Near Rieti, in the centre of the Valle Santa between Greccio and Poggio Bustone, the Nature Reserve is a wetland of great interest, an ancient basin fed by the waters of Monte Terminillo, where numerous species of birds nest.
Surrounded by reedbeds and tracts of hygrophilous woodlands, they are ideal places for birdwatching, especially during the winter months and the periods of passage migration.
The most evident flora is that of the thickets of marsh reed, which grows around the lakes along with white water-lilies and yellow water-lilies with their showy blooms and wide leaves resting on the water.
On the banks, the willows, elders and poplars create zones of riparian forest.
Among the shrubs, hops are traditionally used in local recipes.
In the two lakes live fish such as rudd, pike, tench, eels, roach and chub, while in the springs and canals fario trout and stickleback are found.
Among the amphibians, there are tree frogs, Dalmatian frogs, Apennine yellow-bellied toads, common newts and crested newts.
Among the reptiles, grass snakes are reported as particularly common.
Foxes, hedgehogs and exotic nutrias are the more frequently observed among the registered mammals.
Just outside the protected area, in Contigliano, stands the imposing 18th-century Church of San Michele.
At the foot of the hill of San Pastore we find the remains of the San Pastore Abbey, today unfortunately reduced to ruins.
The village of Cantalice maintains its enchanting medieval structure, while at Poggio Bustone the pentagonal Cassero tower and the remains of the ancient medieval walls are of particular interest. Here the Porta del Buongiorno (Good Day Gate) recalls the words of St. Francis, “Good day, good people,” with which the Saint greeted the townspeople when he entered there for the first time in 1209.
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