The route: Province of Gorizia

Regional Nature Reserve of the Isonzo River's Mouth


The Regional Nature Reserve of the Isonzo River's Mouth (which springs on the Julian Alps, in Slovenia, and ends its course in the Gulf of Trieste, between Monfalcone and Grado)...

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Regional Nature Reserve of the Isonzo River's Mouth


The Regional Nature Reserve of the Isonzo River's Mouth (which springs on the Julian Alps, in Slovenia, and ends its course in the Gulf of Trieste, between Monfalcone and Grado), was established in 1996, and covers an area of 2,406 hectares on the mainland, in addition to 1,154 water hectares. The reserve territory is included in the municipalities of Staranzano, San Canzian d'Isonzo, Grado and Fiumicello. This area, which is one of the most interesting natural zones in Italy, and the most northern wetland in the Mediterranean, also includes, in addition to the Island of Cona, the channel Quarantia, the Caneo, and Alberoni . Until the end of the nineteenth century, the whole area was characterized by the prevalence of a wild wetland and woodland vegetation. Many springs flowed into Quarantia channel that separated the island, from the mainland of Cona.
During the Fascist period, major reclamation works were launched to make the area a farmland, and only in 1976 it began a gradual operation of recovery of the marsh areas which also included the inundation of the Cona's island.
In 1996 the Natural Reserve was established and remains, even today, one of the most interesting natural area. On the Cona's island there’s a visitors center , from where the trails, that lead to the observers' huts, built on the model of the big lagoon huts, made of wood and reeds. The largest of these observatories is called "Marinetta" and spreads over three floors, dominating the area of the "Reset".
On the ground floor, which is below the lagoon level, there are watertight windows , from which you can observe the submerged part of the pond. The first and the second floors have a panoramic view over the entire reserve . The characteristic of this area, upon which are based its purposes , is the presence of a high biodiversity that, in a marshy environment, offers many different habitats for plants and animals. Wild beaches and lagoon banks are interspersed with swampy areas. A small wooded tract called "The Great Forest" is a residue of what the Romans called "Silva Lupanica". During low tides, you can slowly see emerge sandy or muddy sea bottoms covered by algae that provide shelter and food for many species of birds. In the salt marshes (areas covered by a low vegetation and submerged by the sea only during exceptionally high tides), among the reeds and the sea lavender, find shelter and protection, from diurnal and nocturnal raptors, the Eurasian curlew (now the symbol of the reserve) and the elegant gray heron.
The sandy islands, covered with sparse vegetation , are excellent parking areas for cormorants and gulls, while in the most noticable parts of these "islands", grow dense and elegant willow woods. For the variety of its natural environments, the reserve is rich in a very wide range of plant species typical of freshwater brackish or of salty environments: poplars, black alders and white willows. Along the area between the levee and the river, grows a vegetation characterized by woods, in the drier areas, and by reeds, in the regularly flooded ones (where fresh water coming from the north, encounters the salty water of the the southern sea).
The specific environmental characteristics of the reserve provide an ideal habitat for the reproduction of many, interesting animal species: the golden eagle, the sea eagle, the Queen’s, the knight of Italy, the marsh harrier , the royal swan and red heron are just few examples of the wide variety of birds. But the fauna of the reserve is also rich in a number of species of mammals such as deer, foxes, badgers, wild boars and hares as well as numerous species of rodents and insectivores. Amphibians obviously abound, with various species of frogs, tree frogs, toads and newts. There are also many reptiles including the aquatic turtle, water snakes and lizards . In 1991, some couples of Camargue horses were introduced in the reserve. They are a very old breed bred in the wild in the delta of the Rhone river, in the southern France.
They are sturdy animal, with a light colored fur, short limbs and a large hoofs, suitable for life in wetlands. It feeds mainly on reeds and marsh grasses . This characteristic contributes to the environment’s conservation in the reserve, limiting the growth of stronger and more widespread plants. The presence of horses in this area is also linked to a legend recorded by the geographer Strabo, in which it is said that here Diomede, a man of Thrace, bred snow-white horses dedicated to the goddess Diana.
Among the reserve’s facilities there is also the Duck’s Museum, a small but interesting exhibition that traces the age-old relationship between man and duck through a path that winds from antiquity to the present day. There are various themed spaces, that mingle tradition and modernity, to display the species hosted in the reserve and the various hunting techniques. The museum is a great observing point of the vast area surrounding it thanks to the powerful telescope made available for observing the surrounding wildlife.


