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Fiumefreddo River

Oriented Nature Reserve “FIUMEFREDDO RIVER”

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» How to reach the reserve

Informazioni per le visite Visitor center and nature trail open every day from Monday to Saturday from 9.00 to 13.00 and afternoons from Monday to Friday from 15.30 to 17.30.
 » Map

Come raggiungere la riservaBy car, from SS. 114 ME-CT or the A18 ME-CT, exit  Fiumefreddo and in “ Diana” take the provincial road to Marina di Cottone where, after 1.500 meters and about 200 meters from the sea, is located the main entrance to the visitor center of the reserve.


The Reserve Fiumefreddo and Cinema
da: I Borghi Marinari della Lava
Production: Provincia Regionale di Catania

Oriented Nature Reserve "Fiumefreddo River"
da: Acqua, Terra e Fuoco, viaggio nella terra del mito
Production: Provincia Regionale di Catania


Fiumefreddo River

A rare case of  river flowing from a plain, just 2 km long, the  Fiumefreddo river is located in the narrow coastal plain South of the homonymous town, from some springs that are formed in the junction area between the front of Mount Etna lava of  and the underlying substrates of sedimentary type, which have a low permeability. In particular, the Fiumefreddo river is powered by two sources: the first, called "Quadara grande,"  actually made up of a series of small springs that give the main contribution to the river and the second, called  "Capo d’acqua,"  farthest from the sea, with a less extensive width feeding a collateral branch of the river.


The Natural Reserve of River Fiumefreddo falls in the municipalities of Calatabiano and Fiumefreddo of Sicily, in the province of Catania. Area-10, 38 has.

Managing body
Province of Catania - Year of establishment-1984


Level of protection
Oriented Nature Reserve
The Natural Reserve of River Fiumefreddo is divided into two areas with different levels of protection: Zone A  or "Reserve" and Zone B or "Pre-reserve"

The Wildlife

For several species, the river ecosystem has a  great importance.
The set of natural factors that characterize this environment is a landing point for those animals that are not closely related to aquatic life.Il Tarabusino
Unfortunately, despite the importance of Fiumefreddo natural reserve , knowledge of the local fauna, apart from a few groups such as birds and benthic macrofauna,  is still very patchy and incomplete.
Until a few years ago who visited these places could see a rich and varied birdlife, in fact, many migratory species found in these wetlands  ideal environmental conditions for nesting or resting and foraging.
The progression of human settlement has reduced its presence.
Nevertheless, owing to recovery of some environmental conditioin recent years, it has been possible to observe, immersed in the lush vegetation of the river’s shores , the reappearance of some species of migratory birds.
Among sedentary species are to mention: the Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus), the Greenfinch (Chloris chloris), the Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis), the Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), the Great Tit (Parus major), the Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius), the Common Blackbird (Turdus merula), the Common Magpie (Pica pica), the Rook (Corvus frugilegus), the Carrion Crow (Corvus corone), the Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), the Barn Owl (Tyto alba), the Cetti’s Warbler (Cettia cetti).
Unusual is the presence of the Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis). Migratory species sighted within the reserve are to be mentioned: the Mallard (Anas platyrhincos), the Northern Pintail (Anas acuta), the Common Pochard Aythya ferina), the Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata), the Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), the Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos), the European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris), the Eurasian Skylark (Alauda arvensis), the Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago), the Woodcock, the Garganey, the hoopoe, Teal, Purple Heron, the gray heron, the Night Heron, the Eurasian (Scolopax rusticola), the Garganey (Anas quanquedula), the Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops), the Common Teal (Anas crecca), the Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea), the Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea), the Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), the Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), the European Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur), the Little Bittern (Ixobrycus minutus), the Eurasian Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus), the Black kite (Milvus migrans), the Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope), the Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canoras).
Even tough less frequently, the  Golden Plover (Charadrius apricarius), the Common Crane (Grus grus), the European Blue Roller (Coracia garrulus), the White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) and the Coal Tit  (Parus ater),are present too.
Farfalla MacaoneFewer but no less interesting, are small mammals that live in the reserve, including  the European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), the Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes), the Lest Weasel (Mustela nivalis), the Northern Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) and small rodents such as the Wood Mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus).
Even  reptiles  here find rich possibilities of life such as the Whip Snake (Coluber viridiflavus),  the Grass Snake (Natrix natrix), and the best known European Green Lizard (Lacerta viridis), the Italian Wall Lizard (Podarcis sicula), the Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauritania).
Among  amphibians we highlight the Common Toad (Bufo bufo), the Green Frog (Rana esculenta) and the Greek Frog.
Fish species present in Fiumefreddo river are the European Eel (Anguilla anguilla) and  rarely the  Mediterranean Trout.
Despite the lack of specific scientific information on many invertebrates  that live in the reserve, and in particular on the presence of endemic species and / or biogeographical interest, a large number of  insects which represent a source of  food source for the rest of the local fauna.
Among these it is to mention the presence of various species of Dragonflies and Beetles, of the Common Cricket, the Cicada, the Ladybug, the Water Flea, the Hornet, the Old World Swallow Tail, the Small White, the Painted Lady and the Small Tortoise Shell, the Earthworm and the Freshwater  Crab.



