The forgotten dune

Once upon a time there was a forgotten dune...

It was an old dune. Ancient maps show that there were "sand mountains" between Chioggia and Brondolo at the end of the 18th century, and until the 1960s the dunes were still present in the coastal area of what is now Sottomarina di Chioggia (VE).

Our dune had long resisted urbanisation, mass tourism, cultivated fields that were then left uncultivated... and as chance would have it, it had ended up in the garden of the Istituto Comprensivo Chioggia 5. Other, less fortunate, bumps of land attributed to the remains of the historic dunes had ended up in the green areas belonging to various local organisations: the civil protection headquarters, a residence for the elderly and a theatre centre.

One fine day, after a long time when the children had stopped going to school because of a terrible pandemic and when they were finally able to go back they had to stay outdoors as much as possible, the school headmistress remembered the old dune. The school already had a botanical garden and everyone had seen how much the children liked "doing to learn" and how much they learned by doing. So the idea was born to save the old dune from decay to create a beautiful botanical garden as a support for educational activities for the students.

The good headmistress called together teachers, professors and professors and together they devised a grandiose multidisciplinary project that included geography with the study of the climate and the territory, history with the collection of ancient documents and the testimonies of the old wise men of the village, art with the beautiful drawings of plants and flowers, and science with botany and the environment.

But all this was not enough to restore the old dune to its former glory.


So they called in the experts from Life Redune, a project financed by the European Community precisely to rehabilitate the habitats of the coastal dunes. Veneto Agricoltura intervened, analysing the old dune, its environmental context, exposure to wind and salt, and planned the necessary interventions.

First of all, the dune was cleaned of weeds and shrubs, thanks also to the parents and volunteers of "Amico Giardino", then it was raked and cared for until the 30 psammophyte seedlings, i.e. sand-lovers, born and raised at the Veneto Agricoltura Centro Biodiversità Vegetale e Fuori Foresta arrived. With love and patience, one by one the seedlings were removed from their pots and planted in the sand, according to the pre-established map to recreate the 2110-2120 habitat of the grey dunes.  Each seedling has its place! Shrubs here in the sun, grasses there where there is some shade. The Ammophila arenaria at the top because it is the 'engineer of the dunes', holding the sand with its long rhizomes and catching the grains of sand with its thick tufts, carried by the wind as it falls on the dune and makes it rise. The more the sand accumulates, the bigger Ammofila becomes. Who knows what beautiful tufts it will display next summer!


But then who could explain all this to the parents? And who could give the teachers 'tips'? And who would answer the children's questions? The Cà Foscari University of Venice intervened, holding an environmental education meeting for adults and four meetings for pupils and students, divided into age groups. They presented the dunes, the many causes of threats to their habitats, the importance of dune ecosystems not only for biodiversity and the environment but also for protecting the coastline from erosion and flooding.


In order to protect the old dune, the Comprehensive Institute created a demarcated walkway so that everyone, young and old, could look at the dune, its flora, the small reptiles that hide there and the pollinating insects that visit it, without stepping on it. And to complete the work, three beautiful large information panels were put up to explain what the coastal dunes of the northern Adriatic are, how they are formed, what their habitats and flora are, and above all, how to behave when on the beach to preserve the dune environments.

And as in every good fairy tale with a happy ending, to celebrate the friendship between the old dune and the adults of tomorrow, a wonderful party was held where everyone was invited, but really everyone, because the dune of the Istituto Comprensivo Chioggia 5 is no longer just part of the history of the Sottomarina area but has become a part of the present for the citizens of today and the children of tomorrow.

Happy new life dear old dune!