 feet) which has the most magnificent views extending over both sides of the Apennines.
More information can be had at the park’s web site at: http://www.parcoappennino.it/pagina.php?id=148