The great importance of the protected area is related to the particular ecological conditions affected by  cold water and  by  slowly flowing Fiumefreddo river which ensure the presence of an aquatic vegetation of rare beauty characterized especially by the Curly Leaf Pondweed (Potamogetum Crispus and natans) and by the Stream Water- Crowfoot (Ranunculus penicillatus)
These hydrophytes species (plants that live in the water), typical of Central and Atlantic Europe are the only measuring stations throughout central and southern Italy.
PapiroIn shallower areas of the river, characterized by weak flowing waters, you may find the Lesser Marshwort (Apium inundatum), the Watercress (Nasturtium officinale), the Waterspeedwell (Veronica anagallis acquatica),  the Apple Mint (Mentha suaveolens). Near the mouth there are spots of Simplestem Bur-reed (Sparganium erectum), a quite rare species found only in Sicilian Nebrodi Mountains at an altitude of  10000 mts.


The river banks are mainly characterized by the presence of species of Marsh Reeds ( Phragmites communis) mixed with the occasional presence of Brouss (Polygonum salicifolium). Near the Quadare source you can see plants of
Papyrus Cyperus papyrus), certainly not indigenous to the area and recently introduced.
The strip of vegetation above the reeds with Sedge and Tufted Sedge (Carex elata) and False Fox Sedge (Carex otrubae) hosts a egregious flora marsh formed by the Purple Loosestrife (Lytrum salicaria), the Water Flag (Iris pseudocorus), the Forked Fimbry (Fimbristillys dichotoma) and other species.
Along the banks, with some frequency, there is the Common Nettle (Urtica dioica), Angelica Minor (Trochiscantes nodiflora), the Hedge Bindweed (Calystegia sepium), the Hemp Agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum), the, Horsetail (Equisetum te, mateja) and abundant bands of Elmleaf Blackberry (Rubus ulmifolius) and Giant Reed (Arundo donax), a nitrophilous kind of vegetation (which grows well in environments rich in assimilable nitrogen) favoured by the fertilization of the surrounding crops.

It is also possible to detect the presence of fragments of plain wood of White Willow (Salix alba), near the  Quadare sources. Overall, the reserve, despite the excessive water withdrawals made in the past, maintains aspects of floristic-vegetation of considerable interest and  it is, together with the surrounding marshland called  Gurna, the only remaining wetland along the Ionian coast from the mouth of the Simeto River to Messina. These environments represent the last stretches of the ancient swamp of Lake Mascali, which,  up to the last century, extended all along the coast that runs from Riposto to Fiumefreddo.


The River Coast Environment

The thick coast vegetation, formed not only by the presence of Reeds and Tufted Sedge (Carex elata) and False Fox Sedge (Carex otrubae)  along the banks of the river and along the loops is the typical marsh flora consisting of Purple Loosestrife (Lytrum salicaria), Yellow Flag (Iris pseudacorus), Forked Fimbry (Fimbristillys dichotoma).
Gallinella d'acquaAlong this coast strip  you may often notice the  presence of the Common Nettle (Urtica dioica), the Trochiscanthes Nodiflora, the Edge Bindweed (Calystegia sepium), the Hemp Agrimony (Eupatorium cannabium), the Watercress (Nasturtium officinale), the Lesser Bulrush (Typha angustifolia), the Apple Mint (Mentha suaveolens).
In the spring, between the vibrant blooms of the river coast vegetation, you can see some interesting species of birds including a large number of Great Tits (Parus Major)  and  Little Bitterns (Ixobrycus minutus), and among invertebrates, standing out for their splendid livery, the European Peacock (Inachis io), the Old World Swallowtail (Papilio machaon)  and more butterflies.
The coast area  also hosts relics of  forest fragments like the White Willow (Salix alba) and the White Poplar (Populus alba).
Over the last few years, couples of Wild Ducks (Anas platyrinchos) have  nested in the area.


Submerged River Environment

Ranuncolo a pennelloA peculiar and semi submerged aquatic vegetation characterizes the submerged river environment.
It is a submerged and floating hydrophyte vegetation   rooted on the river bed, represented by entities of considerable phytogeographical interest, such as the Streamwater Crow-foot (Ranunculus penicillatus), an entirely absent species in  warmer areas of southern Europe.
Frequently in addition to the Curly-leaf Pondweed and the Broad-leaved Pondweed (Potamogeton crispa and natans), also the Water Speedwell (Veronica anagallis aquatica), the Common Water-plantain (Alisma plantago aquatica)  and the Lesser Marshwort (Apium inundatum) can be found.
In this particular underwater environment  live  Common Toads, Common Frogs, Greek Frogs, as well as European Eels, Freshwater Crabs and a small number of Mediterranean Trouts,  that once populated the river, in addition to a diverse benthic macrofauna which is an indicator of the quality  of the river water.



