Pian di Spagna and Lake Mezzola nature reserve
The Pian di Spagna and Lake Mezzola Nature Reserve was established in 1983 to ensure the environment suitable for stopping and nesting migratory birds and protecting the environmental characteristics present in the area. The Pian di Spagna is an alluvial plain of almost 1600 hectares. It is located between the Adda and Mera rivers, the northern part of Lake Como, Lake Mezzola and the conjunction of the Chiavenna Valley with the Valtellina. The Nature Reserve extends over an area that has always been disputed between land and water. The peculiarity of its geographical position makes the area rich in interesting observation points both from a naturalistic and a historical-cultural point of view. It was an area inhabited since Roman times, as confirmed by archaeological finds in the area of Sant’Agata.
The Pian di Spagna owes its name to the Spanish dominion in the XVI-XVIII century. Due to its strategic position, this plain hosted, from the Middle Ages, several fortifications, which were then exploited and expanded by the Spanish. They were built to protect the territory from raids and safeguard the important communication route of the Scalottola, now known as the Sentiero del Viandante. From here it passed the border between the Grisons and the Duchy of Milan. For this reason, the Count of Fuentes, governor of Milan, decided to build a fort there. Located on the northern hill of Montecchio, the Fuentes Fort was in connection with other defensive positions, such as the Torre di Sorico, the Forte d’Adda, the Tower of Curcio and that of Fontanedo. The Fort was dismantled only in 1796, by Napoleon Bonaparte to comply with the demands of the neighboring Grisons.
The surrounding mountains form a picturesque backdrop to this strip of plain, especially when they are covered with bright autumn colors. The formation of the Pian di Spagna from a geological point of view is relatively recent. In Roman times Lake Como and Lake Mezzola were a single reservoir. Over the centuries, due to the continuous flooding of the Adda river, earth and rock materials accumulated to form a marshy plain. The area was unhealthy and impossible to grow. The two lakes remained in communication through the Mera canal. In it, for several centuries, the Adda flowed, opening a tortuous path through the newborn flood plain. Things improved under Austrian domination. In the mid-nineteenth century, important reclamation works were carried out.
The Adda river was diverted and led to the northern basin of Lake Como. In the same period the Borgofrancone canal was dug to channel the water coming from Mount Legnone. The wide esplanade gives life to a vegetal landscape dominated by reed with marsh reed. Also noteworthy are mixed deciduous forests, large agricultural areas used for grazing or maize plots. The waters of the canals, of the Mera and of the Lake of Mezzola are inhabited by various species of fish, including perch, pike, trout, agonis and eel. These slow-flowing waters, with a muddy bottom and abundant vegetation, such as those of ditches, are the ideal habitat for carp and tench. Canals, pools and ponds are rich in frogs and toads. Among the mammals are common hares, foxes, bats and wild mice. Interesting is the small population of deer that frequents the Reserve.
But the real heritage of the Reserve is, however, made up of birds, both nesting and migratory. Among migratory and resident birds have been observed belonging to 200 different species. You can see the little vault, the kingfisher, the very rare bluethroat, the cannaiola, the speckled scallop and the wet nurse. The Reserve is the ideal place for the nesting of many birds. The Pian di Spagna offers an ideal setting for nature lovers who want to spend a day in peace, also taking advantage of the proximity of important tourist destinations. The territory of Pian di Spagna and Lake Mezzola contains important historical and artistic works. Note the romantic temple of San Fedelino located on the ancient Strada Regina and the fort of Fuentes. The famous Spanish fortress was rebuilt and expanded to cope with the French threat. Even today the remains of the walls that enclosed the internal parade ground are visible. Even today the remains of the walls that enclosed the internal parade ground are visible.
And for those looking for a bit of adventure, we recommend the horse trail, dug out of the hard rock in Verceia. A path completely immersed in nature to discover architectural artifacts and the beauty of mountain flora. For bike lovers, the Valtellina path begins here, a cycle and pedestrian path that follows the course of the Adda from Colico to Grosio between characteristic villages and river forests.