Lake Massaciuccoli
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Lake Massaciuccoli, Tuscany, Italy

Also known as: Lago di Massaciuccoli, Lake Puccini

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Map: Lake Massaciuccoli, Tuscany, Italy

A lone kayaker glides across the water of 1,680-acre Lake Massaciuccoli, his boat cutting through the white water lilies that grow thick around the shore. He shares the shallow coastal lake with a pair of grebes dipping their black-capped heads into the water for fish. In the reeds a heron is also fishing for his breakfast. Located in the Province of Lucca in northern Tuscany, the beauty of the lake inspired Puccini and has long been a favorite of Italians and tourists alike.

Lake Massaciuccoli, or Lago di Massaciuccoli in Italian, is what is left of a delta lagoon formed by the flooded River Serchio. In 1740 canals were built and the lagoon was drained to reclaim the land for agriculture. The lake receives most of its water from pumping at the reclamation works on the southern side of the lake. The six mile long Burlamacca Channel is its only outlet and connects the lake with the Tyrrhenian Sea. Water levels drop below sea level in the summer, and sea water creeps back the canal and into the lake affecting the salinity of Lake Massaciuccoli.

Only 2.5 miles from the Tyrrhenian Coast, Lake Massaciuccoli sits on a coastal plain between Pisa and Viareggio. To the west of the lake green hills give way to coastal pines and sandy beaches. The lake has suffered some ecological challenges in the past with increased nutrients affecting water quality. Because of the challenges, sport fishing is not allowed on the lake. Boating, however, is a popular pastime, and boat rentals are available. Canoes and kayaks are a great way to explore the lake and weave in among the "aggallati" or small islands of cane roots and plants that float on the surface.

Lago di Massaciuccoli is surrounded by reeds and extensive marshlands that stretch around the lake. There is a large fresh water marsh to the north of the lake, and boardwalks extend into the wetlands providing visitors with a chance to explore this important breeding and wintering site for birds. Over 300 different species of birds have been sighted at the lake and marsh, including some from northern Europe that come to winter in the Mediterranean climate. Grebes, cormorants, diving ducks, herons and reed warblers all make their homes at Lake Massaciuccoli. The lake is part of the Regional Park of Migliarino San Rossore Massaciuccoli, covering 59,305 acres in the provinces of Pisa and Lucca. Established in 1979, the park protects the birds and natural environment surrounded by an urban area.

Lake Massaciuccoli is near the towns of Viareggio and Massaciuccoli. Located on the eastern shore of the lake, Massaciuccoli was a Roman town; remnants of mosaics, thermal baths and houses are still visible. Torre del Lago Puccini is also on the lake's shore. In fact, the lake is occasionally referred to as Lake Puccini. The famous composer lived at the lake, and after his death in 1924 he was buried at a chapel nearby. Every year the area celebrates with performances of his famous operas including Madame Butterfly, Turandot and La Boheme, and a museum celebrates Giacomo Puccini's life. Restaurants, holiday villas and vacation rentals are available in many of the towns around the lake.

One of Puccini's muses and home to a wide variety of waterfowl, Lake Massaciuccoli is one of northern Tuscany's treasures. Add the coastal beaches and access to the waters of the sea, and Lago di Massaciuccoli becomes an exceptional Italian getaway.

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