Sites of naturalistic interest
The natural oasis of the Bottaccio's Wood
The WWF Oasis of Bottaccio, located in the municipality of Capannori, is a nature reserve that spreads out in the territory of the Rio Visona in Castelvecchio, one of the various streams the run down the Monti Pisani.
This nature reserve expands for about 20 hectares and it preserves, along with "Bosco di Tanali", one of the last woods that once surrounded the lake of Bientina.
The area, instituted as Nature Reserve of Local Interest (ANPIL: Area Protetta di Interesse Locale) by the municipality of Capannori, is crossed by the streams that run down the slopes of Monti Pisani creating marshes and swamps. The area has been modified by human works but it maintains most of its original features.
In 1993 it was instituted as nature reserve so to protect the landscape and the wildlife, and thus became one of the 130 WWF natural oasis of Italy. It is visitable. It was also enlarged thanks to the interventions of the municipalities of Capannori and Bientina.
The name of the oasis, "Bottaccio", indicates the drainage areas that were totally embanked to collect water and sediments. Bottacci, in fact, are the artificial basins located in the area that collect the water running down Monti Pisani.
What does the landscape offer?
The landscape has different features and we can mention at least four kinds of territory: the wooden area, the meadows, the canebrakes and the "clears" or clearings that form a variegated mosaic.
The little wood is mainly constituted of farnias and black alders, along with minor elms, maples, elders and other local trees.
It is to mention the presence of the rare Arisarum proboscideum, endemic species of the italic peninsula with rhizomes very appreciate by the porcupines. The depressed area of the Bottaccio (in which grow the marsh cane and the samphire) and the meadows do not have a wildlife of great interest, but create the harmonic mix that is characteristic of this landscape.
There are many animals that populate the oasis: we can catch sight of boars, foxes, porcupines and rodents such as loirs, harvest mouses and dormouses. It is important the presence of amphibians like newts, efts, frogs and tree frogs, symbol of the oasis.
The opening season is from March to May, the best period for birdwatching: we can spot wild ducks, baldcoots, water hens and dabchicks.
The canebrakes shelter butterbumps and reed warblers, that also populate the adjacent canals. During the period of migration, grey and red herons and white storks are also visible. These species once populated the bogs next to the bottacci and their presence is a good sign of health of the territory.
The organization of the Oasis and the guided visits
In the WWF Oasis of Bottaccio visitors can find various paths, uplifted wooden bridges for the osservation of the swamps, two watching sheds next to the clearings for birdwatching, a rest area and a "Nature Route" with didactic panels to learn more about the wildlife of the area.
The guided visits begin with a historical and naturalistic presentation of the Oasis and continue with the Nature Route that runs into the wood of farnias and black alders. The path leads then to meadows, marshes and clearings, where it is possible to rest and practice birdwatching.
The Oasis organizes also activities of environmental studies for children and students. Both the lessons and the guided visits of the Oasis last about 2 hours. Pupils can be transported by bus.
The Oasis of Bottaccio remains closed and is not visitable for long periods during the hunting season. in this period the oasis often gives wild animals the possibility of finding shelters.
For this reason, guided visits organized by expert staff are available from the first Sunday of March to May. The visits begin at 10:30 and at 15:30. Group and school visits can be also organized on working days, under reservation.
Promotion, reservations, guided visits and didactic activities are organized by the Association "Il Tuffetto".
Information and reservation:
ASSOCIAZIONE IL TUFFETTO
Via della Francese n. 8 - S. Ginese di Compito (LU)
Cell.: 389 7816207; Fax: 0583 379999
How to reach the Oasis
The Oasis of Bottaccio is located in the municipality of Capannori (LU), in the locality of Castelvecchio di Compito. The Oasis is easily reachable with private and public transport (bus).
Private transport: from Lucca (A11 exit Capannori) take the SS 439 Sarzanese Valdera to Pontedera; pass the village of Castelvecchio di Compito, turn left and take the Strada Provinciale of Bonifica del Tiglio, next to the sports ground of Castelvecchio. Continue on foot from here, taking the dirt road after the bridge on Fosso di Confine, on the left. This dirt road runs along the ancient lake of Bientina and streches for about 1 kilometre. At the end there is the entrance of the oasis, on the right.
Public transport: Clap bus, Lucca-Pontedera line, stop at the sports field of Castelvecchio di Compito. The oasis is only 1 kilometre far from there.
The Oak of the Witches
San Martino in Colle
For those who stay or visit the territory of Capannori we recommend a visit to the monumental oak located in the fraction of San Martino in Colle.
This tree has impressive sizes: the trunk is 4 metres round and 25 metres high. It is one of the monumental trees of Italy and it appears in Nato maps as military trigonometric point.
The shape of this tree has stirred the fantasy of the locals, that has attributed it two legends.
The first one tells that the oak was the meeting point of witches, who were used to dance and celebrate their rites on its top. The presence of the witches on the top of the oak had not allowed the full growth of the branches, giving the tree its particular "flat" shape, with horizontal branches. For this reason the tree is usually called "oak of the witches".
The second one is linked to the famous fable of Pinocchio. According to this legend, this oak is the tree under which Pinocchio buried his gold coins during the trip to the Paese dei Balocchi with the Cat and the Fox. It is said that the author of this fable, writing about the Paese dei Balocchi, was thinking about the Settembre Lucchese, month in which the city of Lucca hosts various exhibitions and merry activities. According to this point of view, the tree is located exactly half-way along the road that links Collodi to Lucca.
