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Le balze di Valdarno
natureNaturalistic attractions

The ‘balze’, or rocky outcrops, of the Valdarno region

This rough, rocky landscape provided inspiration for Leonardo da Vinci

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San Giovanni Valdarno
If you’re looking for a special landscape, something evocative enough to have inspired Leonardo da Vinci, then you ought to pay a visit to the rocky outcrops, or ‘balze’, of Valdarno. The whole Valdarno area is full of these pinnacles and rocky spires which have more in common with Bryce Canyon in Utah, US, than they do with the rest of Tuscany. As in Bryce Canyon, these balze were formed by the sediments deposited by a lake in the Pliocene and Pleistocene ages. The lake was around 20km long and covered the whole area over 2 million years ago. As the lake was formed, the water, along with the sun and the wind, eroded the mountains. When the lake began to disappear after several millennia, atmospheric elements reacted with the sediments left behind to form the rocky shapes that are visible today. The colour of these balze can be anything from blue-grey to amber, which contrasts beautifully with the surrounding landscape of oak woods and farmland. It’s easy to see how Leonardo was so fascinated by this captivating landscape. So fascinated in fact that he painted the balze in the background of the famous Gioconda. This truly is an area to lose yourself in the sights and sounds of nature.

Text and picture by Marco Ramerini

San Giovanni Valdarno
A village in the Arezzo territory filled with artistic patrimony
San Giovanni Valdarnohas maintained its medieval appearance, with the typical urban shape of the so-called “new lands”: at the centre is a large piazza, and all around are shaded porticoes delimiting the streets. San Giovanni offers are lovers more than a few attractions, including churches, museums and cultural centres. Of course, good cuisine is also in abundant supply. ...