The typical hills of the Tuscan landscape offer the best possible escape from the summer heat and extend over numerous miles. For decades traditional tourism has been coming back to Montecatini Terme to bathe in its world-famous thermal waters. La Toscana Da Leonardo a Pinocchio offers a broader approach to Tuscan tourism: from hiking routes to bike trails along around the Montalbano area.
Valdinievole by bike
On two wheels, the Valdinievole presents a variety of paths for every level of biker, where crossing county lines means a change of scenery, of culture, and of local foods to sample on breaks. For example, take an easy 28km route leaving from Montecatini Terme, with not many hills (maximum elevation gain of about 50 meters). Following the Pescia stream from Montecatini Terme towards Albinatico, arriving at the Padule di Fucecchio for a most impressive view of the wetlands and surrounding woods. Within the natural reserve, the bike path takes you to a hunting lodge and a boat dock, while the way home is along another waterway.
(Find some bike itineraries in Italian here)
Hiking in the Valdinievole
Pretty much the entire area of Valdinievole is criss-crossed with safe, marked hiking paths, but perhaps the most charming one is the via della Fiaba. Part of a European collection of hiking related to fables, this path earns its marks for the proximity to the Parco di Pinocchio. In fact, it’s a circular route that starts in Pescia (via Sismondi) and moves up towards Tignano di Sopra to reach the castle of Collodi, the charming borgo that was home to the author of Pinocchio. One then goes back down hill to visit the Pinocchio park and villa, and then back to Pescia. The route is 12 km long and may take 3-4 hours depending on experience and how many times you stop – the path is well cleaned, with some grassy areas, olive groves and gentle hills, appropriate even for children with some hiking experience. The path is also bike-friendly.
Another walking experience that’s just 5km long is Poggio alla Guardia, a guided walk through the municipality of Pieve a Nievole through a naturally hilly natural protected environment. Unique features within this area are the limestone outcrops, the chiroptera (bats) who make their home in winter in the caves, and now in spring, the beautiful wild orchids and other native flora that are in abundance.
The route heads to the Hill of Montecatini Alto through an avenue of traditional cypress pines and into bushland with filtered views of hilltop villages, olive groves, vines growing on terraces and small private gardens with fruit orchards in blossom. On the way down you pass the famous Dante Bridge. In Dante’s Inferno, the protagonist waited on this bridge to find out the outcome of a battle between the two opposing factions of Guelphs and Ghibellines.
For more information about this area please see www.tomontecatini.com