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  7. Valle dell’Inferno and Bandella Nature Reserve

Valle dell’Inferno and Bandella Nature Reserve

Located in the stretch of the Arno river from Ponte Romito to Ponte dell’Acqua Borra, the Valle dell’Inferno e Bandella Nature Reserve covers 531 hectares in the basin of the ENEL hydroelectric power plant in Levane.

The protected area managed by the Tuscany Region includes the territories of Terranuova Bracciolini, Laterina Pergine Valdarno and Montevarchi. The landmarks include Valle dell’Inferno, which, according to tradition, inspired Dante Alighieri for his Divine Comedy, and the Bandella bend, a marshy area formed in the valley bottom of the Ascione stream, at the edge of the lake originated by the dam on the Arno River built in 1956 to produce electricity.

Over the years, the area has gradually become populated with the fauna and flora typical of wetlands, such as some species of water birds that have chosen this oasis for their reproduction, but at the same time, the presence of the lake basin has not destroyed the flora and fauna that characterised the valley before. The end result is a unique environment rich in biodiversity.

Nowadays the area is characterised by the slow flow of the Arno, but before the dam was built, it was characterised by particularly steep slopes where the river flowed impetuously and dangerously for those who travelled along it in boats and on “foderi”, special rafts used to transport timber from the Casentino Forests to Florence and Pisa. Hence, perhaps, the origin of the sinister name.

The main entrance to the reserve is the visitor centre at Monticello, a hamlet of Terranuova Bracciolini. The paths are freely accessible on foot and there is also a guided tour service with a boat from the Province of Arezzo.

The forests in the Valle dell’Inferno and Bandella Nature Reserve are mostly made up of oaks, especially downy oaks, while in the marshy areas and along the river banks the hygrophilous vegetation is varied.

The typical avifauna of the protected area is characterised by species such as the black kite, grey heron, egret, marsh harrier and kingfisher, which have chosen the area for their breeding. Birds that only use the oasis as a stopover include the cormorant, purple heron, great white egret, lapwing and stilt-bird.

The reserve’s woods are home to wild boar, roe deer, fox, hare, pheasant and porcupine. Among the amphibians, the presence of the spectacled salamander is curious.

Romito bridge