Regional Nature Reserve of Doberḍ and Pietrarossa lakes


The Regional Nature Reserve of Doberḍ and Pietrarossa lakes (which occupies an area of 727 acres) is located on the western edge of the Karst plateau and is characterized by two...

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Regional Nature Reserve of Doberḍ and Pietrarossa lakes


The Regional Nature Reserve of Doberḍ and Pietrarossa lakes (which occupies an area of 727 acres) is located on the western edge of the Karst plateau and is characterized by two depressions partially filled by lakes and separated by a ridge.
The lake of Doberḍ (whose name derives from the Slovenian “dober dob”, "good oak ") is one of the few examples of karst lake in Europe, that is to say, without, surface rivers that serve it as emissaries and tributaries. The waters flow into it through springs and rain, while they flow out only through soil absorption (rich in underground cavities ) and evaporation. The water level, therefore, undergoes strong variations (meters even) in relation to the flow of the rivers Isonzo and Vipacco, respectively 8.5 and 6.5 km away. In lean periods of the tributaries , the water level drops a lot and the free surface, not occupied by the reeds, is reduced to a morass of small pools. Depending on the season and rainfall, the water surface, in a few days , may vary from 80 square meters ( during periods of drought, statistically in February and July), to 400,000 square meters (during overflow periods, statistically in October and June).
The peculiarity of the phenomenon has obviously affected both animal and vegetable biodiversity, which is very shaped by the co-presence of different natural environments such as: moors, karst woods and water.
The flora is typical of the Karst: the wetland vegetation (the bottom of the lake is formed by a thick muddy cover, produced by the dense vegetation in marsh-reeds), hazels, hawthorns, dogwoods, elders, willows and poplars. These species of trees are an optimal haven for woodpeckers, including the rare great spotted woodpecker.
During winter season, the water spaces are important staging points for various migratory birds, including white storks and ospreys . There are also many mammals living in the area: very common species, such as roe deer, are flanked by other rare ones, very difficult to observe, such as the golden jackal (the only species that does not live exclusively in Africa and that is considered the ancestor of some domestic breeds, and could still interbreed with dogs).
Pietrarossa's Lake, which is also one of the few examples of karst lake in Europe, has no tributaries , and is formed only from springs and water depluvio. It is quite hidden and difficult to reach. This lake, almost mysterious, is located on a strip of alluvial soil of the elongated shape. The sources, from which come the streams that feed the whole area, are located in the north- west, while in the south- east lie the effluent stream. Nearby, there are highly developed willows . The area is also of great archaeological interest, as it houses the remains of several castellieri and fortifications dating back to the Bronze Age (ca. 2000 - ca. 1000 BC), defended by city walls built with dry stone. They give evidence of the earliest forms of housing in the Karst. During the war, the prehistoric fort of Castellazzo has been heavily modified: in the retaining wall, have been built shelters and artillery observatories and, in the square were excavated trenches and caves. The fort of Vertace, which dominated the valley of Doberḍ , was one of the largest on our Carso , with an outer wall that extended for over a mile. Unfortunately, the castelliere, like many others in the area, is now barely visible as it was destroyed by bombing in World War I and by the excavation works, was carried out by soldiers during conflict.
Remains of trenches and other war structures still crop up throughout the area.


The natural park of Plessiva


Il parco naturale di Plessiva si sviluppa su 33 ettari di bosco, alle spalle del monte Quaŕn, in prossimità del confine sloveno da cui dista circa 20 chilometri...

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The natural park of Plessiva


The natural park of Plessiva spreads over 33 acres of woods, behind mountain Quarin, close to the Slovenian border, which is about 20 kilometers away.
During the Second World War, the area was used as a powder magazine of which the remains are easy to locate on the former military roads, especially the concrete casemates’ bases intended for storage of explosives. This vast area has been transformed into state-owned, natural recreation park from the Autonomous Region of Friuli Venezia Giulia in 1983. The park has two entrances: through the marshy area of Preval (where were found remains of lake dwellings ) that perfectly crosses the Collio’s wavy motion, or from the center of Cormons leaving behind the tiny and pleasant Subida, known for the little church in the woods and the many rural restaurants. The church was built as a result of a miracle: it is said that on July 23, 1597 a farmer saw his oxen stop and kneel: they looked toward a crucifix that began to crying blood. The farmer was not the only witness of the bleeding Christ, who was then transported to the nearest church. But, in spite of the church being locked, the crucifix returned every night to the place where it was found. It was clear that the Christ had to remain where he had appeared: it was therefore decided to erect, right there, this little church where, in celebration days, the Mass is celebrated in the Friulian and Slovenian language, and where, since ancient times the cormonesi come every Friday of Lent to watch the Via Crucis.
A network of trails, with wooden bridges and steps, enable to cross the Plessiva wood, full of oaks , tall locust trees and chestnut trees present since Roman times, which combine, in varying degrees, with the beautiful oak plants. In undergrowth grow butcher's broom, hazel, brambles and junipers. As for the fauna , there are many typical species of the area such as deer, fox, badger, hare, pheasant, but there are also several specimens of wild cat, notoriously combative and aggressive. Among the towering trees and over the vineyards that stand out, in the distance, buzzards, kestrels and hawks circle.
The area of Plessiva offers a stunning landscape of hills entirely cultivated with vineyards, whose harvested grapes produce some of the finest wines from the DOC region of Collio.


