The Pigelleto Nature Reserve
The Pigelleto Nature Reserve covers a surface of 862 hectares of mostly wooded land. It is located in the Piancastagnaio Municipality.
The protected area comprises a series of gently rolling hills that reach a maximum altitude of 969 m a.s.l. at Poggio Pampagliano. The Senna and Siele Torrents mark the borders of the Reserve to the North and to the South.
The unique climate and morphology of the area have generated a rich variety of plants including beech trees, chestnut trees, various kinds of oak, hornbeam and yew, a majestic conifer which is currently included in the international red lists of rare trees.
The Reserve was born with the main aim of preserving the remaining population of silver fir locally known as “Pigello”, which grows here spontaneously, an important witness of the last glacial era which ended about 10.000 years ago. The Italian Peninsula was in fact a “refuge” for forests of silver fir trees when, at the peak of the glacial period, most of Europe was covered by glaciers.
With climate change the silver firs survived only in the areas where there was a suitable microclimate and where the competition with beech trees was not too fierce. The Pigelleto is one of few areas inhabited by silver firs in Southern Europe.
The Reserve is also home to other beautiful plants such as various species of orchid, primroses, violets and brassica plants. In the damp and cool underbrush a great variety of mushrooms grow; a recent study has numbered over 400 species. This uncontaminated natural environment hosts also noteworthy animal species including the salamander (a small amphibian endemic to Italy) and at least 8 species of bat. In addition to these less common species, the Pigelleto is also home to roe deer, wild boar, jays, buzzards, blackcap, numerous species of butterfly and many other animals. It is not unusual to see some specimens or their traces while walking in the Reserve.
The Roccone Trail
The trail starts at the the farmhouse entry and unfolds as a ring of about 7.5 km. It winds through the most interesting areas of the Pigelleto Nature Reserve.
Exit the main gate of the farmhouse and take the unpaved trail on the left that leads to the Piancastagnaio provincial road; walk through an oak copse until you reach a fork in the road after 2.3 km. Do not take the road on the left (which would lead you to the Siele Mining Village, point 1 on the drawing, about 3.0 km from the Roccone), but rather go straight until you reach the tarmacked road.
On the right (point 2 on the drawing), sign posted by a wooden notice board and a panel (photo 1), begins the trail into the woods; it slopes gently upwards among oak and ash trees. After 3 km you will be at a cross roads (point 3).
Take the path that continues upwards on your left. When you see the first silver firs and a small area equipped with a table and benches (photo 2) you are arrived to Poggio Pampagliano (the highest point in the Nature Reserve 969 m a.s.l.)
From here you begin to descend towards a marvellous wood of beech trees with a strong scent (in April and June) of wild garlic (allium orsinum, which is excellent to dress spaghetti and pici pasta).
At this point of the trail (point 4 on the drawing) follow carefully the red and white signs and the deviations which have been put in place during the renewal of the old trail.
Having crossed Fonte del Picchio at km 4.4 (the water comes from a source that is not controlled), at km 5.5 you will reach the unpaved private farm road (point 5 on the drawing).
Here you are inside the Pigelleto Fir Tree Wood which you can cross by following a small fenced path that leads to a bird watching shelter and which ends at a resting area with 3 tables and some benches (photo 3).
Opposite the resting area, take the unpaved road that descends to the right to Podere San Filippo and from there, after a short upward slope, you will be back to the Roccone.
If you walk at a leisurely pace and stop now and then to drink and take photos, the trip would take about 3 hours.
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