The Valdarno is, as its name suggests, the valley crossed by the Arno River situated between Arezzo and the Florence area. This touristy area is filled with traditions, history and a significant industrial vivacity. Such development, however, didn’t impact the artistic heritage and the rural charm of the territory. A unique and picturesque land, the Valdarno – Arezzo area is a dotted with gentle slopes and numerous crags that have been eroded over time by rainwater. Here, colour is everything: the dark pine trees at the top of the ravines, the shaded oak forests deep inside the gorges lined with yellowy clay that cut through the earth like a wound, the enduring silver of the olive trees and the green of the vineyards that are tinged red every evening at sundown. There are many demonstrations of the presence of a nature that’s very much alive, like the Valle dell’Inferno Nature Reserve, the Bandella Oasis, home to a marsh that attracts those who love slow tourism and birdwatching, the excellently curated Fineschi Rose Garden in Cavriglia, a splendid garden boasting more than 6,000 varieties of this elegant flower, and the solitary setting of the slopes of the Pratomagno, a mountain more than 1,500 high that can be reached from Loro Ciuffena.
One element above all others, however, uniquely characterizes the landscape: the Balze, an erosive phenomenon that resulted in steep clayey slopes, bestowed with their typical yellow colour. Considering their immeasurable beauty, they’re protected not only by Terranuova Bracciolini and Castelfranco Piandiscò, but also by a 2,000-hectare nature reserve that they’re a part of. These steep ravines were as beloved throughout history as they are today, as even Leonardo da Vinci painted them in the background of some of this most famous paintings, including the Mona Lisa. The Renaissance genius, however, wasn’t the only one to be impressed by the colours of this scenery: two other historic figures left their mark here as well: Fra Angelico and Masaccio. In San Giovanni, for example, you can admire a painting of the Annunciation by the former and visit the house where the latter was born.
Nature in the Valdarno isn’t just a pretty face; it’s also a precious resource that mankind has skilfully made use of. There’s a strong farming tradition in this area, particularly regarding high-quality wine and olive oil production, which is highlighted by a thematic itinerary known as the “Terre di Arezzo Wine Trail, which runs all the way to Val di Chiana. The Zolfino bean is also produced here, as is the delicious Taresa bacon, a designated Slow Food found between Terranuova Bracciolini, Montevarchi and Bucine.
The Valdarno – Arezzo area is home to farms that maintain the rural flavour of the Tuscan countryside, as well as interesting towns and villages with traces of defence walls, fortresses and castles.