Located in the upper Tiber valley, in the municipalities of Pieve Santo Stefano and Caprese Michelangelo, the Riserva Naturale di Popolamento Animale Formole is a regional protected area established in 1980 and managed by the Carabinieri Biodiversity Department.
The reserve has a surface area of about 247 hectares and lies on the hydrographic right of the Tiber river, with an area consisting of meadows and pastures, interspersed with woods. Much of the land until the middle of the 20th century were farms, later abandoned by their owners.
From a geological point of view, the reserve is characterised by limestone and clay marl outcrops in the higher wooded areas and by ophiolites on the hillsides that descend towards the Lotro stream, the main perennial flowing watercourse, where vegetation is scarcer.
The area contains fifteen habitats protected by the EU Habitats Directive, plus one of regional interest. The Formole Reserve’s forests are mostly composed of turkey oaks and downy oaks. Extensive patches of juniper, black and red juniper, can be found in some pastures, especially in the ridge areas bordering the Poggio Rosso Reserve. Black hornbeam prevails on the drier slopes, while alder, willow and black poplar grow on the damp valley floor.
The fauna is characterised by wild boar, roe deer, fallow deer and a few Apennine wolves. Hares, badgers, porcupines, weasels and beech martens are also present. Kestrels, short toed eagles and buzzards can be seen flying in the higher pastures, along with larks, finches and various species of sylvie. The clear, clean waters of the Lotro stream ensure the presence of amphibians and a rich fish fauna. Of particular note are the many river crabs.
At the entrance to the reserve is the Equestrian Selection Centre, which is responsible for the breeding, training and selection of Maremma and Haflinger horses for the needs of the Carabinieri Corps, as well as for educational purposes.
The breeding of Maremma horses is aimed at producing subjects suitable for the needs of the Carabinieri’s mounted units and for services in the countryside and large urban parks.
With regard to the Haflinger breed of horses, which originates in Alto Adige and was born from a cross between the Valvenosta mare and the Arabian stallion, Formole is considered a pilot centre for both breeding and dissemination. The breed is particularly suitable for mountain service, equestrian tourism and sporting disciplines.