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Horseback itineraries along the Etruscan coast: Following the Leopoldian Acqueduct

Stunning panoramas from Pian di Rota to Valle Benedetta

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Parco dei Monti Livornoesi

Type of road:
Departure point: Valle Benedetta
Arrival point: Le Serre
Type of road: cart-track
Travelling time: 4 hours
Distance: 21 km approx.

Departure is from the Eremo della Sambuca gate in the Valle Benedetta. On the left are ruins of a windmill, while on the right can be seen the Poggio ai Frati hill topped by a large radar antenna known as the “ball." Going around the side of Poggio ai Frati near the Pianone farm, you go down to the springs of the Morra River, (before the spring, after the farm, there is a fork to the right where the alternative scenic route begins at Fociarella) which is channeled into the 19th-century Leopoldian aqueduct and past two old mills which used the waters of the Morra River before it was diverted. The springs are nearby, submerged in the captivating setting of a centuries-old holm-oak wood.

At the little shrine with a cross - a reference point for getting your correct bearings - you cross the Colognole-Valle Benedetta-Livorno asphalt road to reach the Colognole cemetery, an ancient Roman fortress guarding the Via Emilia road. Here there is a beautiful view over the Morra Valley. Continuing to the right, your re-enter the woods and ford the Savolano stream. After coming out onto the Via di Popogna road and riding along 200m of asphalt towards Livorno, turn left at the shrine and take the old Livorno Road which leads downhill to the Gabbro cemetery at Le Pescine. Crossing Via di Popogna road again, go round the cemetery and back into the scrub on Via della Sassicaia, the ancient road for Collesalvetti, which passes Toricchi, another Roman era site.

Once arrived at another shrine, you can go to the left (about 200 meters) to see the Ricaldo Fountain, which until the fifties was used by the women of Gabbro to do their washing. From the shrine, the Horseback Trail continues to the right, overlooking the valley, and passing the eighteenth-century villa of the Finocchietti family and, on the left the Villa Poggiopiano, noted from the paintings of Silvestro Lega and other Macchiaioli painters who were guests of the Bandini sisters. At this point, the Horseback trail passes near the stop-over point (food and accommodation) Il Mandriolo. You continue along the road which connected Rosignano Marittimo with Pisa in the Middle Ages, passing several hermitages, including the Sambuca.

After a short while, you pass near the Villa Nardi, where the well-known “Beppe's wall” can be seen, where interesting fossils have been found among the limestone. You then cross the Sanguigna stream with its 5 old watermills. The Horseback Trail now passes near the Podere delle Porcarecce farm, where the village of Contrino with the church of San Michele stood in the Middle Ages. Following the course of the Motorno Stream, you cross an Etruscan bridge meeting the road for the Fattoria di Paltratico. Following a hilly landscape full of vineyards and olive groves, after crossing the Scaforno Stream you reach the church of San Martino and descend to the San Giorgio stream where there is a perpetual spring, ideal for watering horses even in the hottest months. From here you begin to climb up towards the village of Castelnuovo Misericordia where you carry on towards Nibbiaia, following the Marroccone road. From now on, the road gradually climbs higher up to the Poggio delle Terre Rosse ridge road, arriving shortly after at the view site at Le Serre.


Just past Poggio ai Frati, at 340 meters the highest point in the area, you arrive at  fork to the right where the alternative scenic route begins. In a short time, you reach a magnificent viewing point where the scene encompasses the Fattoria di Popogna, the port of Livorno, the islands of the archipelago and Montenero. The route continues along the ridge, through alternating stretches of woods and clearings and enchanting scenic points, to arrive at Palazzina. The trail passes a picnic area and crosses the asphalt to continue in the Chioma Valley, more exactly in the area of the former shooting range between Monte La Chiocciolina and Ginepraia where the source of the Chioma is found. You descend towards the valley, passing by what once was “the shepherds' hotel”, on an undulating route between Mediterranean scrub and pastures, coming to an old mill under reconstruction outside Nibbiaia, and nearby, along the Chioma, there is a perpetual spring, ideal for watering the horses. Old rural houses can be seen along this stretch of the Horseback Trail before reaching the Gorgo farm, near which you cross the Chioma River and continue uphill as far as Nibbiaia on what is known as the Via di Montenero.

You pass through the village following the so called “Nibbiaia walk” with a view over the Montorno valley, Gabbro and the hills of Santa Luce, to arrive at Legni Torti. You ascend the Via delle Corazze, following a spectacular ridge which overlooks the sea, the Livorno Hills and the hills of the interior all at the same time. At the Casa Cirinei on the ridge, the Horseback Trail descends to the Nibbiaia - Castelnuovo Misericordia road. After 60 meters of asphalt, the trail returns to the scrub (with a possible detour towards Paltratico) arriving at Piazza di Mattiola, an important point for replenishing water. On an ancient Etruscan-Ligurian track bordered by the ruins of the original wall, which runs along the side of the hill, you travel the last stretch before reaching Le Serre, enjoying a spectacular view and passing the Pian dei Lupi archaeological area with the late-Hellenistic necropolises thought to be of an aristocratic class judging from the richness and complexity of the accoutrements. The site, settled between the IV and III centuries B.C., owed its fortune to its strategic position on the Tyrrhenian coast during the Romanization era.


Point of departure and return: Poggio Pelato
Type of road: cart-track
Travelling time: 1 hour
Distance: 6 km approx.

Departure is from Poggio Pelato, starting the descent towards Castiglioncello immediately and enjoying a view of practically the whole Costa degli Etruschi from Piombino to Livorno. After about 20 minutes ride, you cross the Aurelia road by a bridge near the Le Spianate disco. Going past the disco, after about 2km you come to the Spianate pond, where horses and riders can stop for a break. The pond is well-known for competition fishing and the restaurant offers a simple, traditional cuisine based on local products. The circular route then goes back towards the bridge where you turn left onto a white road which goes around the Poggio del Tedesco to return to Poggio Pelato. This last stretch rises gently towards the ridge.