“Four boats sailed up the main channel towards the large lagoon to the north… Everything was frosty, freshly frozen during the sudden cold of the windless night”
These are words from Ernest Hemingway’s novel Across the River and Into the Trees, which tells the story of a sick colonel who, after fighting in both world wars, chooses to live the last part of his life in a treasured corner of the Veneto region, what we now call the Vallevecchia Nature Reserve.
A small area of unspoilt nature in Brussa, a stone’s throw from Caorle, is one of the most beautiful and important wetlands in Europe.
If you decide to visit this oasis, it won’t be difficult to conjure up Hemingway’s words in the presence of a marvellous mosaic of landscapes where nature reigns supreme, in suggestive silences interrupted only by the murmur of water and the song of birds.
Discovering the Vallevecchia Nature Reserve by bike
The Vallevecchia Nature Oasis is located on the coastal stretch between Bibione and Caorle, in the heart of the Caorle Lagoon itself where the Reghena, Nicesolo, Lemene and Livenza rivers come together.
This wild and unspoilt place is nothing more than a reflection of how the Adriatic coastline looked in the past, so much so this is where some of the very few sand dunes can be found along the entire Adriatic Sea.
The Oasis includes the small island of Vallevecchia, literally surrounded by river, lagoon and sea waters, the habitat of an exceptional biodiversity connected to the presence of different ecosystems.
To discover this natural gem, you can also organise an excursion along no less than 27 km of footpaths that can be travelled by horse-drawn carriage, on foot or by bicycle, with a cycle path that also includes spectacular stretches on the beach.
If you enjoy two wheels, you can explore the Vallevecchia Nature Oasis using ATVO’s Litoranea Bike service: a bus, with no fewer than seven stops including Caorle and Lugugnana, will transport you and your bicycle (which you can also rent locally) to the gates of the oasis.
In the past, this reserve was entirely lagoon land, and it was only after various reclamation works in the 1960s that the picturesque little island of Vallevecchia was formed.
Today, the oasis is a Site of Community Importance and is characterised by the total absence of any man-made structures, except for the ancient casoni built in an entirely ecological manner.
Today, you can admire different ecosystems and landscapes, starting with the sandy beach, the coastal pine forest, marshy areas with reeds, coastal lowland forests and cultivated fields.
As you cycle through the Vallevecchia Nature Reserve, you will enjoy maximum contact with nature, including both plant and animal species: it is here, for example, that marsh orchids, willows, poplars, oaks and herbaceous plants such as horsetail grow in abundance.
Deer, foxes, squirrels, hedgehogs, roe deer and hares hide in the vegetation of the oasis: if you love birdwatching, along the paths you can get off the bike and climb up one of the turrets there, from which you can spot resident and migratory birds including egrets, mallards, swans and red herons.
Cycling between the beach, pine forest and wetlands
The first part of the bike ride goes through the pine forest to the beautiful and wild Brussa Beach, with its golden sandy shore that appears to stretch into the distance, touched by a beautiful crystal-clear sea. Over the centuries, the dunes, which still stand today, have developed from sand carried by sea currents, dried by the sun’s rays and pushed inland by the winds.
On one end of the beach, where the view will allow you to marvel at the entire Caorle lagoon and even catch a glimpse of Bibione, you will find the so-called casoni: these are old fishermen’s huts built with natural materials such as wood and marsh reeds, almost reminding you of ancient prehistoric huts.
Pedalling along the beach, you can venture into the pine forest, an artificial green lung created in the 1950s to protect the precious dunes, while at the same time protecting the cultivated fields from the sea wind.
Following a path through the lush heart of the pine forest for some 2.5 km, you reach the Vallevecchia wetland area, with its yellow-gold reeds stirred by the sea breeze rising from the blue waters. The silence is almost complete and there is no better place to rest, enjoying a packed lunch on the benches and trying to spot some birds.
Before leaving the Vallevecchia Nature Oasis, be sure to visit the Vallevecchia Environmental Museum, where you can learn more about the history and environment of Vallevecchia and the Caorle Lagoon. Dioramas, models, interactive stations and information panels, not to mention the typical Caorle marsh house, a prime example of ancient eco-sustainable architecture.