A “must” for all nature and trekking lovers is the Orecchiella Park, a nature reserve, established in 1980, safeguarded by Carabinieri Forestali (a special national corps protecting forests), which covers about 12.400 acres in the territory of 4 municipalities (Piazza al Serchio, San Romano, Villa Collemandina and Sillano). This area with high natural value is dominated by dense forests of fir, beech and chestnut trees; many wild animals live inside these woods (deers, roe deers, wild sheeps, foxes, badgers, wild boars, small rodents like squirrels etc. ….). In addition, if you are lucky, you can see two important kinds of birds of prey in the skies of the park : golden eagle and the peregrine falcon.
Inside the park there is the Visitor Center for reception and information service. It houses also the wildlife museum and the museum of birds of prey. The first shows visitors life and habits of a variety of wild animals hosted in the park. The second shows an interesting reproduction of the golden eagle’s nest, a variety of informations on diurnal and nocturnal birds of prey as well as a few stuffed specimens.
Other amenities in the park are: a restaurant, a bar, several mountain cottages (managed by the Carabinieri Forestali), the mountain garden (beautifully flowered during the summer), the botanical garden, a shop selling typical products (we recommend their cakes), many wildlife fences (with deers, roe deers, bears and grouses). The biggest attraction for adults and children is the bears area, where some brown bears are hosted (just below the Visitor Center) .
From the Visitor Center several trails (called “Airone”, heron) start for nice hikes into the wild, ranging from less than an hour (simplified trail) up to a couple of days. It ‘s recommendable to walk on these trails with hiking boots .
Airone 1 (length: 15 km – duration: 5 hours.): You start the walk from the parking of the Visitor Center in the direction of the Botanical Garden , then you continue walking on the right trail down to Pruno. After, you encounter the Vallone delle Grottacce and the Fonte dell’Amore, a source of fresh water located in the greenery of a centuries-old beech forest; then, you arrive to the prairie of Campaiana on which, not infrequently, you can see some animals that live in the area. From here the ascent to the summit of Pania of Corfino (magnificent panorama) begins. The next descent will lead the visitors to a place called Bocca dei Lupi (mouth of wolves), the Refuge Isera and, finally, to the point of departure, the Visitor Center of the Orecchiella Park.
Airone 2 (length: 8 km – Duration: 4.30 hours – height difference: 900 m): the trail starts from the same parking in front of the Visitor Center. Just follow the “Airone 2″ signs, cross the street below and get to the trail leading to the top of Monte Ripa, passing through the woods. From this mountain, you can enjoy a beautiful view of the Apuan Alps and the Apennines . Then you encounter the Rimonio stream whose bed is located in an interesting canyon. Climb up the river to find the trail that will bring you back to the starting point.
Airone 3 (length: 30 km in 2 days – duration: 6.30 hours the first day and 5 hours the second one): This trail is the most difficult among the series of “Airone” trails : it requires time (duration: 2 days) and a night stay in a mountain refuge. Like the previous ones, also this trail starts from the parking of the Visitor Center; follow the “Airone 3” signs, follow the paved road for about 1 km until you encounter 2 small fountains. Near the second one, there is the real beginning of the hiking trail that immediately plunges you into the green of a beautiful beech forest and leads you to the Lamarossa Reserve. After, start to climb on Bocca di Scala and continue to walk to Monte Prado (2050 mt). Now, it’s time to rest and eat something in one of the two shelters in the area: the Refuge “la Foce” (tel. +39 340 2333806) and the Refuge “Battisti” (tel. 0522/897497). The second day , start your walk on the trail leading to Valli Calde where there is a small stream easily fordable. Climb to Casini di Corte by walking on a country trail and continue along the marked trail that leads back to the Visitor Centre.
There are also 3 simplified paths for the disabled people:
The path of Fontanone: this trail, protected by a strong wooden handrail, crosses the woods for a length of 650 meters . This is recommended for blind people for the wealth of sounds and scents.
The path of the bears: the path leading to the bears fence allows visitors to enjoy a close experience with these cute plantigrades.
The path of deers: a magnificent location in a pine forest inhabited by various wild animals hosted in fences (deers, roe deers, grouses).
Park visiting hours:
-April: only Sundays and non-working days from 10 to 16
-May: only Sundays and non-working days from 10 to 17
-From June to August: every day from 10 to 18
-September: every day from 10 to 17
-October and November: only Sundays and non-working days from 10.30 to 15.30 (until 1st November)
Out of the above periods, you have to book the visit
Useful phone numbers:
– Visitor Centre: tel. +39 0583 619098
– Park guards: tel. +39 0583 660096
– Restaurant “La Greppia”: tel. +39 0583 619018