The coastal lake of Massaciuccoli


Mid-February, Stefano Pucci, our mountain guide, after so many hikes almost a friend, suggested a trip along the coastal lake of Massaciuccoli. It was a tour of about five hours with an altitudine difference of ten metres. Ten metres? No problem. And here I am in Massarosa with the other participants, ready to tackle the planned, not at all exhausting twelve kilometres.


Funny, but I somehow had the feeling that Stefano wanted to slowly slowly get us out of winter hibernation. It was also clear to me that he would send us back to the mountain peaks of the Apuan Alps at the latest from March/April with his determined, for some rather fast step. At the moment, just the mere thought of it makes me shudder.



February is a strange month, not quite winter, not yet spring. Apart from a few shy flowers, the whole plant kingdom around us still wears the colour brown in all its shades.



I can’t avoid admitting that it wasn’t easy for us to ignore a certain neglect that we didn’t expect. Dilapidated factory buildings, garbage, abandoned fields. Broken artificial lake shores that would be repaired if you believe the sign set up long ago. Fishermen’s cottages for fishing on the lake of carp, catfish or ale, which the dark water had almost completely swallowed. It is however comforting to know that different institutions are trying to understand how to rehabilitate this in itself beautiful area.


Years ago it was these half-sunk huts supporting many families. Any extra food, fresh fish, too, was highly welcome and under no circumstances to be underestimated. Later, the small houses have been used by hobby fishermen. Surely they enjoyed one or the other hour outdoors to the fullest, most likely totally relaxed and satisfied. With a little luck and patience, there would be fish cooked for lunch or dinner right there, in the fisherman’s cottages. You cannot get fish fresher than this.



Over the years, the water conditions have deteriorated more and more, which is why the number of fish has become less and less. This reality and a more modern lifestyle and always available food have led to the sad fact that the fishermen’s huts have been abandoned over time.



Apparently, lake water  is not as stimulating as sea water. It seems to have a rather calming effect driving away fear and worries. I’m not so sure about that. But the day was nice, clear and lukewarm, not cold at all. In the end, the hours of walking along the lake shore, whose water reflected the sunlight,  put us in a state of complete relaxation. Very, very pleasant.


I can well understand why the opera composer Giacomo Puccini (Tosca, Madame Butterly, Turandot) fell in love with this small piece of earth. On the opposite side of the lake, in Torre del Lago, he had an elegant villa built, which can still be visited in all its beauty today. Here he has probably found the necessary inner peace to compose his music. Every now and then, his well-known passion for hunting may have definitely distracted him. Later, only a few metres away, the most important open-air theatre in Tuscany has been built. Throughout the summer, Puccini’s worldwide known operas are brought to the stage.


On the eastern shore of the lake is the LIPU (Birdlife International), from where you can observe a large number of birds. The long sidewalks on wooden piles in the middle of reeds lead to small wooden huts that open up an incredible view of the water surface and fauna. Especially when the evening dawns and most birds go to sleep the setting sun turns everything into golden glitter  making the lake look incredibly beautiful. A few years ago, I had the chance to experience this magical spectacle. Lucky the people who have the chance to live here.



For a while, I often came here and went on the lake by rowing boat or Canadian canoe. Once even with a pedal boat. I still miss a tour on a large excursion boat but it’s planned for this year. It was a very special feeling to drive along the endless canals and watch the floating birds that hurriedly hid in the reeds as soon as they saw us getting closer. More than anything else, however, I wanted to capture the atmosphere of the lake with my camera. Unfortunately, I have to admit that even then the colour of the water, the shallow depth and the mud were a very disturbing sight.


All the time, Stefano told us interesting things about the lake, the fauna and the flora. He also showed us where wild garlic, chard, borage and dandelion grew, with which delicious sauces or omelets can be prepared. Of course, we would all have liked to try one or the other dish. A wish that has actually real possibilities to be realised. Three or four times a year, Stefano invites hikers to his home. Here he serves strictly vegan dishes whose ingredients come from the forest, meadows and his private garden.



It’s true, twelve kilometres in five hours with a height difference of ten metres are child’s play. But when one of us saw our parked cars in the distance towards afternoon, a sigh of relief went through the whole group.



A nice and interesting, but also instructive and yet relaxed day. Thank you Stefano. See you again soon.

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