Tagliamento

King of Alpine Rivers

Facts

Location
Friuli, Italy
Length
178 km
Source height
1.195m asl
Drainage
2.900 km2

The Tagliamento is the last morphologically preserved river in the Alps. It is a reference ecosystem for countless researchers and experts around the world. It offers an unique opportunity to preserve the natural heritage and guarantee the well-being of riverine communities.

Discover the river

The Tagliamento: the last example of Alpine pristine morphologies.
The Tagliamento: a river connected with riverine communities Discover a selection of river-local connections
Tagliamento: an unique ecological corridor.
Credits: Stefano Pittaro

Climate

Climate change is strongly affecting the Alpine region, with a recognized trend towards drier conditions in summer, with frequent droughts and less frequent but more intense rains. The Friuli Venezia-Giulia environmental agency (Arpa) has developed an estimate of potential changes and their effects, which might also affect the Tagliamento river.

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Climate
Upper Course
Middle Course
Lower Course
Credits: Eugenio Novajra

Tributaries

The Tagliamento has many tributaries, the main ones being Degano, But, Fella, Leale, Arzino, Cosa, Ledra e Varmo. Also thanks to its tributaries, it collects stones and gravels from all over the eastern Alps.

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Tributaries

Caprizi dam

The Caprizi dam creates a small artificial lake in the upper Tagliamento valley. The Caprizi dam is one of the few obstacles in the main Tagliamento river course, while there are many dams or obstacles in its tributaries that might represent a threat to the riverine ecosystem.

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Caprizi dam
Credits: Eugenio Novajra

Ospedaletto water intake

The Ospedaletto water intake plan is one of the main infrastructures on the Tagliamento. It was constructed at the beginning of 1900 and since then extracts water from the river.

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Ospedaletto water intake

Water quality

The Tagliamento river is monitored by a government agency (Arpa) to check its water quality. Research projects are also being carried out by IGB (Leibniz Institute of freshwater ecology and inland fisheries), in particular to assess the presence of microplastics. Water quality is also assessed by other associations such as Legambiente also with citizen science activities.

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Water quality
Credits: Eugenio Novajra

Pinzano stretch

The Pinzano stretch offers one of the most breathtaking views of the river, and is the location of the planned flood defense infrastructure. From Mount Ragogna/Muris, the Tagliamento is first seen as it emerges from the prealps before widening out into the large braided channels. Here, flood retention infrastructure is planned, with potential impacts on the river.

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Pinzano stretch
Credits: Eugenio Novajra

Aonedis escarpment

The river escarpment of Aonedis is a wonderful example of the stratification of sediments brought by the river and subsequently eroded in its successive movements. In this area, the river terraces that today indicate the riverbed are evident, and which can be seen very well from Monte di Muris or from the Mont di Prat plateau.

Aonedis escarpment
Credits: Emanuele Lodolo

Resurgences

The Tagliamento river plain is very rich in water thanks to the underground aquifers which, precisely in the passage between the high and low plains, emerge on the surface. There are therefore many resurgences that create lakes (olle) and rivers (for example, Varmo and Stella). These resurgence streams have great naturalistic, landscape, historical and cultural value. You can read more here.

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Resurgences

Delta

The mouth of the Tagliamento River is a delta. Contrary to what we think, and we are taught in schools, it has only one output channel. The mass of debris, sands and other detrital material transported here meet the force of the winds, in particular those of the sirocco and the wave motion, the material is then distributed along the coasts to its right and left and over the years has formed the two peninsulas of Bibione and Lignano Sabbiadoro.

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Delta
Credits: Chiara Scaini

Friulian Dolomites Natural Park

The Friulian Dolomites natural park includes, in its territory, the upper Tagliamento valley, a geosite where one can observe morphologies and geological structures that are among the most representative of the Friulian alpine landscape. The upper Tagliamento valley offers itineraries and activities for expert hikers but also for families

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Friulian Dolomites Natural Park
Credits: Cristina Fiorido

Bike paths

The Tagliamento river is bordered by various cycle paths, the most important of which is the Tagliamento cycle path (FVG6).

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Bike paths

Kayak

The Tagliamento River offers a wonderful opportunity for kayak enthusiasts, with long stretches that allow for kayaking almost year-round.

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Kayak
Credits: Giosuè Cuccurullo

History and cultural heritage

Since prehistoric times there have been human settlements along the Tagliamento. During its travels, the river influenced the lives of citizens, modifying the landscape and sometimes destroying countries and cultures, as documented in maps and historical texts.

History and cultural heritage
Credits: Giosuè Cuccurullo

Mosaics

Since 1922, Spilimbergo has hosted a mosaic school that builds on the Roman and Byzantine tradition. Other examples of mosaics in the region are found in Aquileia. On the Tagliamento river there is also a small but valuable Roman mosaics discovered in the ‘70s, in Col di Zuca, close to Invillino.