Valle Cavanata Nature Reserve


The Valle Cavanata Nature Reserve is located in the easternmost part of the Grado lagoon that has been dammed, equipped with sluices and transformed into a fish farm that worked...

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Valle Cavanata Nature Reserve


The Valle Cavanata Nature Reserve is located in the easternmost part of the Grado lagoon that has been dammed, equipped with sluices and transformed into a fish farm that worked until 1995. The fish farm is a lagoon area, separated from the open lagoon by a fence, fixed by poles or banks, in which they practice an extensive fish farming. The fish farms takes advantage of the natural tendency of juveniles (juvenile fish stages used for repopulation ) to migrate in the spring, mainly upstream, from the open sea to the inland waters of the lagoon, and in the autumn the tendency of adults to return to the sea for the breeding. The output of fish from the valley was prevented by a system of grids called "weir", some sort of funnel originally built in screens of reed, which kept the fish in a central pool where it could be easily caught. It is a very ancient practice, as it’s already mentioned in documents of the eleventh century, but its origin is probably much older than that. In the old days the valleys, which also acted as game preserves, were monopoly of the monasteries and the nobles, who rented it to the so-called "vallesiani". Due to the presence of the banks (which exclude the effects of the tides and the spread of contaminants from the outside) the fish farm, although completely artificial environment, is therefore essential in preserving the delicate ecosystem of the lagoon. It is also an ideal habitat for various species of marsh birds. The Natural Reserve of Val Cavanata has worked as a fish farm until 1995, when it was transformed into a Regional Natural Reserve. Today, with its 250 hectares, is one of the largest fish farms in the lagoon of Grado, even if it is only a small part of the valley that had been built in the lagoon and marsh from the Twenties onwards, when the remediation work were started by the fascist regime. The real work began in 1933 and ended in 1941; agrarian plans of transformation, however, were carried out between 1936 and 1943. The outbreak of the war prevented further developments and many projects remained only on paper. The reclamation of Fossalon (near the town of Grado where the Valley is located) was chosen as a settlement area for some of the refugees that escaped after the London Memorandum of 1954, from the "Zone B" in the Free Territory of Trieste. The Italian government, in fact, welcomed the project of the "Tre Venezie" National Authority, designed to accommodate several hundreds of exiled families who had left the rural northern part of Istria. The first arrivals were recorded in the 1943-44 biennium. The first evacuees arrived in the lagoon from Zara , a city hit hard by Allied bombing , then there were other landings , between 1947 and 1949. Most of the people arrived from Pola, Fiume and other towns of southern and western Istria, ie the territories ceded to Yugoslavia. Among the largest communities there are those of Rovinj (over two hundred people), Parenzo, Orsera, Fasana and Albona. Grado was chosen as destination because it is geographically very close to Istria, but also because that area, had quite a few features in common with the people living on the opposite shores. The two communities had always shared the same venetian culture in past centuries, the same values, the same customs and habits, and even the political and administrative history was often similar.
These cultural, religious and linguistic reasons immediately favored the exiles inclusion in the social fabric of Grado. Moreover, a significant part of the Istrian population on the coast, earned their living fishing and could, therefore, pursue its traditional activities . Some of these families settled in the countryside of Fossalon , where they received farms (around 142 units) of an area of five hectares each, while 12, had a doubled size equal. The eastern parts of Grado’s lagoon, until the First World War, were marshy and unhealthy and the malaria prevailed. With the " redemption" , the area located between the sea, the Isonzato, Punta Sdobba and the channels of Zemole, Primero and Cucchini were covered by the work of transformation and the land area was baptized "Clearance of Victory". In the fifties the rehabilitation work on the territories were completed and the northern part of the valley was drastically reduced, and reached its current size. After the floods of 1965 and 1966 was the sea embankment was reinforced and, after the closing of the Cavanata Channel, the current beach was built.
The Valley alternates reeds and rushes, with lakes, islands and limited extensions of dry land covered by thick vegetation where they find shelter and nest mallards, Eurasian teals, yellow legged gulls and greylag goose. This particular goose is the ancestor of all domestic geese and symbol of the Reserve: it was the subject of a favorable work reintroduction and now is consistently present with a hundred individuals.
In order not to disturb the birds , that during the migration period reaches thousands of specimens belonging to as many as 260 different species, the Valley can’t be crossed , but given its limited extension, visitors can observe the birds merely by walking the streets that border it.
The presence of numerous environments in the reserve between the sea and the mainland (lagoon, beach, forest, meadow, fish farm, pond) makes the visit very interesting and varied, especially for birdwatchers. Departing from the Visitor Center, you can take two main routes. The first, the valley path, leads to the "Sand observatory" from where you can admire the whole former fish farm and the flocks of waterfowl that stop in its waters. You shall continue until you reach the "weir", the traditional structure made of wood and reeds for catching fish near the Primero channel, which forms the boundary of the Reserve.
Also the second route starts from the Visitor Center and, through the tree-lined road that follows the canal Averto, once a branch of the river Isonzo, leads to the coast. Here, climbing the numerous concrete staircases, lining the embankment, you can enjoy a superb panorama: the majesty of the Gulf of Trieste and, on particularly clear days and clear days, the Istrian coast . Going beyond the gate, where there’s also a stretch of unspoilt beach, you come to Casa Spina, which offers an excellent view over the fishpond.
A little further on there is the tower that houses the powerful weather OSMER radar (Regional Meteorological Observatory) that scans the sky in search of the perturbations.


