Alviano back in shape..

May 10, 2013 / Places
Madonna del Porto, Umbria
alvianoItaly is best known for its art and culture (and, of course, food and wine), but the Bel Paese is also covered with beautiful natural parks and reserves…over 100 of which are run by the WWF (World Wildlife Fund for Nature). My favorite, the WWF Oasis of Alviano in the southern part of Umbria, was hit hard by a devastating flood last fall with damage to the parkland and its infrastructure. When they put out the call for volunteers to come and lend a hand rebuilding, I signed right up.

The Alviano Oasis is one of the WWF’s largest, extending 900 hectares along the manmade Alviano Lake, formed with the 1960 damming of the Tiber River for a hydroelectic plant. The area had already been an established stop for thousands of migratory birds each year, but with the formation of the vast lake and surrounding wetland, the importance of the resulting ecosystem became such that in 1978 the area became a natural reserve and in 1990 was taken over by the WWF.

There are four kilometers of walkways and hiking paths circling the lake and marsh, broken up by bird blinds and towers. Here skilled (and, ahem, lucky) birders can spot over a hundred species, includine brightly plumed kingfishers, great crested grebes, herons, cormorants, bitterns, and falcons. The area is also lush with acquatic plants and the amphibians that call them home.

alviano 6When I went to lend a hand on the first gorgeously sunny Sunday of spring, I was expecting scenes of destruction and despair. Instead, I found that though much of the park infrastructure had been badly damaged (the oasis also lost two of their three horses in the flood), reconstruction efforts were going well and spirits were high with both the staff there directing the work and the hearty group of volunteers.

We worked on clearing the paths, rebuilding walkways, cleaning out the blinds and towers, and repairing fencing. Ours was just one in months of volunteer weekends, and it was so heartening to see the mixed group of locals and lovers of the oasis from further afield working together to get this unique area in shape to be reopened for the 2013 season. Indeed, just a few weeks later the Alviano Oasis was able to open its gates to birding enthusiasts again (though there is still work to be done), just in time for the first spring migration.

The Alviano Oasis is open to the public 10 am to sunset from September 1st to May 15th (best times for birding are October/November and April/May). The entrance to the Oasis is at Madonna del Porto (Guardea) along the Alviano Scalo-Baschi road. For more information, email or call 0744/903715 or 333/7576283.

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Rebecca Winke

by Rebecca Winke

Owner of Brigolante Apartments, a restored 16th century stone farmhouse / guesthouse in the heart of Umbria near Assisi, and blogger of life in Umbria. For tips and insider information about visiting Umbria, download her Umbria Slow App and see her writings on her personal website!

8 Responses to “Alviano back in shape..”

  1. Alex Cicchinelli

    Take a look at this site

    And what a pleasure it is to see this article. Together, the site and the article, generate pride in a lost aspect of Bel Paese. Italians often devote too much time in lamenting what’s not working in this funny country. Italy is more than just art and history, food and tours. Our cultural cringe vis a vis the “northerners” could be offset by more awareness of our natural beauties and Italy’s substantial effort to preserve and enhance them. I have an Abruzzese heart, of course. Alex

  2. Colleen Simpson

    Thank you so much for joining in to save another piece of our natural paradise here in Umbria. First the drought of summer and then the floods of autumn; last year we were all at the mercy of Mother Nature and I do not think she was happy! Great note and wonderful work! Grazie Mille.

  3. S. Anderson

    Even the birds in Italia look stylish! What a country :) Thanks for a lovely story.

  4. Jan C.

    I appreciate the article and great photos, love to hear about the parks and outdoor attractions, especially where to see the birds and wildlife.

  5. Anna Mangus

    I am always looking for ways to connect to the place we visit, particularly volunteer work, outdoor, even better. Is there a way to contact the WWF to learn about volunteer opportunities for adults and children?


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