In the Apennine side of Garfagnana, where Prado Mountain and Vecchio Mountain mark the highest altitudes of Tuscan chain, the so-called “Orecchiella Park” extends in a area of over 52 Kmq, between the municipalities of Sillano, San Romano, Piazza al Serchio, Villa Collemandina and Castiglione di Garfagnana. From the geologic point of view different formations merge here: Pania’s and Ripa’s chalks alternate to the typical Apennine sandstone, with surfacing of red and blue schists and marble flood waste debris as the Sassorosso ones, giving birth to a diversified morphology which pass from soft and rounded reliefs of Apennine crest to irregular outlines of two chalked massifs delimited by overhanging faces and narrow canyons. Because of this diversified morphology there are environments characterized by conflicting microclimates and this, in turn, deeply influences plant life and vegetal formations. From Turkey oak and chestnut woods of lowest altitudes you arrive to upland’s meadows, spaced out by beech groves and conifer three planting, meanwhile upstream and until the limit of woody vegetation the breech wood overlooks. The “bare” of the crests are characterized by high mountains meadows and blueberry moors. Here we find one of the most important biotope: an area covered by Rhododendrum ferrugineum, species wreck due to glaciations. In the high mountains meadows and grazing lands it is possible to see the most beautiful and remarkable flowerings: from Wild Peony, to Ginger Lily and to Llium Martagon, from Gentiana to Crocus, to Primrose, and also the different species of orchid, Anemone, Columbine and Sea Squill, while Globe-flower, Kingcup, Bitter cress see the presence of important moist areas as Lamarossa peat bog.
This considerable flower presence is largely represented in Pania di Corfino’s Botanic Garden, propriety of Unione Comuni Garfagnana. Wonderful mountain flowerings indeed are collected in Mountain Flowers’ Garden, organized by Corpo Forestale dello Stato(State forest rangers) close to the Visitor Centre. The fauna is remarkable and is characterised by the presence of ungulates: deers, roe deers, boars and mouflons, but also by other animal species as hares, squirrels, dormouses, foxes, martens and an important predator, the wolf. Birds are as much important, with over 130 bird species whereof 85 nesting ones, between them golden eagle’s flight stands out, but also eagle owl, sparrow hank and kestrel. The bear, which is present in those mountains until 1700, deserves a separate mention and nowadays came back to Orecchiella in a fauna area that host seven exemplars in a measure coming from a zoo and in a measure born in captivity. Other fauna corrals host mouflons, deers and roe deers, and they are linked to each other by an assisted path, instructive footpaths and excursionist paths, also for some days, start from the Visitor Centre where there are the naturalistic museum, the projection hall, the library and the laboratory. Restaurants, refuges, a parking area for tents and camping vans, points of sale of local products complete the welcoming of tourists and school trips.
However Orecchiella not always has been as nowadays, during the centuries the indiscriminate cutting of woods and the excessive exploitation of grazings lead to a degradation state of territory and only the intervention of Corpo Forestale dello Stato that, since from 30s, began an important action of landslide recovery, streams, tree planting, fauna repopulation, gave back its old splendour. Exactly in that period Orecchiella was identified as a Park for the first time, also in absence of a institutive law. With the transfer of the state assets from State to the Region the most part of territory passed to the management of Unione Comuni Garfagnana, State still keep having three Natural Reserves: Pania di Corfino, Lamarossa and Orecchiella, out-and-out nature sanctuaries instituted by law. Actually the Reserves, together with Municipalities of San Romano in Garfagnana, Villa Collemandina and Sillano- Giuncugliano, joined the Tuscan-Emilian Apennine National Park, instituted in 2001, which includes also some municipalities of Lunigiana, and Gigante and Cento Laghi’s Emilian Parks.