The Brabbia Reserve is part of the Brabbia Marsh Regional Reserve. There are 459 hectares of reed beds, ponds and woodland to the south of Lake Varese. This marshland area was a peat bog which was intensively exploited for peat extraction from the middle of the nineteenth century. The ponds are the former peat diggings where, over the years, a natural environment has been re-established. Today, Brabbia is very varied: small copses of willow and alder alternate with reedbeds and shallow pools. A feature of Brabbia is woodland which is flooded for much of the year, and here only alders and willows thrive, but oaks also grow on drier ground. There is a great variety of plants, including some rare species. The intermixing and interlinking of micro-environments has produced a very abundant animal life, reflecting the richness of this marshland habitat.
The ornithological importance of the Brabbia Marsh justifies its designation as a Ramsar site. At least 140 bird species have been noted within the protected area: the rare Ferrugious Duck is observed regularly and Snipe have bred in recent years. These are not common in Italy and their presence at the reserve reflects the high quality of the environment here. The marsh attracts many migrating species. It is possible to observe nine species of ducks, including Garganay, Shoveler, Wigeon and Pintail and raptors include the very rare and unmistakable Osprey which never fails to show up on its journey north. Passerines include the elusive Bluethroat, which has been observed with increasing frequency, and in the dense reedbeds are numerous breeding pairs of Savi’s Warblers, as well as Great Reed Warblers, Reed Warblers and Marsh Warblers. Their calls can be heard throughout the summer. Amongst the reeds are such species as the rarer Little Crake, very difficult to observe, and Water Rail, which has been chosen as the symbol of the reserve on account of its constant presence. Since 1993 Brabbia has had its own heronry, the most northerly in Lombardy, and here there are breeding Purple Herons, Grey Herons and Night Herons. It is a fair sized colony of over 100 pairs and from spring to autumn birdwatchers are certain of observing them. In the woods are many woodpeckers: the characteristic call of Green Woodpeckers is often heard but it is very difficult to spot the rarer Lesser Spotted. A dozen diurnal raptors have been observed; in addition to Ospreys there are also Hen Harriers, Marsh Harriers (probably breeding), Black Kites (breeding), Sparrowhawks, Common Buzzards (breeding), Kestrels, Merlins, Hobbys (breeding) and Peregrines. Long-eared and Short-eared Owls are also resident.
The presence within the Brabbia reserve of rare and localised amphibians and reptiles is evidence of its richness. Of mammals, the polecat is still there, although it is increasingly rare in other parts of Italy, and there are also weasels, stone martens and foxes. There are four species of bats, attracted by the masses of mosquitoes and other insects which collect over the reedbeds. Harvest mice build their characteristic nests, which can sometimes be seen among the marshland bushes, as well as other more elusive species of voles and mice. The abundance of small animals and invertebrates forms the basis of the food chain in the Brabbia.
Brabbia Reserve was established through collaboration between LIPU, the Province of Varese, the Region of Lombardy and the Commune of Inarzo.
The reserve is open all year, on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Opening times: 9 -13 and 15 – 19.
The reserve may be closed during winter months in bad weather.