Val Sarmassa Special Nature Reserve

This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)

Established in 1993, Val Sarmassa Special Regional Nature Reserve is in the province of Asti, between the municipalities of Vinchio, Vaglio Serra and Incisa Scapaccino. It covers an area of some 495 acres, between 502 and 905 ft above sea level.

It is a truly uncontaminated environment, with extremely rich biodiversity, offering highly evocative landscapes, beautiful hills covered by woods, green meadows, and vineyards.

From a geological point of view, this area is part of the Piedmont Ligurian Tertiary Basin and, in fact, it features several outcrops of sand and clay, rich in paleontological findings such as shells, molluscs, and the remains of marine mammals.

Originally inhabited by prehistoric populations, as per the discovery of several stone artefacts, this area was then chosen by Celtic-Ligurian tribes, and by the Sarmatian population (from which it takes its name), later conquered by the Romans. In medieval times, it became a fief of the Scarampi, the Incisa, and, finally, the Crova family.

Val Sarmassa was a source of inspiration for a great post-war journalist and writer, Davide Lajolo, a native of Vinchio, who celebrated these lands in many of his essays and novels.

The Flora

Over time, the wooded areas have partially covered the area once used for the vineyards; nonetheless, high-quality vines are still grown (with minimum planting distance and low yield) along the hill ridges. Visitors may also come across occasional strips of chestnut groves, while along the borderline between Vaglio and Incisa, there is a young oak grove (Quercus petraea); several specimens of black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) are also present, often mixed with ashes, hornbeams and hazelnut trees.

In the undergrowth, there are several species of shrubs, such as hawthorn (Crataegus spp.), Rosa canina, honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.), blackthorns (Prunus spinosa), and Eropean spindle (Euonymus europaeus).

The most common flowers are dogtooth violets (Erythronium dens-canis), pulmonaria, primroses, anemones, lilies of the valley (Convallaria majalis), violets, cornflowers, ragged-robins, Solomon’s seals (Polygonatum multiflorum), liverwort, narrow-leaved helleborines (Cephalanthera spp.), and lady orchids (Orchis purpurea).

The Fauna

The conversion of the vineyards into woodlands has changed and expanded the fauna ecosystem. Several mammals live in the wooded areas, including weasels, badgers, squirrels, dormice, hares, foxes, hedgehogs and wild boars, while the stagnant waters of the Blue Lake are inhabited by some species of amphibians and reptiles such as green lizards, wall lizards, and Aesculapian snakes,
In the reserve, there is also a large number of birds, including green woodpeckers, lesser spotted woodpeckers, hoopoes, great tits, jays, magpies, European bee-eaters, buzzards, kestrels, and owls.

This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)


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