There's not a bright light, bell or whistle anywhere to be seen in the Riserva Naturale Diaccia Botrona. But plenty of double-bodied beetles, bugs and butterflies, as well as birds, aquatic mammals, reptiles, dragonflies, and marsh plants to keep any zoologist or botanist content for hours and hours.
In fact, 1273 hectares of protected reserve including 700 acres of marsh brimming with them.
I should mention that the reserve is one of the most important wetlands in the world. Maremma is full of treasures ;)
BUT, if you happen to be a birder, then you will have found your piece of heaven in Tuscan; for it is home to more than two hundred species of birds.
A birdwatcher or not, the Diaccia Botrona is a really lovely place to visit in Maremma, especially if you are staying in or near to Castiglione della Pescaia. And despite the popularity of the lovely town of Castiglione della Pescaia and the fact that it is buzzing with holidaymakers during the summer and visitors at the weekend throughout most of the year, very few ever make the short bicycle ride or walk along the river into the reserve. You won't find a queue here ever! Well, perhaps a line or two of flamingoes!
TIP You don't need your own bicycles to make the trip from town - there is a free lending scheme with one of the collection/drop off points in the car park next to the river Bruna in town, just the other side of the Ponte Giorgini bridge that you will need to cross to take the river road to the reserve.
If your children like walking and exploring, especially when it is OK to put their feet in mud and water (like my girl loves!) and still find a pair of binoculars interesting things and have pocket space for feathers, then a visit here will keep them amused for hours returning home hungry and tired. :)
It is a place you can visit anytime of the year in Tuscany - in winter it is especially packed with birds - and it won't cost a penny!
And during the summer, Diaccia Botrona makes a perfect antidote for adults and children alike from days at the beach. But if a whole day away from a beach is too terrible to contemplate, then Castiglione della Pescaia's beaches are lovely and just a few minutes away, so you could still do a beach in the morning or afternoon and a trip here.)
When I said beetles, well there are beetles and beetles! And Diaccia Botrona is home to a very black huge double-bodied one that my daughter spotted that looks like it has two bodies! I have yet to track it down and name it, but whilst I do and without wanting to turn this page into one resembling an encyclopedia, these are just some of the living things in the reserve that you might spot. Some will require you to be more lucky than others!
The fish here (especially in the Ponti di Badia area) literally splash about and jump out of the water like it is a school playground. My lack of quick camera focusing skills mean that I have yet to catch one in frame - but I have a lot of splashing water!
You are likely to find - hear - the European Seabass, the Flathead Mullet and the European Eel to name a few.
There are over 200 species, many of them resident throughout the year. My birdwatching in Maremma page will give you the low down on what you can spot when.
Apart from big black beetles, the marshlands are full of butterflies and dragonflies, especially this beautiful Common Darter dragonfly Sympetrum striolatum. Just take a few steps along the canal path to watch little clouds of them take flight!
OK, before you go getting worried, these snakes may live in the wetland and woods, but they are definitely amongst those animals that I mentioned that aren't easy to spot. In fact they would prefer not to see you at all! Find out more about Maremma's snakes.
The reserve is home to the Green Whip Snake, Four-lined Snake, Grass Snake. And the so often mistaken for a snake but isn't one, the Slow Worm.
You will be able to spot lots and lots of the European Green Lizard. More difficult will be the Edible frogs (the Common Water Frog), the European Green Toad, the Italian Crested Newt and Hermann's tortoise.
You will be hard-pressed not to spot a Coypu, "Nutria", either on land or in the water.
Other four-legged friends include the Otter, Weasel, Marten, Fox, Badger, Hare, Hedgehog, Crested Porcupine, rats and Wild Boar.
Note. If you happen to hear guns shots whilst at the Ponti di Badi part of the reserve it is you can be rest assured that worth knowing that the hunter(s) won't be in the Riserva. The land immediately to the north of the track to Isola Clodia is all private land on which hunting is, therefore, permitted. I know, because I checked when we did! You might want to let the birds know too that it will be much better for their health if they land on the southern side of the road.
