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Every year San Ruffino Lake disappears, shrinking back to the river it originally was. Wildlife returns to explore the river's shore and forage in the land that was lake bottom. The seasons change again and slowly the lake refills, reclaiming the space that was previously its own. As the years pass the cycle repeats itself, with the lake filling and disappearing over and over again. Fortunately for residents and visitors alike, however, San Ruffino Lake in the Marche region of Italy has something to delight in every season.
San Ruffino Lake, or Lago di San Ruffino as it is known in Italian, is a man-made reservoir created with the construction of a dam in 1961. It is an impoundment of the River Tenna and provides water for irrigation. When it is full, the lake has a surface area of 65 acres, a maximum depth of 50 feet and holds 2,027 acre-feet of water. In late spring through autumn, the dam is opened and San Ruffino Lake turns into meadows filled with birds including herons wading in the shallows at the river's shore. Visitors can stroll around the reservoir or river depending on the time of year and see the deer park. The park is part of a government breeding program to increase the deer population.
The area's holiday villas, vacation rentals and restaurants are largely unaffected by fluctuations in Lago di San Ruffino's water levels. Only the scenery changes; sometimes visitors enjoy the local cuisine overlooking the sparkling water of the lake, and sometimes the view is wading birds and fresh green grass meadows. Nearby, the charming village of Amandola in the upper Tenna River Valley has interesting architecture and restaurants featuring the area's mushrooms, truffles and cheese.
San Ruffino Lake sits at the foot of the Sibillini Mountains. Long considered a magical place, during the Middle Ages the mountains were believed to be inhabited by demons and fairies. Covered with beech trees with their glowing tan leaves and sprinkled with rare edelweiss and gentian, the mountains are still magic today. They are also part of the Monti Sibillini National Park. Established in 1993, the park stretches across over 172,974 acres in Marche and Umbria. With such a large area, the park has several different regions. The one closest to Lago di San Ruffino is known as the "Magic Slope" and includes medieval villages and stone abbeys tucked into the foot of the mountains. Wolves, golden eagles and peregrine falcons all make their homes in the forests of the national park.
Whether it is to enjoy San Ruffino as a lake or its time as a river, Lago di San Ruffino is magical in any season. Waterfowl, wading birds and sparkling water combine with quaint,charming villages and delicious local cuisine to make San Ruffino Lake an ideal Marche destination. Add the rich history and abundant wildlife of Sibillini's Magic Slope, and a trip to Lago di San Ruffino is sure to become a favorite year round Italian destination.
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