Historically, the Volturno valley is the northern border of the Torcino and Mastrati Royal Hunting Reserve, owned by the Bourbons. This wild zone is inhabited by wolves and goats, and is an important part of the natural heritage. The Oasi Le Mortine lies on the brief stretch of river that forms the border between Molise and Campania. It occupies an artificial oxbow lake that was formed following the building of a barrage to create a reservoir to produce hydroelectric power. Oasi Le Mortine
Enel owns about 32 ha around the Presa Volturno power station, cre ated in the 1950s. The surrounding land has been entrusted, by Enel, to WWF Italia. This area, together with a 15 ha public island in the river and a small artificial lake, form a 50 ha protected area of great environmental interest. The various water environments are surrounded by hygrophilous plants – that is, plants that live on land but prefer perennially damp conditions, such as willows, poplars and alders.
This is one of the best conserved such woods in Italy, although the trees once covered about 100 ha (before indiscriminate felling changed things). This section, though, has been ‘intact’ for at least the last 50 years. In this area, between the Mainarde and Matese areas, the Volturno runs through a thick wood of water-loving vegetation.
Secondary branches of the river also cut through the trees, creating impenetrable islands with unique features. The river then widens as it nears the Enel dam, causing the water to flow more slowly and thus allowing reed-beds to form near shores of the reservoir. The vegetation that once surrounded the entire course of the river is still well preserved in this segment. You can see typical riparian plants, with some hydrophyte plants (adapted to growing in water) and helophyte ones (adapted to marshes), as well as vegetation that favours pebbly river banks, some scrubland and, especially, the hygrophilous wood.
The reed-bed of Phragmites australis and the reed-mace are found on the steep banks of the Enel reservoir and also on the small bits of land in the basin formed by the Volturno barrage. The ditches and channels that cut through the wood and the temporary pools of water that form and then disappear are home to semi-submerged vegetation: rushes, hooded matweed, nasturtiums and veronica. The willows dig their roots into the pebbly banks, creating islands of vegetation that fight erosion.
Common and purple osier and white willow predominate in the wetland wood along with the white poplar and common alder (in one part of the wood, the alder forms a lovely grove together with blood orange trees, hazel, common privet and hops). The outer, drier reaches have manna- ash, elm, field maple and common oaks.
The latter is a remnant of the old Piana di Venafro plain forest, where trees used to grow amid pools of water created by the branches of the river that formed a network of waterways, wells and springs. The lake and the wood are the ideal habitat for numerous water creatures, especially in winter and during the migratory seasons. Indeed, this area lies on various migratory routes. In spring, mallards and moorhens come to nest here, as do rails, coots and the great crested grebe with its ornate head plumes. Pochards, wigeons, teals, garganeys, tufted ducks and northern pintails come to spend the winter here, as do the grey heron (symbol of the protected area), purple heron, little egret, little bittern and black-winged stilt. The list of birds-of-prey includes the brown kite, buzzard, goshawk and shorteared owl.

The visit

The itinerary starts from the Visitors’ Centre with a video that explains some of the environmental characteristics of the Volturno valley. From this, you head onto the Energy and Nature Trail, which is easy to reach and not very difficult. The first stretch runs next to, on one side, a crystal-clear resurgence of the Volturno, and on the other, a shore of the Enel reservoir. A marked side trail takes you, if you wish, to a hide to watch the water creatures. This detour is recommended because of the splendid view encompassing the rugged riparian vegetation and the delightful backdrop of the Torcino mountains. The main trail then passes through a small clearing with an ‘educational pond’. After this, you head into a thick section of water-loving wood dominated by tall poplars and alders.
The undergrowth has creeper plants that wind up the trunks creating a thick web of vegetation. It is as if the glorious history of this zone is coming back – this was the Bourbons’ Royal Hunting Reserve of Venafro and Torcino – or has been left untouched by time.
If you head towards a branch of the Volturno, which winds its way through the thick bush, you come to the edge of the wood. From here, you can see the extraordinary view to the north, dominated by the wild Mainarde mountains, rising up to the cultivated fields of Piana di Venafro. This is the Molise section of the Parco Nazionale d’Abruzzo, Lazio e Molise. To return to the start point, you need to head back into the wood through a section of wonderful old trees.
The environs Venafro is a town of pre-Roman origin with an interesting old centre. It is surrounded by old olive groves that spread out toward the upper Volturno valley, covering an area of great natural and landscape beauty that is dotted with fortified hamlets. Capriati a Volturno, a picturesque town on the slopes of Matese, is the entranceway to the Parco Regionale del Matese Campano and is near to various other WWF protected areas, such as the ones of Bosco San Silvestro, Guardiaregia- Campochiaro and the Oasi delle Abetine.

How to get there

The protected area is situated on the border between Campania and Molise, in the municipalities of Capriati al Volturno (CE) and Venafro (IS), not far from the Venafro- Isernia stretch of the SS85 road. Leave the motorway at the San Vittore exit (coming from the north) or Caianello (coming from the south), then continue for Venafro respectively on the SS6 or the SS85 road; near La Madonnella shopping Centre or near Triverno (if you are coming from Campobasso and Pescara) take the SP Piana di Venafro road and follow the signs for the Oasi Le Mortine


Le Mortine protected area has a well-equipped and well-indicated Nature Trail, a hide for watching the fauna, an educational pond, an orchard with traditional fruit trees, educational beehives and a picnic area. It is open throughout the year and visits can be organised with prior notice by contacting the Cooperativa Croco tel. 0865951009 or the WWF Isernia Section, tel.0865904613.

Useful addresses

Cooperativa Croco via Nazionale 70, Pizzone (IS) tel. 0865951009.
WWF di Isernia tel. 0865411955; visits of the protected area: tel. 0865904613.

Visualizzazione ingrandita della mappa

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