Amongst the rosemary, myrtle, Sea Lavender (Limonium), Inula, oaks, Mastic tree (Pistacia lentiscus), Juniper (Juniperus macrocarpa), the Common reed (Phragmites australis), Samphires or Glassworts (Salicornia patula, salicornia dolichostachya, Arthrocnemum perenne), the Bulbous Arrowgrass (Triglochin bulbosa subsp barrelieri), the Liquorice plant (Glycyrrhiza glabra), the wild artichoke thistle, cardoon (Cynara cardunculus), and the Italian stone pine (Pinus pinca), Manna Ash (Fraximus ornus), Narrow-leafed Ash (Fraximus angustifolia), Field Elm (Ulmus minor), Black poplar (Populus nigra) and Silver Poplar (Populus alba) and willows.
You will also find the two much rarer plants of Pricklegrass (Cruspis aculeata) and Somerset Rush (Juncus subulatus).
Casa Ximenes, once a sluice plant, is now an interactive museum about the area and well worth a visit.
It is one of Maremma's most photographed man-made landmarks and even if you don't normally take pics of buildings you will be hard pressed not to want to do so of this one. For it's structural elements set in a wild landscape make for some really beautiful photographs. Especially so in the late afternoon sun when the colours of the patina on the building literally come alive and glows, changing hue by the second.
You won't have to get in a boat or put your waders on to take an image of the building reflected in the canal over which it was built, for there are two wooden jetties close by that were built to enable wheelchair users to go fishing and the second furthest from the building is the perfect spot.
Apart from along the raised canal banks, anytime out of the drier conditions of the summer, you will need Wellington boots in order to follow the permitted routes across the marshes.
That, or opt for a canal boat birdwatching trip (see below).
Entrance to the Riserva Naturale della Diaccia Botrona is free. The two best access points - both of which are sign-posted from the road - have free car parking. The first is at the Casa Ximenes, or the Red House as it is known locally. Here there is a designated and tarmacked car park area.
The second is at Ponti di Badia, along the access road to the Isola Clodia. The car parking available here is just where you can along the roadside.
The satellite map.
Although there is a sign just before the car parking area on the Isola Clodia track with an arrow indicating that you can walk to Casa Ximenes from there along route number 31, you can't! The path that used to accessible all the way to Casa Ximenes is now closed with a no access permitted sign. This isn't a temporary consequence of the weather, but a permanent enforcement. And vice versa at Casa Ximenes the same path below the building that would have taken you to Isola Clodia is similarly now blocked and signposted.
The path route number 31 is now a short walk ending at a hide.
If you have seen stunning photographs of Diaccia Botrona's pink "Fenicotteri" and are looking to take your own, although there is a path from next to the aforementioned hide in the Ponti di Badia area that takes you very close to the favoured feeding ground of the flamingoes, it too is closed to the public. Risk walking it - as I have witnessed someone do - and you could find yourself on video camera! The reserve has quite a few strategically placed web cameras placed to observe the birds (and humans!).
When I took some of the photographs on this page, these were the best I could obtain with my digital camera set on its maximum 24x zoom from the hide area.
If you are serious about getting some flamingo images, your best option is the boat trip and if you are lucky you might even see them in flight.
A small flat-bottomed boat departs each day - if there are sufficient reservations - into the wetland, heading towards Isola Clodia and stopping along the way at a couple of hides. The whole trip takes about two hours and costs €12,00 per adults, €10,00 for over 65 years of age and €6,00 for children aged 4 to 12 years old.
Tel. +39 389 0031369 or 348 7743201. E-mail email@example.com
You can fish from the canals within the Reserva Diaccia Botrona, but not in the wetland/marsh areas.
There are two wooden jetties from the path to the Red House and a short distance along the path from Ponti di Badia, both built primarily to provide fishing location for those in wheelchairs. (You are asked to give priority to wheelchair users.) NOTE. The problem with the latter two jetties is that the path to reach them is anything but wheelchair friendly.
There are no bars or restaurants in the wetland, but there is a restaurant/hotel directly opposite the Ponti di Badia access road to the reserve.
If you need picnic supplies, whilst there are lots of shops in town and quicker solution if you want to get going is the local COOP supermarket easily accessible just outside of the centre behind the school with a huge free car park. It has a deli and fresh bread cheese counter as well as fruit and veg etc.
Exceptional new-build self-catering apartments just five minutes walk from the centre of Castiglione della Pescaia, with garden and a pool, spa bath, underground parking and free wi-fi.
And the best boutique hotel in town.
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