Berignone Forest

This protected area, established in 1995 by the Tuscan Region, covers approximately 2170 hectares in the Val di Cecina, bordered by the village of Mazzolla to the west and by the river Sellate to the south.
Since ancient times, the forest has been exploited as a timber reserve, fuel for the power supply of steam boilers, but also for the extraction of the salt. From the so-called “moie”, brackish water holes, was extracted the salt in the form of brine, which was evaporated in special boilers fed with wood from Berignone.
The Berignone hills are composed of sedimentary rocks, conglomerates, marls, clays, legacy of a vast lake deposit site from the Upper Miocene (between 7 and 9 million years ago).
The Forest is crossed by many rivers such as the River Cecina, the streams Fosci, Sellate, Botro del Rio and others that create distinctive and particularly suggestive environments.
The forest is the absolute protagonist, majestically and intricately extended, rich of great plant varieties: holm oak, arbutus, phillyrea, juniper, mastic, myrtle, erica, viburnum, are the most common species to which are added other deciduous trees such as durmast . On the higher slopes there are field maple, flowering ash, hornbeam. The herbaceous vegetation of Berignone Forest is no exception: there are snowdrops, buttercups, violets, primroses, cysts, hellebores, wild roses and many orchids.
There are many mammals that inhabit the forest: wild boars, deers, fallow deers, mouflon sheep, hedgehogs, badgers, martens, weasels and squirrels. Also is remarkable, although sightings are rare, the presence of the wolf.
There is a great number of resident and migratory birds, as well as nocturnal and diurnal raptors. In this regard, the forest was surveyed among the habitats of Tuscany and is protected to safeguard the local fauna.
In the Middle Ages they were well inside the Berignone 3 castles owned by the powerful Bishops of Volterra. The best known is the Castle of Bishops, whose imposing ruins still towering over the valley carved by the Botro al Rio and the Sellate stream.
The second important castle was demolished around 1218 by citizens of Volterra, and today we only know the location, as no ruins remained to testify his glory: in its place we find today the old structure of the housing estate Caprareccia, surrounded by olive trees hemmed by special stone walls.
The third castle was also destroyed by the city of Volterra in 1200: it was said ‘Frassineta’, which suggests that it was built in a place where the frassino (ash) plants were in abundance, it is assumed on a hillock of Monte Soldano. In a 1936 report there is a description of “a 2-storey building, a total of 11 rooms, that was a barrack” called “Tatti’s pantry”. The building, dating back to the late 1800s was initially used as a house of the guards in charge of the ordinary supervision of the forest and was equipped with stalls for horses and mules, used during the tree felling. Renovated in the ’40s, it became a small storehouse of food reserves for the numerous woodcutters and charcoal burners who carried out their fervent activity in this beautiful forest.

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