Camellias and the Compito's area
"Compito" is an ancient little village on the slopes of Monti Pisani. It is characterized by simple buildings with hay lofts, stables and ovens and by imposing villas with gardens enframed by fortified walls. It is a privileged area for the cultivation of camellias and the fractions of Pieve di Compito and Sant'Andrea di Compito are known with the toponym of "Village of the Camellias".
The Camellia is an ornamental flower with important virtues already known in the past: with the leaves of "Camellia Sinensis", or "camellia of the tea", people prepare delicious teas; the massive wood of the trunk is used for the construction of musical instruments with high sonority; the essential oils extracted from the multicoloured petals are used for the composition of dyes particularly suitable for delicate fabrics; the seeds give edible and lubricating oils used for scientific and pharmaceutical purposes.
The Camellia genus numbers more than 250 spontaneous species and thousands of cultivated species of a high ornamental beauty.
The range of the spontaneous species includes the varieties with yellow flowers, with little blossoms, with big white and pink flowers and so on.
The Camellia Japonica is surely the most famous species and it has gained the status of Camellia "par excellence".
The Camellietum of Compito
The Camellietum or camelieto is a place specifically created to have a collection of the various species of camellia, from the most ancient to the most recent ones. It is part of a vast project of improvement of the historical and artistic richnesses of Compito. This project has already promoted the construction of a historical and architectonical itinerary, of a botanical route and of an itinerary geared to discover the traditional use of water. The Camellietum is located in an area called "kitchen gardens of Ciopino": the word kitchen garden is related to the ancient use of these grounds, while the name Ciopino was the nickname of the owner of this area.
The works of construction lasted four years (2001-2005) and the Camellietum was inaugurated in 2005.
The idea of the Camellietum was born after various researches made on the camellias with the purpose of conducting a census, so to have the complete overview of the cultivations of camellias present in the territory of Lucca. Some species are very rare, some are threatened with extinction, but there are financial or professional problems that do not permit the development of the cultures. Who has assumed the responsibility of the camellieto, is also in charge of planting and cultivating the rare species. The real purpose for which the camellieto was created is therefore the will of preserving every variety of camellia and of creating the ideal place where to learn everything about the culture of this plant.
The structure has remained untouched and has four terraced gardens delimited by drystone walls. Also the environmental contest has been well preserved and mantains the typical wildlife of the territory. The four terraced gardens are delimited by drystone walls that strech for about 1000 mq. They form four indipendent spaces at various heights. They are reachable by the road that leads to Monte Serra. On every terraced garden there are different varieties that represent the historical and chronological evolution of the camellia.
- the first low terracing contains the simplest camellias Japoniche, always fertile: alba simplex, rubra simplex and rosa simplex;
- on the second terracing we find the non-Japonica varieties: camellia sinensis;
- on the third terracing we find camellias with semi-double flowers, always fertile;
- on the fourth terracing there are the most complex camellias, the ones with double flowers.
The camellieto is visitable in every period of the year.
"The Path of the Camellias"
The camellia represents the very example of how a botanical passion can become an economic resource for the territory. The itinerary conducts the visitors to the discovery of the most spectacular camellias. It runs along rural houses, paths, drystone walls and ancient buildings such as the watching tower that dates back to 1300 and some suggestive seventeenth-centuries villas. Walking down this path, visitors can enjoy another untouched reality where the camellia is the only protagonist: we have to mention the enchanted garden of Villa Bottini with its wood of camellias and a clearing filled with petals, or the "spalliera" of Villa Orsi, where dozens of ancient plants create a sequence of exclusive colours. Along the itinerary we also find working stone mills where to taste the local extravirgin olive oil.
The itinerary also leads the visitors to the discovery of a experimental cultivation of camellias and of the "camellieto" that will charm grown-ups and children alike with its 200 species of camellias.
The "Exhibition of the Ancient Camellias of Lucca"
The "Exhibition of the Ancient Camellias of Lucca" is the most classic itinerary that, every year, celebrates the flowering of the camellias that here, in some of the most prestigious villas of Lucca, reach an hight of 10 metres.
The main attraction of the exhibition is the "path of the camellias" that, crossing villages, courtes and courtyards, flanks streams and the fortified walls of the villas that, opened for the occasion, show their gardens enriched by precious varieties of camellias.
Moreover, some cut flowers are exposed along the streets of the villages. These flowers (the 200 species of Camellia Japonica) come from all over Lucca and from the Garden of Boboli, in Florence. There also are shows, activities in laboratories, travelling concerts and the visit to the tea plantation (Camellia Sinensis), unique in all Europe.
A japanese delegation, coming from Shizuoka, takes part in the event and brings customs and ways of the oriental art. Visitors can taste different kinds of green tea and witness the typical cerimony of the tea.
During the period of this exhibition, the gardens of the villas are opened to visitors and a series of related activities permit to enjoy every peculiar aspect of the territory: we may cite the past "Moon and Camellias", an astronomic osservation organized by the Institute Ricerche Fotometriche and "A flower unique in the world: the Camellia interpretated by the characters of the italian manga" that links the japanese cartoons art with the camellia through an exposition of artistic works and unpublished videos.
Visiting this exhibition, we cannot skip the Camellietum, gardens with more than 200 species of camellias that will charm the visitor with its incredibile variety of colours, shapes and tonalities.
Information and contacts about the "Exhibition of the Ancient Camellias of Lucca":
Centro Culturale del Compitese
Tel. +39 0583 977 188; Fax. +39 0583 977 044,
Web Site: www.camelielucchesia.it