Situated at the heart of the Apuane Alps, Campocatino Reserve stretches immediately above the village of Vagli, within a kind of basin, from which it gets its name, and in the shelter of the mountain, Roccandagia. Within its area of some 1100 hectares are all the types of habitat which are typical of this part of the Apennines: extensive beechwoods, mixed woodland, meadows and high pastures, rocky crags and mountain peaks. The landscape, formed over millions of years, is the result of complex geological activity, characterised by sedimentation, submersion and re-emergence. Geological processes have obviously determined the arrival and development of the characteristic animal and plant life: Campocatino Reserve and the whole of the Apuane Alpine complex is, especially regarding the vegetation, a very interesting area with several rare endemic species.
Although covering a relatively limited area, the Reserve is rather special in that there is a close association of vegetation types which are characteristic of both Mediterranean and typical Alpine environments. The woods at lower altitude are largely of oak and chestnut, with a dense shrubby understorey, while at higher altitude the wooded areas are almost entirely of beech. Rocky areas have been colonised by plant species which are typical of mountain regions, such as saxifrage, as well as many rare and localised species. Meadows and high pastures in the higher parts, areas of macchia and heathland scattered everywhere, small caves and clefts in the rocks; these are all part of the diverse landscape of Campocatino Reserve.
The combination of all these habitats is very attractive for birds: within the Reserve over 110 species have been observed, some of which are quite rare and localised in Italy. Of these, Choughs and Alpine Choughs, mountain representatives of the crow family, are particularly distinctive. Choughs search stony screes and rocky outcrops for insects and larvae. More common and easier to observe, Alpine Choughs nest in caves and in fissures in the crags. They circle above the mountain tops, sometimes in groups of 20-30 at a time, and their distinctive whistling cries give a special atmosphere to Campocatino Reserve. Another species which is characteristic of mountain areas is the Wallcreeper, easily recognisable by its slow, fluttering flight, quite similar to that of a butterfly. It nests in clefts and holes within the rocky crags. Of the raptors, as well as common species such as Common Buzzards, Kestrels and Sparrowhawks, Golden Eagles patrol the meadows and high pastures in their search for prey. In open areas, with shrubs and stony ground, there are lesser known species such as Rock Thrush, Tawny Pipit, Wheatear and Black Redstart. In the breeding season the woods are alive with an uninterrupted chorus of songs and calls of Blackbirds and Thrushes, Wrens and Robins, various tits, Tree-creepers and Nuthatches. Screeching Magpies, laughing Green Woodpeckers and drumming Greater Spotted Woodpeckers are also part of the bird life of the woods and the Reserve.
The Reserve was established thanks to collaboration between the Local Authorities and LIPU, to know and respect the environment of Campocatino and the Apuane Alps.
The Reserve is open all year on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Opening times are 0900 to 1300 and 1400 to 1800. The Reserve may be closed in winter due to weather conditions.