Valle delle Ferriere: the Oriented Nature Reserve between Scala and Amalfi

by Gerardo Russo

The Oriented Nature Reserve of Valle delle Ferriere is an oasis located in Scala, near the hamlet Pontoon, along the paths that lead from the mountains to the center of Amalfi. It is a small but deep hidden corner between the Lattari Mountains, where spectacular waterfalls meet the archeology of Amalfi Republic. A special place where nature has preserved a unique flora and fauna in the world, thanks to very particular atmospheric conditions.

Valle delle Ferriere: la Riserva Naturale Orientata tra Scala e Amalfi
Waterfall near the ruins of the ironworks.

How to get

The Valle delle Ferriere can be reached from Pontone di Scala, Amalfi or San Lazzaro di Agerola. The shortest route is the one that starts from Piazza San Giovanni a Pontone, which through a pathway of 1.7 km leads to the ruins of the ironworks which announces the beginning of the Reserve area.

The Valle delle Ferriere Reserve is a very large area that houses a smaller restricted and fenced Reserve, which can be reached starting from the ruins of the ironworks with an additional path to be covered mostly uphill. The smallest protected area contains plant species dating back to very distant times and preserves a surprising subtropical microclimate.

Valle delle Ferriere: la Riserva Naturale Orientata tra Scala e Amalfi

Pre-industrial archeology incorporated by nature

The valley is now associated with ironworks, since once the Rio Canneto, a watercourse that zigzags between the rocks, was used to supply energy to the pre-industrial factories of the medieval era. In the upper part, in today's Municipality of Scala, iron working had been widespread since 1300. The iron imported from theElba island, ready to be used for the production of various types of nails for Amalfi boats and studs called "centrelle“, Used for the armor of work shoes. Being able to count on the important port of Amalfi and not being subject to restrictions on the trade of iron by other authorities, production prospered until the eighteenth century, when nature regained possession of the area by converting the factories into romantic and elegant rocks or ruins. ready to host new vegetation.

The lower part of the area, located close to Amalfi, is known as Valley of the Mills, due to the presence of ancient paper mills, again thanks to the water of Rio Canneto. Amalfi was in fact very active in the production of paper and still today Amalfi paper maintains its high prestige.

Valle delle Ferriere: la Riserva Naturale Orientata tra Scala e Amalfi
Pre-industrial archeology in the Valle delle Ferriere.

The microclimate of the valley

Passing the ironworks, you enter a scenario where time and space are progressively transformed. A la welcomes us immediately spectacular waterfall del Rio Canneto, which jumps from 25 meters.

Are in the midst of high rock ridges, capable of protecting the Valle delle Ferriere from the cold winds coming from the north. The southern exposure also guarantees a milder climate than the rest of the geographical area. Instead, warm and humid currents come from the sea, located to the south. The quantities of humidity and water present in the area then guarantee the maintenance of a cool environment. All these particular conditions mean that the valley temperature is always between 0 ° C and 20 ° C. A real oasis in the heart of the Amalfi Coast, where you can take refuge from the heat or cold, depending on the season.

Valle delle Ferriere: la Riserva Naturale Orientata tra Scala e Amalfi
The 25 m jump of the Rio Canneto.

Prehistoric vegetation

The particular climatic condition of the valley allows the phenomenon ofinversion of vegetation. We have an environment here mesophilic, which requires a certain level of humidity, while the typical one Mediterranean bush of the Amalfi Coast, widespread in the warmest environments, we find it in the higher walls. There are several natural wonders preserved by the microclimate of the valley.

The best known is the Woodwardia radicans, giant fern, with fronds that can reach up to three meters in length. It grows thanks to the exceptional climate of the valley and dates back to 65 million years ago, period Cenozoic or so. Extremely rare species that survived the glaciations, it dates back to an era in which southern Europe had a tropical climate and housed almost totally disappeared vegetation. Reproduction occurs through the cloves placed at the end of the leaves, reaching the ground when they curve downwards. The common ferns, however widespread in the area, use spores instead, so the wind also facilitates their reproduction. We therefore recognize the Woodwardia from the fronds that tend towards the ground.

Valle delle Ferriere: la Riserva Naturale Orientata tra Scala e Amalfi
Woodwardia radicans.

Along the river that flows into the valley the spectacle is also given by the enormous wall of petrified moss. The water, rich in calcium bicarbonate, enters the limestone and solidifies the moss creating a system of stalactites. Real living fossils.

The valley then offers home to a precious carnivorous plant, the Pinguicula hirtiflora. Rare specimen whose leaves secrete a sticky liquid capable of capturing and digesting insects.

Salamanders and frogs

The Valley is also the habitat of the rare Salamandrina terdigitata, nicknamed "spectacled salamander”For the clear spot that goes from one eye to the other. It is an amphibian capable of pretending to be toxic or dead to discourage predators, as well as being very difficult to identify, due to its small size and its nocturnal habits. We also find the fire salamander, black with yellow spots. Both amphibians are indicators of the quality of the environment.

They skip here and there italic frogs, typical of the Apennines. Between 7 and 7.5 cm long and reddish in color, they can vary from beje to green. They are found only in the summer months, as they hibernate from November to February.

Valle delle Ferriere: la Riserva Naturale Orientata tra Scala e Amalfi
Italic frog.

A space-time trek

Visiting the Valle delle Ferriere is not just a fascinating trekking experience on the Amalfi Coast. Entering the microclimate of the valley allows you to overcome geological eras, crossing glaciations and reaching vegetation in a few steps "Hawaiian". We suddenly move from one continent to another, without feeling the weight of a time jump of 65 million years. A black hole, or rather green, which leads to another dimension.

In the past, nails were produced here to armor work shoes, while today hikers with their mountain boots get lost in the valley. We travel in time, running the risk of changing the course of events and ending up in the most problematic of paradoxes. A dilemma solved by the spectacular balance of a valley where time has perhaps never existed.

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