The Pietraporciana nature reserve occupies the top, northern side, and part of the southern side of Poggio mountain (847 m). It is crossing Chianciano Terme and Sarteano, separates Val d'Orcia from Val di Chiana, and spreads to the south with Monte Cetona.
The most interesting aspect of the reserve is the beech forest developing on the steep northern slope of the Poggio di Pietraporciana. The altitude there reaches over the 800 meters and thanks to its north exposure and its position in the middle of warm winds, it maintains a peculiar microclimate throughout all year. The forest is a beautiful example of relict beech woods, a remnant of the much larger and extensive beech forests which, a few thousand years ago, populated lower altitudes. Although beech is the predominant species, with many impressive examples, it is frequently accompanied by Turkey oak, white hornbeam, mountain maple, opal maple, the black hornbeam, and ciavardello (Sorbus torminalis). The dense shade cast by the beech trees prevents the growth of thick undergrowth. As a result, the shrubs -such as hazel, corniolo (cornus mas) and berretta da prete (euonymus europaeus)- are rather sparse and typical of cool and humid environments.
The Pietraporciana beech forest hosts, among others, two rare shrub species for the Italian territory: The belladonna (atropa belladonna) and a dangerous kind of bush with poisonous blueberries that grows under the beeches (euonymus latifolius). The former is, in fact, a typical species of the Mediterranean-mountain area, and it is present in the province and the reserve, as well as in the near fir woods of Vivo d'Orcia, close by Amiata mountain. The reservoir is also one of the few places in the province where the martagon lily (lilium martagon) grows. This is a Liliaceae that has become very rare due to its intense harvest. The most representative animal species of the reserve are connected with the forest, in particular to beech and cerreta. There are three species of woodpeckers: The great woodpecker, the green woodpecker, and the stiff neck woodpeckers; sparrowhawks can also be seen. Among mammals, the marten, which is usually an indicator species of well-preserved woods, and a presence of wolfs have also been reported to be living in the area. In the hollows of the trunks, the barn owl (tyto alba) and the tawny owl (strix aluco) find shelter, and at night move to the surrounding open areas in search of small rodents. On larger trees, the biancone (circaetus gallicus) nest, along with the lodolaio (falco subbuteo), the honey buzzard (pernis apivorus) and the buzzard (buteo buteo).
The cottage in the center of the natural reserve is the reference point for visitors and hikers: this facility can accommodate up to 24 people as a hostel, offering bed & breakfast. It also has a small amphitheater where artistic, educational, and cultural events can be held. The Pietraporciana nature reserve can be reached from Sarteano by taking the road to Castiglioncello del Trinoro. After about 3km leave the road SP126 and continue on the dirt road towards the equipped area "Le Crocette." From Chianciano, instead, proceed from the gardens of "La Foce" on a dirt road for about 3.5km following the wooden signs. The visitor center is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm. For reservations, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website www.pietraporciana.it
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