Bats have always intrigued me. I decided to get to know these spooky sweet creatures better and went on a bat walk organized by Riserva Naturale Oasi WWF Valpredina and Caffi Museum of Natural Sciences in my city of Bergamo.
Before setting off on our bat quest, we were briefed on their biology and habits. Both children and adults in our group were curious to see museum specimen in glass boxes, some tiny bat sculls and pictures of their habitat. There are 35 species of bats living across Italy, many of them manage to co-exist with humans in big cities quite well. It is easy enough to spot them in the evening if you stay near a light source where insects gather.
Bats are nocturnal animals able to find their way and distinguish their surroundings even in total darkness with help of echolocation. Bats emit high-frequency sounds (ultrasounds) that hit the surrounding objects and bounce back at them. Their complex hearing system helps to find insects and move at high speed in any environment.
Most of bat sounds have a frequency too high for us to hear. We were given special devices called “bat detectors” that capture ultrasounds, so we could hear the night creatures emitting sounds. We walked along dark streets, stopped near medieval towers and listened to bats voices. A few of them swished past us chasing invisible insects and our bat detectors registered dry clicking and squeaking noises that seemed absolutely surreal. Our guide told us that there are mainly the bulldog bat and Kuhl’s pipistrelle. Many of them live in the old part of town, in cracks and holes of ancient walls and towers. Bats are always very discreet neighbours. They do not damage walls or beams, do not bring material inside their shelter and do not build nests. They just need some place where to hide during the day and to protect themselves from possible predators.
Where to see bats in Italy
Every summer bat many nocturnal walks are organised near Rome by a voluntary organisation “Tutela Pipistrelli”. You can find announcements about upcoming events on their website or simply email them for information.
If you happen to be in Florence, look out for bat boxes on buildings and trees. The Florence Museum of Natural history started selling them to everyone who wished to help the nocturnal mammals and the project has proved to be quite successful with a few hundred boxes placed around the city. The same project exists in Mantua and in small towns around Lake Trasimeno.
There is a fantastic walk on the Amalfi Coast, that starts in a small village of Furore, 8 km from Amalfi. The trail is well signposted and called by the locals “Trail of the crazy bats” (“Sentiero dei pipistrelli impazziti”) because when the sun starts going down the bats that live in the area come out of hiding and start circling around in search for food.
This is a guest post by Claudia Moreschi, a travel blogger who runs the Travel Stories blog.
Photos by: Claudia Moreschi, Manuel/Flickr, Leonardo Ancillotto.