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  7. Sasso Simone Nature Reserve

Sasso Simone Nature Reserve

A protected area of 1,604 hectares in the territory of Sestino, in the province of Arezzo, the Sasso Simone Nature Reserve is managed by the Tuscany Region and borders the Inter-regional Natural Park of Sasso Simone and Simoncello, an area instead divided between Marche and Emilia Romagna of 4,991 hectares in the territories of Pesaro Urbino and Rimini. Although administered by different entities, the two areas form a unified natural complex  of extraordinary value, in the heart of the ancient Montefeltro territory.

Reserve and park are named after two enormous parallelepiped-shaped limestone reliefs. Sasso Simone is also linked to a vanished fortress town, wanted by Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici in the 1560s to consolidate his power in the most marginal area of the Tuscan state. The impervious climate and the difficult access made life immediately problematic and so the place was soon abandoned. What remains today are the ruins shrouded in vegetation and the paved road that led to the summit.

The highest peak in the interregional park is Monte Carpegna, which at 1,415 metres above sea level represents the watershed between the Foglia, Marecchia and Conca valleys.

The vegetation throughout the protected area is diversified according to altitude and terrain. Around the two Sassi locations, turkey oak woods prevail, but there are also beech, hornbeam, black hornbeam, maple, ash and sorb. Climbing Mount Carpegna, one also encounters hazel groves.

The fauna is typical of the central Apennines. Mammals include the Apennine wolf, fallow deer, roe deer, fox, wild boar, polecat and porcupine.  Of particular interest are the nesting bird species such as the woodlark, quail, skylark, lark, red-backed shrike and yellow bunting.

The visitor centre in Sestino is the main entrance to the Sasso Simone Nature Reserve and houses a permanent exhibition dedicated to the evolution of the landscape in this border area of Tuscany. The Interregional Natural Park of Sasso Simone and Simoncello can be accessed mainly from the Pietrarubbia and Pennabilli visitor centres.

The reserve and park allow visitors to enjoy wonderful natural environments in all seasons, where there are equipped areas, fauna museums, environmental education centres and a rich network of paths where they can walk, hike and learn about the geological peculiarities, botanical rarities and animals that populate the two Sassi locations and the rest of the territory.