Cycling through the forests of Vallombrosa
The forest of Vallombrosa, a destination for thousands of tourists every year, is one of the best-known green areas in Italy and has been declared a Biogenetic Nature Reserve. Crossing its woods means surrounding yourself with beech and silver fir trees, riding through picture-postcard landscapes. In this itinerary, we will explore it starting from Rosano, at the ancient Monastery of Santa Maria.
We will immediately cross the Arno River to reach the center of Pontassieve, where we can have a good breakfast before we start riding in earnest. After crossing the 16th-century bridge that gives the town its name, we will proceed for about 8 kilometers on the left side of the Sieve (orographic right) on a slight slope.
When we reach Rufina, we will cross the Sieve and begin to climb until we reach the villages of Falgano and then Diacceto; from here we continue uphill all the time, with a few short stretches of slight slope. The place is surrounded by the forest, and in the warmer season we can appreciate the cool climate. The landscape, where it is free from the forest, is picture-postcard.
The road continues to climb until almost the Consuma Pass, when we take a right onto Via della Catena. This is the highest point of the itinerary at 1021 meters above sea level. For those who would like to take the time to go to the Consuma Pass and take some panoramic photos, the detour is only 1.2 kilometer, practically on a slight slope (the Consuma Pass is at an elevation of 1050 meters).
Once we take our itinerary again, we begin a long, shady descent through the trees, with a final slightly uphill stretch that will lead us to the fascinating Abbey of Vallombrosa, nestled in the quiet of the woods.
The Abbey preserves an important artistic heritage that is certainly worth a visit: the Trinity by Lorenzo Lippi, a rich reliquary of the arm of St. John Gualbert by the Florentine goldsmith Paolo Sogliano (1500) and the inlaid wooden choir by Francesco da Poggibonsi while the Renaissance sacristy displays a panel by Raffaellino del Garbo and a large glazed terracotta altarpiece by the workshop of Andrea della Robbia.
Rested and refreshed, in spirit and body, we can resume our journey. After a kilometer of slight ascent, the road definitely begins to lose altitude with a fun and relaxing descent through the woods that will take us past the villages of Tosi and Donnini, until we reach Sant'Ellero, a village on the banks of the Arno and inevitably the end of our descent.
We take a right and after a few kilometers we cross the river to pass through Rignano sull'Arno, where the last, short effort of the day begins, a 2.3-kilometer climb to overcome 160 meters of elevation gain. Before tackling it, however, we recommend the short detour to visit the thousand-year-old Pieve di San Leolino, located on the northern edge of the town of Rignano.
Once we are past the climb, all that remains is a nice stretch of ridge and finally the last descent that will lead us back to Rosano, our starting point.
Please note: those who wish to start directly from Florence by bicycle can start from Ponte Vecchio, on the Oltrarno bank, taking via De' Bardi, to continue on the orographic left of the Arno as far as Rimaggio and take here Provincial Road 34 in Rosano, reaching our starting point in about 17 kilometers.