The planitial woods in the Lower Friuli – Venezia Giulia region once were part of a previos larger forest called “Silva lupanica” wich stretched between the rivers Livenza and Isonzo.
The planitial woods in the Lower Friuli Venezia Giulia region once were part of a previous larger forest, “Silva lupanica”, which stretched between the rivers Livenza and Isonzo.
The Muzzana woods are located a few hundred metres from the coastline of the Marano Lagoon, in the municipality of Muzzana del Turgnano. The Muzzana woods are made up of the smaller woods “Bosco Baredi / Selva d’Arvochi”, covering about 170 ha, and the “Coda di Manin”, covering about 150 ha. The main arboreal species are broadleaved trees like oaks and hornbeam, which defines them as oak-hornbeam woods.
They are two forest formations, a few hundred metres apart, bounded to the west by the Turgnano canal and to the east by the Cormor canal.
The river Muzzanella flows between them. On the left side of the river there is an old road known as the ‘Levada del Principe’, which, in the Venetian period, linked the fortress of Marano to that of Palmanova, running through the forest and the village of Muzzana.
The woods are the most extensive in the Veneto-Friuli plain. Like other woods in the region (like the Sacile Woods in the nearby municipality of Carlino) are remnants of the Silva Magna (“large forest”), today known as Silva Lupanica, the “wolf forest” that gradually covered the entire Po Valley after the end of the great Würm ice age (around 10,000 years ago). These are therefore ‘relict’ woods, which have survived centuries of anthropogenic exploitation and which today represent a precious treasure chest of biodiversity. In the Muzzana Woods hundreds of species of plants, mosses and fungi thrive – many of which are already extinct in the surrounding densely built plain.
One of the main features are the springs where groundwater surfaces thanks to the local geological morphology. The low temperature surrounding the springs allows the growth of certain species that require low soil temperatures. Among these ‘glacial relict’ species there are Populus tremula, Lilium martagon and Veratrum album.
These glacial relics recount past ages when, around 11,500 years ago, the last Würm ice age ended and the species from the Alps mountains slowly overtook areas which had previously been covered by glaciers. Initially that happened with sylvian pines and later (around 6-7000 years ago) with the oak-hornbeam woods that are still present today. A diverse micro and macro fauna are entwined in symbiosis with these tree species.
Anton von Zach (a cura di), Topographisch-geometrische Kriegskarte von dem Herzogtum Venedig, 1798-1805, particolare dei boschi di Muzzana, XVI.12-XVI.13, 1801-1802, Österreichisches Staatsarchiv Kriegsarchiv, Vienna.
“che se non fossero li boschi dalli quali ai tempi debiti et opportuni si serviamo saressemo isforzziati a bandonare il paese et morirssi di fame”
(Vicinia Comune di Muzzana, 12 luglio 1598)
In the Roman Age the forests belonged to the “Agro di Aquileia”. Aquiliea was at the time one of the main Roman cities along the Adriatic coastline and it is today an important archeological site. In those times the forests provided sustenance for the inhabitants of the area, who considered them sacred, and offered shelters to animals.
In the 9th Century – the Friulian feudal period – the area’s name was ‘silve et pratis’ (a Latin expression for ‘woods and meadows’) and stretched over the entire municipality between the Muzzanella and the Turgnano to the south of the Muzzana village. At the time, the woods belonged to the Patriarch (Bishop) of Aquileia, who in the late 13th century conceded them to the Counts of Gorizia as a feud. In 1312 the ownership of the forest went from the Counts of Gorizia to their trusted vassals Strassoldo family. In 1366 the rights to the woods were transferred to the Municipality of Muzzana with a perpetual emphyteutic contract (an agreement on the use of land) that, over the centuries, determined its property. In the following Mediaeval Age, the woods were an important source of income for the municipality. At the time the timber trade travelled along rivers, crossed the lagoon and reached the famous Arsenal in Venice.
During the 20th Century major works of clearance and draining of the marshes were carried out between the woods and the lagoon, followed by a reorganisation of the area. This implied a significant reduction of the woods to make space for agriculture – which almost compromised the woods’ existence.
The past events shaped a visceral bond between the Muzzana community and its woods – a bond that persists still at present times. Today, the woods are protected under conservation laws at European, national and regional levels. Drawing on this conservation framework, in the first two decades of the 21st Century the municipal administration has not only promoted the active protection, but have also managed to extend the surface of the woods, recognising their ecological, social and historical value.