Grado lagoon


The lagoon of Grado, which extends from Fossalon di Grado to the island of Amphora, at the mouth of the Ausa and Corno rivers, occupies an area of about 90 square kilometers...

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Grado lagoon


The lagoon of Grado, which extends from Fossalon di Grado to the island of Amphora, at the mouth of the Ausa and Corno rivers, occupies an area of about 90 square kilometers and is divided into an eastern sector (palù de sora) and a western one (palù de soto), by the dam on which winds the road that connects Grado to the mainland.
The history of Grado is closely linked to that of Aquileia and its river port , built along the banks of the river Akilis - Natisone. The lagoon appeared then, very different from today, appearing much more like a country crossed by canals. It was part of the large port system of Aquileia, and was, in fact, the "gradus", ie the port, where the offshore ships transshipped their goods onto smaller boats, which sailed up the Natisone (Natissa) till the Roman metropolis . When, in 568, Grado became the seat of the Patriarchate of Aquileia, after the invasion of the Lombards, it acquired a new major political and religious role , as evidenced by the construction of the majestic basilicas of Santa Eufemia and Santa Maria delle Grazie, both dating back to the end of the sixth century. The emergence of Venice as the dominant center of the Venetian lagoons, however, marked the slow decline of the island which became a poor fishing village.
With the Treaty of Campoformido (1797) Grado became part of the Austrian dominions and began a slow but steady recovery: in the early twentieth century it was already a very popular seaside resort , and accommodated people like Freud and Pirandello as well as numerous Habsburg aristocrats who resided there for bathrooms and for its famous thermal spas. Later on the dam was built with the promenade and the charming internal port. In 1936 Grado was connected to the mainland with a bridge that ended centuries of isolation. The lagoon of Grado can be divided into two almost independent basins, "Palù de sora " (the east) and "Palù de Soto " (the west), from the road on the embankment that connects Grado to the mainland. The western area is wider and with more open water spaces , while the eastern is more buried and crossed by well-defined channels. "Palù de Soto " has a long history witnessed both by archaeological finds, and monuments built on the main islands arranged along the canals. In the late summer of 1986, a fisherman from Marano lagoon recovered in the open sea, between Grado and Marano, some fragments of amphorae: they were the first remains of an ancient Roman oneraria ship (a merchant ship about 13 meters long and 6 meters wide of the 1st century AD) later named Iulia Felix, that had sunk in the lagoon with all its cargo of amphorae, containing products from the processing of fish. The small island of San Pietro d' Orio, preserves traces of an ancient Roman temple dedicated to Apollo - Belen, who was particularly venerated in the city of Aquileia. In later centuries, the Benedictine monks built a monastery on the island, that was active for almost a thousand years, and then, declined along with the island, more and more threatened by the sea. The island of Gorgo (former Saints Cosmas and Damian), is still crossed by the ancient Roman road that connected Aquileia to Grado, on the sides of which, many Roman remains have been found with traces of floors and capitals indicating patrician buildings, and is still devoted to agriculture and to the breeding of horses and goats. San Giuliano, that in the ninth century was home to a monastery, houses numerous remains of Roman villas and is testimony of former "bathing" residences of wealthy merchants from Aquileia. They escaped for a while from the concerns and commitments of a big city, as Aquileia was, suffocated by the heat and dust of summer. The pinewood of San Marco with its summer coolness, and Ara Storta, a big island that has always been dedicated to the breeding of fish, are the places where, according to legend, large bones of men, more than 2 meters tall, were found (assuming the presence of warriors from a past era, perhaps Celtic). The island of Beli, full of old and wild