As it comes to geology  and lithology, the area of Fiumefreddo is affected by the presence of volcanic rocks  generally resting on a substrate represented by sedimentary clays.
The area of the river is characterized by sedimentary outcrops which give birth to big sources at a short distance from the coast.
Il QuadareThe emergence of substantial underground outflows takes place at the contact with the clays of the substrate in the form of various springs, some of which are of high flow rate, they are, in fact,  represented, by the “Capo d’acqua” source  in the upstream part of the reserve, but most of all by peculiar sources called “Caldare Fioroni" (or Quadare) located at the downstream land at  a short distance from the coast.

In the past, when the river was larger,  there were fourteen "Quadare", now only  three are left of which one has a bigger size being more than six feet deep.

Thanks to  diving into these sources it  has been noted that  "Quadare" have an inverted cone shape with the tip pointing down.
Furthermore it was observed that at the lower end there are several tunnels to the origin of which are placed the sources themselves.

The name "Quadare" comes from a phenomenon of "boiling" due to the swirling flow of the water because of the strong flow of groundwater, which is  especially observable in winter months during which the flow rate gets to its highest.
The habitat of these sources is characterized by a great number  of plants like Sicilian Sedge Papyrus (Cyperus papyrus siculus), White Willow (Salix alba) and  White Poplar (Populus alba); lately,  the presence of the Little  Bittern (Ixobrycus minutus) and the Common Moorhen (Gallinula hloropus) has become quite common in the area as much as that of Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea) and Purple Herons (Ardea purpurea).


The Human Presence

Past activity of drainage at the beginning of the century and the subsequent construction activities since the 60s  have caused a drastic shrinkage of the wetland ecosystem forming the so-called Lake Mascali, which originally stretched along the Ionian coast, from Riposto to Fiumefreddo
Il Castello degli SchiaviExcessive water withdrawals made upstream of the protected area, by lowering the groundwater level, result in significant imbalances and, sometimes, in the summer months, in the drying up of one of the main sources (Testa dell’Acqua).
In the absence of  a competent Basin Authority, the managing body of the Natural Reserve has taken a number of initiatives in order to restore the conditions of water balance of the river protected ecosystem.Noce Pecan
And yet, in the largest part of the pre-reserve area, human activities with a significant impact in the protected area are those arising from a local   intensive  agricultural acitvity  which is also partially affecting the banks of the river (open field and greenhouses ortho-flowers) .
In effect, the agricultural activity, which is broadly positive for the protection of the territory, in this case, because of  the massive use of chemicals for fertilizing the soil (fertilizers) and for the protection of crops (pesticides) in a relatively small area, is a source of environmental pollution.
In particular, in addition to the pollution of the groundwater and of the river, chemical fertilizers cause changes to the balance of the vegetation along the banks, favouring invasive species ( nitrophilous vegetation) at the expense of native vegetation (river coast vegetation). Because of that, the managing body is trying to increase and promote some agriculture techniques more environmentally friendly (Sustainable Agriculture) in the protected area.

Texts by the Office Nature Reserves, illustrations of Santo Pappalardo.


Ente Gestore

Città Metropolitana di Catania
Città Metropolitana di Catania

4° Servizio
Ambiente - Energia - Polizia Provinciale e Protezione Civile

Via Nuovaluce, 67a
95030 - Tremestieri Etneo (CT)

pec: protocollo@pec.cittametropolitana.ct.it

e-mail: urp@cittametropolitana.ct.it


Direttore Riserve:
Dr. Agr. Gaetano Torrisi
Tel. 095 401.2485

Istr. Amm. Francesca Giammona
Tel. 095 401.3145
Istr. Amm. Salvatore Paglia
Tel. 095 401.2691 (Lun. Mer. Ven.)

Responsabile Istruttoria Tecnica e VINCA:
Dr. Agr. Umberto Troja
Tel. 095 401.2990

Istruttoria Nullaosta/Autorizzazioni:
L’Ufficio riceve il lunedì e il mercoledì
dalle ore 9,00 alle ore 12,00.
Alfio Papotto
Tel. 095 401.2466
Salvatore Sapuppo
Tel. 095 401.2233

Responsabile dei Sevizi Tecnici di Sorveglianza:
Ispettore Francesco Lo Tauro
Tel. 095 401.2046/2445

Centro Polifunzionale "Torreallegra"

Riferimento Telefonico 095 401.2994

Centro Visite

Riferimento Telefonico 095 401.3625