Wildlife refuge


A wetland of international importance, a safe haven for water birds.

Bolgheri marshes

The history of the Padule di Bolgheri is linked to the story of Marquis Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, a far - sighted naturalist who, in 1959, transformed part of the family property into a wildlife refuge for migrating birds and other animals. The newborn Wildlife Refuge Padule di Bolgheri, named after him, was later formalized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and legitimized by a visit of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in 1965. In the same year, Mario Incisa was appointed President of the Italian WWF. In his last years, he held this position in an honorary form until his death in 1983. Since then, Bolgheri has preserved all the scenic beauty and biodiversity which is typical of the medium-high Tuscan Maremma.


A freshwater swamp

The Bolgheri Wildlife Refuge is a rare example of a well-preserved coastal and dunes environment along the Tuscan coast. The most important part is linked to the presence of a seasonal wetland, fed exclusively by the autumn and winter rains, as it cannot rely on the water supply of a tributary. It consists of 80 hectares of freshwater marshland, surrounded by 440 hectares of flooded woodland, wet meadows, uncultivated land, pastures, and crops.

The flora and the fauna


The Wildlife Refuge protects flooded woods of ash trees, which are now very rare in Tuscany, vast wet meadows, coastal woods (Tombolo), the dune and the sandy shore. There are also areas used for extensive cultivation (cereals and fodder) and extensive natural meadows and pastures for rearing cattle and resting horses at the end of their careers.
The succession of naturally connected but extraordinarily diverse habitats allow a great variety of plants and animals to be observed, particularly birds, of which there are over 250 species.

Water drainage in the maremma between the end of the eighteenth century and nineteenth century

Between the end of the eighteenth century and the nineteenth century, various land drainage systems were adopted for the coastal area from Vada to Bolgheri.

It was in 1789 when, in the Royal Tuscan city of Cecina, the Grand Duke of Tuscany Pietro Leopoldo carried out land drainage with the idea of reviving a village by the sea, putting an end to an unhealthy stench and reactivating agriculture, the arts and trade. The Grand Duke also ensured that the seafront along the Via dei Cavalleggeri was cleared. This project was interrupted by the death of the Marquisate of Carlo Ginori.
Pietro Leopoldo's attempt was initially abandoned, however resumed in 1828 by the Grand Duke of Tuscany Leopoldo II. The new needs of the Royal Cecina Estate made it necessary to divide the Maremma into estates, definitively defeat the malaria plague and repopulate the area. A coastal forest of stone pines was also planted to obtain pine nuts and resin, precious goods for trade.

The contiguous but extraordinarily different habitats of the wildlife refuge padule di Bolgheri

Inhabited by a great variety of animals.

In the fields and pastures, it is easy to observe herons in close contact with cows and horses, as well as hares, wild boar, roe, and fallow deer, which are clearly visible in the open spaces. Especially in the spring, in the sky, the unmistakable singing flights of the skylark, as well as swifts, sea jays, hoopoes, and numerous other species. Among the reptiles, there is an important population of marsh tortoises.
Wild boars, porcupine, beech martens, dormice, hedgehogs and foxes find refuge in the tangled scrubland. In the refuge they carry out important rodent control activities, as well as preying on sick animals or destroying carcasses. The recent arrival of the wolf helps to balance the animal population.

The white stork


Overlooking the pastures, on the platform installed on an electric pole, a pair of white storks have been nesting since 2008, returning to breed in this area after an absence of about 200 years: Ciocco and Duna.
The pair consists of a wild male and a female born in a breeding centre, recognisable by the presence of a metal ring on their leg. Up to the breeding season of 2021, a total of 40 chicks were born, all of which happily fledged. The nest is renovated every year and is a real "condominium", as many pairs of Italian sparrows nest in the tangle of branches.

Care and maintenance

The laws of nature

Taking care of the Wildlife Refuge requires a strong passion for nature and knowing how to listen to it, as well as a profound competence in the field. Numerous maintenance works are carried out, from the construction and maintenance of bridges across the canals, to the restoration of areas that have suffered damage due to the season, to the scrupulous preparation of environments that can accommodate animals, for example the storks' nest, to the observation and monitoring of animal species and flowers.
The coastal tombolo ends at the edge of the beach and is one of the most intact and best preserved on the entire Tuscan coast. Along the 2.3 km stretch of beach in front of the marsh, the waste brought in by the sea is removed manually, while the wood and seagrass 'banquettes' deposited during sea storms are kept on the beach to prevent erosion. This wild environment is the nesting place of the extremely rare Kentish plover (Charadrius alexandrinus), one of the most threatened birds in the Mediterranean.