Bird watching by Lake Como: Pian di Spagna Natural Reserve

Today I would like to introduce you to an amazing area on Lake Como:  the  Pian di Spagna e Lago di Mezzola (Pian di Spagna and Lake Mezzola) #Nature Reserve. This reserve is an incredibly beautiful wetland where you can go bird watching, or head out on guided walking, cycling and boat tours. I am telling you about this place because after visiting a couple of months ago, I am convinced it deserved to be recognized as a premier destination worldwide. Although many tourists visit Lake Como there are still so many hidden places to discover, places where it’s actually possible to easily get close to nature without being super fit. I am not a very sporty person, but in the northern part of Lake Como (Alto Lario the official name of this small area), I have many sustainable tourism options like walking or cycling into a nature reserve.

The nature reserve covers an area that is caught between the mainland and water; the particular geographical position makes this place rich in interesting naturalistic and historical features. This area is at the confluence of the two valleys: Val Chiavenna runs north-south and Valtellina runs east-west which forms an alluvial plain demarcated by Lake Como in the north and by Lake Mezzola to the south. The surrounding mountains, abruptly joining up with the plain, form the picturesque setting of this stretch of plain, especially when they begin to take on their autumn colours.

The name Pian di Spagna derives from the succession of historical events surrounding this region: foreign invasions, battles, and flourishing trade. However, the area is known and appreciated all over Lombardy above all for its precious landscape and environmental features.

Lake Como Pian di Spagna natural Reserve

The reserve has the right environment for the stopover and nesting of migratory birds, it is one of the most delicate environments in Europe where few wet areas like this remain. The essential role of the protected area is to enable thousands of birds to rest and feed during the spring and autumn migrations.
So the nature reserve was created:
– to safeguard and maintain the natural and landscape features of the wetland,
– to encourage visitors to engage with the protected area in an educational-recreational way,
– and to regulate local social and economic activities so as to respect the environmental conservation needs of the area.

[toggle title=”The vegetation”]The vegetation of Pian di Spagna is deeply linked to the presence of both lentic (lake) and lotic(river) water systems: the former are still waters or the slightly rippled waters of the lakes, while the latter is the fast and turbulent waters of the rivers. In both habitats and during the floods that soak the soil in the area with water, the vegetation survives thanks to specific adaptation strategies that enable them to withstand long-lasting periods of submersion.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”birdwatching “]

Pian di Spagna and Lago di Mezzola Nature Reserve have a variety of habitats: lakes, rivers, streams, canals, ditches, ponds and pools, urban areas, cultivated lands (permanent pastures, corn), not very cultivated areas (fen formations), canebrake areas, a few woodlands, tree rows, hedges, and uncultivated lands.

In each of these habitats, it is possible to observe very different bird species.
Here just some example but please click here to read the complete list.

Around the lakes and along the rivers, it is generally possible to observe various species of diving ducks or dabbling ducks, Swans, Rails, a few rare sea ducks, Grebes, Divers, Cormorants, Mergansers, Seagulls, Black Terns and Coots.
Dippers, Kingfishers, and Gray Wagtails are common along the streams, while the canals are populated by dabbling ducks, Rails and some wading birds like the Sandpiper, Snipe, Herons, Eurasian Bittern, Wagtail and Grebe; along the ditches, it is possible to sight Gray Herons, Snipes, and Wagtails.
The canebrakes represent the ideal habitat for Rails, Bitterns, some birds of prey, Reed Buntings, Blue Tits, Starlings, Penduline Tits, Swallows, Sand Martins, and dabbling ducks.
Tree rows and hedges offer food to Shrikes, Thrushes, Finches, Crows, Tits, Woodpeckers, and Blackcaps.
Although it covers 1,586 ha, the territory is not large and peaceful enough to provide a nesting ground for many unusual species. However, the following species are nesting in the area: at least one couple of Purple Herons, Corn Crakes, Savi’s Warblers, Barred Warblers, Golden Orioles, Hoopoes, Long-eared Owls, Wagtails, Bitterns, and Spotted Crakes.


Information is from, so please click here if you’d like to find out more!

You can discover by yourself the reserve walking or cycling but if you prefer you can contact the office email them: or phone +39 0344 84251;

I would suggest that you also contact the tourist info point in Gravedona: if you need any help or further information

Reviewed by author @Keegan Burnes August 2017

Sara – tourism sector consultant

PS. Do you want to GROW your business with POSITIVE impact… without huge investments? Sign up for the email list by clicking on START HERE!

Or click this link  to download my INFOGRAPHIC!