Between medieval towns and gentle hills, Val d’Elsa is the perfect destination for a walking holiday. Let’s go hiking from San Gimignano to the Castelvecchio Natural Reserve.

An amazing landscape, medieval towns and sacred buildings: Val d’Elsa is the border between two cities: Florence and Siena. It’s the perfect place for hikers who want to explore impressive landscapes, away from the touristy and urban Tuscany. You can visit abbeys and secluded locations following the Via Francigena, an important historical path. Moreover, many pilgrims used to go through the Val d’Elsa to look for Christianity. Numerous fights took place in this valley and the Archbishop of Canterbury crossed the valley to get to Rome. The village was subject to some changes, but it still offers the possibility to discover a “minor” Tuscany, away from tourists and full of history. The itinerary crosses the Castelvecchio Natural Reserve, a protected area which includes a large woodland territory and which develops on the hills between Volterra and San Gimignano.

val d'elsa
Val d’Elsa Hill, photo via Pixabay

Trekking in the Castelvecchio Natural Reserve

map castelvecchio natural reserve
Map of the Castelvecchio natural reserve, via

From the ancient town of San Gimignano we go down to Ranza and Castel S. Gimignano, to go up along the white road on the left later. Along the path, we can admire views of the landscape and the different typical tree species, like cerris, downy oak and holm oak.

We get to Caggio, an ancient village predisposed to defend the road, which is a farmhouse today. From here, we can go down until we find the Etruscan tombs. There’s now a path which makes us cross the Botro delle Torri, where we can find the ruins of a medieval bridge.

Now we get to Cassero, where there is a drawbridge which serves as a gate to the city of Castelvecchio, historically related to San Gimignano. It is possible to visit many historical ruins inside, such as the city wall, the towers, the mill and the Chiesa di San Frediano. From this place you also have a panoramic view of the surroundings.

Castelvecchio, photo via Wikimedia

The Castelvecchio Natural Reserve allows us to see for ourselves the influence that the exposure of the hillsides has on vegetation. In fact, in the narrow and deep hills there is a phenomenon called temperature inversion. Because of this, on the high part of the hillsides and on the southern part we can find plants which are typical of the Mediterranean climate. On the contrary, the low part of the hillsides, which stays in the shade, is characterized by a completely different vegetation, typical of mountain cool and wet climate.

Where to sleep near the Castelvecchio Natural Reserve

vegan agrivilla i pini
Vegan Agrivilla I Pini, an Ecobnb near San Gimignano and the Castelvecchio natural reserve

If you want to explore this places full of nature and historu for some days, you can choose to stay in an eco-friendly accommodation facility surrounded by nature. Some examples?

  • Vegan Agrivilla I Pini, a biological paradise where you can get away from the chaos of the city to experience a peaceful and relaxing holiday. The terrace of the vegan restaurant overlooks the majestic city of San Gimignano.
  • Poderi Arcangelo, an organic farm immersed in 40 hectares of vineyards and olive trees, in Capezzano, with a restaurant and a pool.
  • Hotel Sovestro, surrounded by olive groves and vineyards, 2 km far from the Towers of San Gimignano. Here, you can also buy zero km products of the farm.

In other words, the Castelvecchio Natural Reserve is a treasure chest of history and nature. It’s the ideal starting point for your sustainable holiday away from the chaos of the cities.

Cover image: Castelvecchio Natural Reserve, photo via Wikimedia

Author: Chiara Scarinzi

Hi! I’m Chiara, I come from Benevento and I study Modern Languages for Tourist and Business Intermediation at the University of Trento. I enjoy listening to music and watching movies, but most of all I love travelling and getting to know new destinations and cultures, it’s a way to grow and to open your mind. For this, I think it’s important to take care of the environment: it’s a precious good for our growth.
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