Tuscany: a region of unique beauty, whose landscapes, cities and monuments are famous all over the world. But there are some lesser-known corners, but no less suggestive. We went to discover the Upper Valdarno, a valley that develops around the bed of the Arno river, halfway between Florence, Arezzo and Siena.
It is a small territory that unexpectedly hides numerous jewels among the scents of the vineyards. The Upper Valdarno is the heart of Tuscany, someone could say of Italy, enclosed between the mountains of Chianti and the Pratomagno, and is a perfect destination for a slow holiday, between taste and nature, between art and relaxation.
Villages, cliffs, natural oases and works of art: here are our suggestions to better enjoy the Upper Valdarno.
Upper Valdarno’s Balze
Also Leonardo Da Vinci fell in love with Upper Valdarno. Perhaps this picturesque and particular landscape will remind you of something: the Balze, particular reliefs of stratified debris composed of sand, clay, pebbles and gravel that were formed by erosion after the drainage of a lake that covered the area two million years ago, are the background of the Gioconda. A little over half an hour from Florence you can admire this unique spectacle of nature, from afar or exploring the green through different paths. Among the most beautiful is the ring trail of water, reported by the CAI, which starts from Castelfranco di Sopra.
Charming villages of Upper Valdarno
The valley is dotted with charming villages. There is for example Loro Ciuffenna, among the most beautiful villages in Italy, which is perched at the foot of Mount Pratomagno. Its houses overlook the ravine of the Ciuffenna torrent where there is also the oldest water mill in the region. In San Giovanni Valdarno there is the Palazzo d’Arnofo, one of the most beautiful historical buildings of Upper Valdarno, the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie and its museum. Along the Setteponti road, a truly enchanting 60-kilometer route that winds through vineyards, hills and olive groves, Castelfranco di Sopra is also worth a visit. The most characteristic village and among the most exclusive of all Tuscany is perhaps Borro: walking through its narrow streets immersed in the Tuscan countryside means living an unmissable experience, living in an atmosphere where time seems to have stopped.
Less than two kilometers from the center of Loro Ciuffenna is one of the most interesting examples of Romanesque architecture in Tuscany, a church that dates back to 1000. It is the Romanesque church of Gropina, named after San Peter.
After visiting some of the villages that are perched at its feet, why not climb to the top of Mount Pratomagno and discover its countless beautie? The trail to Pratomagno’s cross is one of the most beautiful experiences for those who love being outdoors. It is an iron monument located on the highest point of the mountain, at almost 1600 meters above sea level.
Where to sleep in the Upper Valdarno
At the slopes of Chianti there is the organic farmhouse Il Poderaccio, which offers apartments equipped with every comfort. Guests can pick vegetables directly from the organic vegetable garden, take part in the bakery courses with natural yeast and fresh pasta lessons, relax in the outdoor whirlpool wooden tub, discover the surroundings, doze in a hammock in the shade of the fig tree. From here it is easy to reach several restaurants, where you can savor the flavors of the area.
Cover photo by Emiliano Burzagli via Wikimedia