Monsummano Hill is located on the northern slopes of Montalbano, its truncated cone shape rising for about 350 meters above sea level. It is where the Nievole Torrent flows into the plain.
The hill is clearly se- parate from the surrounding landscape owing to its steep, rugged appearance; the presence of a specific spontaneous vegetation; and the absence of a surface hydrographic network, closely related to the hill's own geological characteristics, which consist largely of carbonate-silicate rocks.
The series of formations on the hill fully document the region's geological history, covering about 160 million years, from the beginning of the Jurassic (210 million years ago) up to the Eocene (50 mil- lion years ago). There is also a system of faults and fractures that represented a preferential way for the warm waters to climb, leading to the Grotta Giusti and the Grotta Parlanti hot springs.
There are various quarries on the hill, from which materials were extracted, intended as inert, and for use in cement production rather than as deco- ration beginning in the 14th century. Mining activi- ty was suspended beginning in 1987 owing to a the need to protect the hill's thermal phenomena.
Monsummano Hill's botanical profile is of con- siderable natural interest, as it is one of most internal biotopes in Tuscany, close to the Apennine foothills. Here, the thinness of the soil layer suitable for establishing plants, together with the remarkable permeability of the outcropping rocks, are responsible for specific conditions of summer aridity, without, however, there being particular cli- matic differences with respect to the immediately surrounding areas. In this context, the evergreen shrubs that have adapted to these harsh summer conditions have not been limited to becoming part of larger plant communities, but have formed a dense, sometimes impenetrable plant cover (the Mediterranean maquis).
The existence of a large contingent of wild orchids, with at least 25 species, is another of Monsum- mano's botanical characteristics. Although not as large as the more famous tropical orchids, their charm, nonetheless, comes not only from their ae- sthetic qualities, but also from the specific ecology of these plants. Indeed there are some surprising reports of symbiosis and parasitism between the orchids and other organisms (fungi, insects, and other plants), such as adaptive and colonizing abilities or the ease with which related species tend to hybridize.
Its diverse geological aspects and Mediterranean vegetation can be appreciated, retracing this 'geological trail' by following the signs to Grotta Giusti.
Archaeological findings seem to attest to these lands having already been inhabited in prehistoric and Roman times, assuming with a greater degree of certainty a certain number of inhabitants before the year 1000.
Because of its strategic location overlooking the Fucecchio Marsh and the Valdinievole, the hill was fortified according to a defensive system that in- creased and expanded over time to include the entire summit by the late Middle Ages.
For more info and guided tours: Centro R.D.P. Padule di Fucecchio, tel. 0573/84540, email firstname.lastname@example.org