Le Cesine has been a nature reserve since 1977 and is the most beautiful WWF protected oasis in Puglia. It is one of the most important wetland in Southern Italy and the only surviving area of marshland that once covered the coast between Brindisi and Otranto. Its name comes from the Latin Seges which means uncultivated or abandoned area.
Located along the coast between San Cataldo and San Foca, the reserve covers over 600 acres and also includes 6km of coastline. Although most of the landscape is covered by wetland, the reserve includes different environments: cultivated areas, the Mediterranean maquis, dunes and beaches, reed groves and water channels, marshes and woods. The coast is mainly sandy with some short rocky stretches and is rich in vegetation and aquatic plant species such as purple orchids, yellow iris and water lily.
The wetland is certainly the most interesting landscape of the whole area with the two small lakes (Salapi and Pantano Grande) and is covered by reed groves, marshes and small swamps. The forest is made up of Aleppo pines, holm oak and cypresses.Le Cesine reserve is located along a major Mediterranean migratory route, making it the perfect resting place for many birds such as wild ducks, grey and purple herons, gulls, hawks, cormorants, grebes, great and little egrets. Seagulls and woodcock are also very common along the coast.The wood and the Mediterranean maquis are populated by reptiles and mammals such as foxes, badgers and the great deer, the lizard and the colubro leopardino (one of the rarest snakes in Europe).
The reserve is open all year round; it can be visited only by walking tours and accompanied by expert guides. The tours are held every Sunday and feast days at fixed times which may vary according to the period of the year. Several routes are available for all visitors needs, including specific trails for photographers and birdwatchers. They all start from the visitor center located in the beautiful Masseria Cesine where WWF has established the headquarter: large spaces for teaching and watching documentaries are available here.