trees, is the home to thousands of birds. There is an old story about this island that tells, softly, of incantations and strange things that happened to those who disturbed the work of the men or invaded their fishing territory: it was said that an old, small and wrinkled woman, named Bela, dressed in black, had the power to cast curses that always came true. The westernmost island is called Amphora (whose name comes from the large amount of pottery and amphorae that were once in that area because of the many shipwrecks), which acquired its strategic importance in 1866, when it marked the border between Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, that provided it with a small barracks. Today, it houses the small town of Porto Buso. Here we can also find the last huts of this part of the lagoon, one of which is joined in the history of our cinema because Pier Paolo Pasolini, in 1974, shot there some of the exterior of his movie "Medea". In these homes, which have become the emblem of the lagoon, there lived a large number of fishermen who built their own huts using the scarce materials that could be found on site: wooden poles of varying sizes, reeds, straw and wicker. They consist of a single room with a "fogon" (hearth), the door is oriented to the west to shelter from the Bora, the cold wind that blows from the east. The eastern lagoon (palù de sora) is the most recent and less deep. After the reclamation of the Fossalon, built in the first half of the last century, its surface was essentially halved. Compared to the western lagoon is less rich in islands, among which there’s that of Schiusa, created anew with landfill, now entirely urbanized and integrated with Grado, to which it is connected by two bridges. The main island though is Barbana, which houses a 1,500 years old shrine which is permanently inhabited by a community of Franciscan friars. In Roman times there used to stop the "quarantine " ships, before transferring the goods to the port of Aquileia. The legend refers that the shrine’s construction, in 582, happened by the orders of the Patriarch of Aquileia, Elijah, when on the island was found a statue of the Virgin Mary near the hut of the hermits Barbano (from which the island took its the name) and Tiralesso, after a violent storm that raged about Grado. To the Virgin Mary are attributed many miraculous events concerning rescues in sea and in the lagoon. Since 1237 every first Sunday of July, the community Grado goes in procession with boats, decorated for the holiday, to the island of Barbana, to renew the ancient vow to the Virgin Mary who saved the country from a terrible plague. It all goes back to when the Patriarch of Grado, Leonardo Querini, summoned the heads of families and decided to take a vow to Our Lady of Barbana: the vote established that every year, in perpetuity, at least one person from each family had to participate in the procession, across the lagoon to the islet, to ask Our Lady of Barbana "Perdòn".
The sanctuary, as it appears now, goes back to the restoration of 1926. Landmark of the lagoon of Grado is the bell tower that can be seen from afar.
The coastal vegetation in the lagoon of Grado is currently dominated by crops and appears to be strongly altered. Among the introduced species, it is very easy to find the Giant cane, that can be more than 4 meters tall, and was once used as a mentor for some crops. Very typical are also the coastal pine forests that consist mainly of: Aleppo pine, Austrian pine and stone pine. The most typical plant in the lagoon with purple flowers, rosette leaves and strong roots is the sea lavender. Among the other plants there are: the soft rush, with whom the cordage for the reinforcement of fishing nets, were made. In most emerged areas, for example, in the fish farms or in the dammed stretches, is frequently found the coastal absinthe, a typical plant of arid environments. The habitat of the Grado lagoon is ideal for dozens of species of water birds that nest there, or that stop during the migration period, such as herons, coots, mallards, teals, garganeys, ducks, cormorants and gulls, but also very rare species such as flamingos and dung beetle.
A regular ferry service allows rewarding excursions in the lagoon.


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