Danilo Papi
Danilo Papi
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The right path for nature lovers

If you are looking for a quiet, relaxing place to wander far from everything, this is the right spot for you. This is a organized route, well maintained and mostly plain. In the projects of the municipalities concerned the path should have started from the Mill of San Cassiano at the sources of river Pesa around Radda in Chianti and end up at Montelupo Fiorentino, where the river pours into the Arno, overall a 56 kilometers track. So far are open the ways from the Ginestra Fiorentina to Montelupo, some short ways from Ginetra to Cerbaia and uninterrupted one from Cerbaia to Ponte di Rignana for a length of about 25 km. This path that runs parallel to the river for a large part of its itinerary is of rare beauty. In an absolute silence (except the short segments where it lines the superstrada Firenze and Siena). You will flank vineyards, hills dotted with houses and farms. In this path you can meet people who’s walking or going jogging, people riding, cyclists, and some rare car of the few residents, but, if you are lucky, you can see even fallow deers, foxes, roe deers, hares and pheasants (the area is a hunting reserve from Cerbaia to Ponte Rotto). The best moments of walking along these paths are the late spring when nature is lush and the river has a good flow rate of water, or in autumn, when it is possible to admire the typical colors of this season. Along the track there are here and there rest stands with rudimentary seats built with large stones. During the summer months, even if in the path it is never too hot thanks to the air flowing coming from the river, it is advisable to have with you a bottle of water or a canteen.

Way from Cerbaia to Bargino (about 15 km) This route has three entrances, from Cerbaia, from the Ponte Rotto under San Casciano and from Bargino.

• Access from Cerbaia you pass the bridge over the river Sugana, on the Via Empolese near to the first houses of the village, then, crossed the bridge go right and take the small road that passes through the houses, take it and after 300 meters you will on the path, turn left towards Ponte Rotto, which is reachable in just over an hour on foot. The route runs parallel to the Pesa, in this part the trail goes through a hunting reserve where you can meet fallow deers, roe deers, foxes, hares, pheasants and wild boars. If you want there are some detours, the first is near the first iron bar, the second, for those coming from the opposite direction, leads you to turn left and go straight. The road climbs and after half an hour of challenging journey you will arrive at the Montepaldi farm, an ancient villa, now seat of the University of Florence, where is produced a good Chianti Classico that you can buy directly. From the square in front of the villa you can enjoy a magnificent view, one of the most beautiful on the Pesa and its valley .

If you go on, after about 1 km there is a second detour, it also has an iron bar, necessary to prevent access to not authorized vehicles. Turning left and then left again in 40 minutes you reach Montepaldi, here the road is less intensive than the previous one; if you head instead straight to Mucciana, a small restored hamlet, carrying on you arrive at Poggiale, a charming residence. After a few meters you get to the Via Empolese: if you go left and take the first road, always staying on the left side, after about 800 meters you arrive to the Montepaldi farm. Continuing we return to the river completing a nice ride, perhaps a bit tiring, but very nice. Ignoring the detours you get to Ponte Rotto on the Via Certaldese: here there are two good reasons for a stopover, the Ponte Rotto grocery, great for a sandwich or a schiacciata stuffed with spe-cial cold cuts produced directly by the owner and enjoy a good glass of wine, and the typical trattoria of the Ponte Rotto, a cozy place that serves the typical Tuscan cuisine dishes. To continue towards the Bargino you have to cross the village in the direction of San Casciano; after passing the car park turn right and you will reach the river in a few minutes. A short distance away is the sports park of Botte, delicious, fresh and relaxing, located on the river bank, where you can stop for a coffee, an ice cream or to have dinner in the park restaurant. In the park there are a playground for children, 2 tennis courts, a baseball field and a picnic area equipped with barbecue and seating tables. Obviously in summertime and especially on weekends this place is overcrowded, and it is difficult to find a place to eat outside if you do not arrive early. Going forward you get to a bridge: you are at Calzaiolo, and if you cross the bridge and turn left you can continue to the Bargino, Sambuca and Ponte di Rignana.

Way from Bargino to Ponte di Rignana At the Bargino bridge head towards Sambuca Val di Pesa, pass under the bridge of the Florence-Siena highway that you will flank for a short distance; reached the following bridge, at the top of a short climb you continue straight: here the landscape is more rugged, but equally amazing. It is possible that the path skimmed by the river could be damaged in some parts by the floods of the Pesa; the last stretch of the path has almost completely lacking shade: here you pass close to the ruins of a beautiful farmhouse. On the opposite side of the river there are the Chianti hills with woods, vineyards and the inevitable typical Tuscan farmhouses; behind them the beautiful Vallombrosian abbey of Badia a Passignano. The path ends on a paved road: going to the right you can quickly reach the village of Sambuca, where there is the magnificent Roman bridge and a place not to be missed, the Francini butchery selling excellent meats and cold cuts. Close to the butchery there is a rustic restaurant that offers almost exclusively meat, steaks, barbecue, tartare and cold cuts. All at affordable prices. After the Sambuca Bridge, the road is wonderful but has some difficult stretches: in 5 km you will arrive at the bridge of Rignana. Once here you have the opportunity to continue to Greve in Chianti or Badia a Passignano but are all very challenging routes and you have to be well trained.

• Pieve di San Pancrazio Placed on the hill that divides the Val di Pesa from the Val Virginio, it dates back to the 10th century, as testified by a document found at Badia di Passignano. The building, of evident Roman origins, has undergone heavy alterations in the xv century when the Company of the Annunciation was founded. Later, the Chapel of San Giovanni, the Canonica and the Portal of the main façade were added to the original building. The Church, which owes much to Pievano Niccolò Cavalcanti, who lived there and dedicated all his possessions to its expansion and embellishment, brought there Santi di Tito when he was involved in the construction of Villa le Corti: he left a beautiful painting depicting the Crucifixion of Christ. It has a plan with three naves that ends with likewise circular apses. Of the original Romanesque structure remains the bell tower, the tribune with the three apses (only the central one is intact). Inside the Pieve there are works of considerable interest, a xvi century painting of the Madonna between San Sebastiano and San Rocco and a panel of Cenni di Francesco, important painter and miniaturist of the 1400s, and on the right aisle a fresco of an unknown Tuscan painter, 1300-1400, which depicts the Madonna with child among the Saints. Near the main altar there is a beautiful wooden Crucifix. Not to be missed, next to the church, is the beautiful studio of Niccolò, a room with walls entirely frescoed with stunning paintings. These represent all the arts, the Grammar with the wand skywards indicating God who illuminates the wisdom of men. There are depicted Dante, Boccaccio, Guido Cavalcanti, ancestor of Niccolò. Alongside the scholars of the past Thales, Sophocles, Socrates, Strabo and Empedocles.

This travel tip is part of Danilo Papi’s To the discovery of the Chianti Wine Road. From Florence to San Gimignano and Siena passing by way of Volterra. Click on the banner below if you are interested in buying the book.

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