Isola Clodia - the island of Clodia - was once the villa retreat of a rich Roman, reachable only by boat across the huge Lago di Prile (the Prile Lake) in Maremma. Today a very special and unique marshland environment lies in the footprint of the lake and Isola Clodia is no longer an island. What remains of the original Roman villa lies hidden beneath a middle ages monastery, now also a ruin.
But if you stand at the sumit of the hill and gaze upon the "palude" (marshland) around you - the nature reserve of Diaccia Botrona - and the hills of Poggio Ballone that run their length down to the pretty coastal hill town of Castiglione della Pescaia with the town of Tirli at their highest point, it is easy to imagine the island as it would have looked, surrounded by a beautiful expance of water with ships laden with international goods making their passage inland towards Siena and Florence and many fishing boats.
For the lake was the lifeblood of central Etruria for two important and rich Etruscan civilisations (Vetulonia and Roselle), not only providing shipping routes inland from the open sea, but a plentiful food supply.
Isola Clodia isn't a Maremma location that I would recommend that you plan a day especially to visit. But if you are in the area, it is worth stopping and visiting as it is a great vantage point for views across the 1,273 hectares of the Riserva Naturale Diaccia Botrona and from which to appreciate the lay of the land in this protected part of Maremma. And for a taste of the tranquility that the occupants of the Roman villa and monastery would have experienced on this island.
And although there isn't much to the ruin to keep your youngsters amused after the walk up the hill, there is a plentiful supply of dry plant stems in the undergrowth with which to play sword (stick) fighting and if they have the patience to wait a minute or two, the fish in the in the Fiume Bruna (river Bruna) and canal regularly jump out of the water.
Isola Clodia is also an ideal place to start a walk in the reserve and a special haven for birdwatchers. The Diaccia Botrona is home to more than two hundred species of bird, including the Western Marsh Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, herons, pink flamingos, the Eurasian Bittern, the Black-winged Stilt, the European Roller, and many Anatidae. For lovers of owls, you can spot the Tawny Owl, the Barn Owl, Little Owl, the Eurasian Scops Owl and the Short-eared Owl. Importantly, the reserve is also home to the only Osprey in Italy, the rare Falco Pescatore.
What's left of the information sign by the canal reads:
This monastery, now in ruins, is thought to be built during the High Middle Ages on top of the remains of a Roman villa, which was also mentioned by Cicero, and located on a low hill which once was Clodia Island, amid the Prile Lake. The first written documents relating to the monastery date back to the 12th century and refer to a Benedictine abbey subordinate to Sant'Antimo monastery.
During the 13th century, the Guglielmite friars took possession of the monastery. By the end of the 16th century it was a property of the Knights of Saint Stephen, who turned it into a fishing plant, saving just a minor section of the monastery as a sacred building: they built on top of it a chapel devoted to the blessed Libertesca, a maiden from Buriano who lived there as a hermit.
The ruins of the monastery - part of the semi-circular apse and a section of the side walls - evidence a Romanesque style with a later modification, mainly dating back to the 16th century.
The land around the Isola di Clodia is in private ownership but you can visit on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 am to 12: 00 noon and from 16:00 to 18:00. The island is closed to the public during the month of February.
Entrance is free but note that you won't be able to take your dog with you: pets aren't allowed in the Diaccia Botrona Nature Reserve.
There is no designated car park: you will need to leave your car at the end of the track alongside the canal before the bar gate (location marked on the map) and walk from there. Its a very quiet spot so you probably won't see more than one other car, usually belonging to a birdwatcher or wildlife photographer.
But a word of advice. Whilst Maremma, thankfully, isn't known for its crime scene, the last time I visited Isola Clodia on a spring Sunday afternoon the couple who arrived after me had their car broken into during the time it took them to walk to the ruin and back and the handbag left in full view on the passenger seat stolen. Even if this spot is isolated with very view passers-by, don't forget your normal caution and leave valuables out of sight. :)
Isola Clodia is only a short drive north of Castiglione della Pescaia in the locality of Badiola.
View in a larger map
If you fancy an experience of staying in what was once a medieval borgo, a short drive away along the road to Tirli close to Vetulonia there is the B&B La Duchessa with its own tower.
Otherwise Castiglione della Pescaia is your closest town: the best Castiglione della Pescaia accommodation.
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