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Mosaics
Credits: Eugenio Novajra

Recreational activities

The braided channels of the Tagliamento river host recreational activities including sunbathing, walking, biking, fishing. The community that visits, more or less frequently, the river is growing more and more.

Recreational activities
Credits: Paolo Steffan

Poetry and literature

The Tagliamento has inspired poets, writers and artists, including Pierpaolo Pasolini who spent his childhood in these areas. Even today, various artists are inspired by the Tagliamento for their works.

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Poetry and literature
Credits: Eugenio Novajra

Agriculture

The river is central to agriculture in the area, in particular in the floodplain. Thanks to the alluvial deposits brung by the tagliamento, and in particular its gravel (‘grave’), wines here have a peculiar taste. There are various examples of wineries on the right and left of the river, producing wine near the river.

Read more about San Daniele ham and wineries on the tagliamento.

Agriculture
Credits: Eugenio Novajra

Lignano

Lignano is the main touristic destination of Friuli Venezia Giulia. The town has developed recently, and up until 1959 was part of the Latisana municipality and was then turned into an independent town. It has since gradually adapted to the needs of a constantly growing number of seaside tourists.

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Lignano
Credits: Chiara Scaini

Traditions

Over the centuries, riverine communities have used raw materials from the river to produce everyday objects and crafts. For example, wicker from willow trees was harvested to weave baskets and other containers.

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Traditions
Credits: Wikimedia

Rosalia alpina

The Alpine Rosalia, Rosalia alpina (Linneaus, 1758) is a saproxylic beetle belonging to the
family Cerambycidae, subfamily Cerambycinae. It is a species with Euro-Anatolian diffusion,
present in the mountainous regions of central-southern Europe and northern Europe up to Southern Sweden, reaching as far as Turkey, Syria and the Caucasus.

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Rosalia alpina
Credits: Tiziano Fiorenza

Golden Jackal

The golden jackal (Canis aureus) is a protected species. In Friuli Venezia Giulia it is estimated that there are a variable number between 100-150 specimens, mainly distributed in the Trieste and Gorizia Karst, and along waterways such as the Tagliamento and the Torre. The University of Udine in particular has studied their presence and habits in the upper reaches of the Tagliamento.

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Golden Jackal
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:001_Wild_Golden_Eagle_and_Majinghorn_Pfyn-Finges_Photo_by_Giles_Laurent.jpg

Golden Eagle

The golden eagle is present in the Friulian Dolomites Natural Park and on its edges, where there are 8 nesting pairs. It is a predator with a very varied diet, which includes ungulate mammals, rodents and ornithic species, also of international importance.

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Golden Eagle
Credits: Igor Maiorana

Griffon vulture

The Regional Nature Reserve of Lake Cornino was established by regional law in 1996. The project for the reintroduction of the Griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus) was successfully launched within it. In its vicinity it is possible to visit Lake Cornino, a small body of water of karst origin, from which the reserve takes its name. The naturalistic area borders the Tagliamento river. At the visitor center and in the surrounding area it is possible to observe different species of interest.

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Griffon vulture

Marble trout

Fish of greater significance in the Tagliamento area, from the foothill sector to the estuary, include Lampetra zanandreai (Italian brook lamprey), Barbus plebejus (Italian barbel), Protochondrostoma genei (Italian chub), Telestes muticellus (Italian vairone), Salmo marmoratus (Marble trout), Thymallus thymallus (Grayling), and Cottus gobio (European bullhead).

The marble trout (Salmo marmoratus) is characteristic of the subalpine Italian and Slovenian Adriatic river basins. The marble trout is characterized by an alternation of light and dark, irregular, and often fused spots, forming an intricate pattern referred to as “marbling,” from which the common name of the animal is derived. Each river seems to preserve a strain with slightly different morphological and coloration characteristics, although not taxonomically significant.

Marble trout

Reptiles and amphibians

The species of amphibians and reptiles of major significance in the Tagliamento area include:

Amphibians:
Triturus carnifex, Bufotes viridis, Hyla intermedia, Rana latastei

Reptiles:
Lacerta bilineata, Podarcis muralis, Podarcis siculus, Hierophis viridiflavus carbonarius, Natrix tessellata

Reptiles and amphibians

Magredi Grasslands

The “magredi” grasslands (i.e. barren lands) are made up of a large number of species belonging to numerous families, the most important of which, in terms of naturalistic value, is that of orchids. Some plant species are found only in a limited territory between Friuli and the Illyrian region (for example the Carthusian carnation, Ressmann’s ambrette, Freyn’s cockscomb). Conservation does not need artificial sowing: the propagation of species is guaranteed by natural mechanisms.

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Magredi Grasslands
Credits: Wikimedia

Stag beetle

The stag beetle (Lucanus cervus) is the largest beetle in Europe and can measure up to 8 cm.
The male has enormous mandibles that resemble deer antlers and are used during fights between males for possession of females.

It is protected by regional law 9/2007 of Friuli Venezia Giulia which prohibits its capture and killing. It is disappearing throughout Europe due to the reduction of mature oak forests, the rarefaction of large trees and the excessive clearing of dead wood from forests. The Tagliamento and its floodplain woods are an excellent habitat for this beetle.

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Stag beetle
Credits: Stefano Zanini

Common Bee-orchid tilaventina

The name of the orchid Common Bee-orchid tilaventina derives from the Greek ophrys = eyebrow due to the appearance and position of the upper tepals and that generic from the Latin apis = bee and fero = port with the meaning of bee-bearer (due to the appearance and function of the labellum). The specific epithet derives from “tilaventum”, the ancient name of the Tagliamento river, where it was found for the first time.

Common Bee-orchid tilaventina
Credits: Tiziano Fiorenza

European freshwater crayfish

The local river crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes) frequents the ditches of the resurgences, including the spring environments adjacent to the Tagliamento. It is considered to be in decline in Italy due to the worsening of the biological quality of waterways (pollution), and the modification of natural waterways. Also contributing to its decrease are the abundant harvesting (banned for many years in Friuli Venezia Giulia), the introduction of alien species (such as the Louisiana red crayfish, Procambarus clarkii).

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European freshwater crayfish
Credits: Eugenio Novarja

Riparian forest

The special conservation area (ZSC) of the Torreano forest extends for 140 hectares in the lower Friulian plain. It includes a stretch of riverbed and floodplain illustrating the vegetation of the riparian woods which, in nature, would be present in most of the lower course. Unfortunately, however, it is among the few left in the region. The most common species are white willow, black poplar, black alder. On the bed of the Tagliamento there is herbaceous pioneer gravel vegetation.

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Riparian forest

Kentish plover

The Kentish plover (Charadrius alexandrinus ) is a small wader, which nests on the beaches. This habit clashes with the human needs to exploit the coasts for tourist purposes and for this reason the species has suffered a notable demographic collapse in recent years.

On the beaches of Lignano and Bibione the species has been monitored for years by volunteers and since 2022 a stretch of the Lignano beach has been closed off to allow the small wader to nest peacefully.
Good results arrived already in the first year and are improving with time.

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Kentish plover

Threats to the river system

Meandro di Cesarolo (Eugenio Novajra)
Piena a Morsano al Tagliamento (Eugenio Novajra)

Flood Protection

Floods are natural phenomena that cause the river to move within its river plain. The embankments can protect neighboring towns but, if very narrow, they take away space from the river and allow building to be built very close to the river, leading to a potentially dangerous situation.

Credits: Eugenio Novajra
The Tagliamento river in the Pinzano area, where infrastructures are planned (Eugenio Novajra)

Infrastructure

Currently there are projects to build a dam and a highway in the area of Pinzano-Ragogna. These projects are in conflict with environmental and socio-cultural values in the area and with the conservation of the entire river, and with the most recent European directives.

Gravel extraction in the Tagliamento riverbed (Eugenio Novajra)
Gravel extraction in the Tagliamento riverbed (Eugenio Novajra)

Gravel and water supply

The Tagliamento supplies large quantities of water and raw materials for industrial, agricultural and domestic uses. The water withdrawn from the river is taken away from the river ecosystem while the gravel withdrawals modify its course, altering permanently the balance of the river.

Why it should be preserved

Credits: Eugenio Novajra
Credits: Eugenio Novajra

It’s the last free flowing river of the alps

80km
More than 80 km of pristine braided channels
Credits: Stefano Zanini
Credits: Stefano Zanini

It is an unique ecosystem

40
It hosts more than 40 varieties of wild orchids
Credits: Giosuè Cuccurullo
Credits: Giosuè Cuccurullo

People want to preserve it

15.000
People have signed a petition
Credits: Chiara Scaini
Credits: Chiara Scaini

It has cultural, spiritual and identity values

Credits: Giordano Cervi
Credits: Giordano Cervi

It is a reference ecosystem for science

Credits: Eugenio Novajra
Credits: Eugenio Novajra

Water and soil provide vital resources to communities

It helps regulating climate and water cycle

Credits: Chiara Scaini
Credits: Chiara Scaini

It's a natural classroom for hundreds of students

Credits: Patrizia Brunetti
Credits: Patrizia Brunetti

Inspires countless cultural activities

Learn more in the e-library

This library is an e-community for sharing formal and informal knowledge about the river. It will serve as a central access point for information on the Tagliamento, its environment and its communities.

Contribute to the E-library