From Montecatini to Vellano, an iconic village in the Svizzera Pesciatina
Along this loop route, we will ride from Montecatini to Vellano through Pescia and the Valleriana, called the "Svizzera Pescia" for its landscape rich in chestnut trees and lush green meadows.
The route starts from the Municipal Stadium in Montecatini. We ride along Via Maratona to the junction with Via Provinciale Lucchese heading east toward Lucca. Despite being a state highway, the road is wide and pleasant; after riding it for about 8 km we cross the Ponte Europa, turn right and head to Pescia through via Garibaldi. The town, of medieval origin, is divided into 2 urban sectors by the river of the same name, a religious part with the Cathedral of Santa Maria Nuova and a commercial part with the Town Hall and the square. Ancient palaces and elegant churches characterize the historic center, which, despite having undergone considerable interventions, still retains its original form.
Continuing along the river, the road, via Mammianese, begins to climb toward the upper valley of the river, called Valleriana, better known as "Svizzera Pesciatina." Having passed a fairly flat area, we can see on our right across the river, the Romanesque church of San Lorenzo a Cerreto. Further on, after about 2 km, we are welcomed by the natural gateway to the "Svizzera Pesciatina," the village of Pietrabuona. Located on a hillock in a strategic position, in the Middle Ages the scene of battles between Florentines and Pisans. For more trained cyclists, it is possible to deviate from the route proposed here along the Val di Torbola Road to climb up to Stiappa and Pontido located at 749 m.
After Pietrabuona we continue along Via Mammianese in the direction of Vellano for about 10 km of road completely surrounded by greenery at an average of 5% with a maximum peak at 16%. Vellano - ancient Avellanum - is an ancient village, recognized as the capital of the Svizzera Pesciatina and once a renowned resort site; the village stands in a panoramic position on the valley of the Pescia River. Known for its Pieve, in the part below the castle, outside the walls, stands the parish church of Saints Sisto and Martino, which was once attached to a very ancient Benedictine abbey. Nestled in the green Valleriana, Vellano shares its ancient origins with 9 other medieval villages that together take the name of ten castles of Valleriana area. Vellano is still home to the only working Pietra Serena quarry in the province of Pistoia, which has continued to extract the precious material for more than 100 years and to produce all kinds of artifacts, according to traditional processes: from simple building materials to furniture and even sculptures, which can be considered true works of art.
We recommend a visit to the Ethnographic Historical Museum of Miners and Quarrymen, which displays working tools and a rich collection of minerals.
Continuing along Via Mammianese, the road passes through Macchino. As soon as we reach the locality of Goraiolo, we turn right at Locanda Zacco in the direction of Montecatini. The road descends toward Marliana, formerly a settlement of Ligurians and then Roman settlers, as evidenced by the discovery of ancient coins. The first fortified cluster of the village, known as early as 1137, probably stood in the places where the parish church and town hall were later built. Of the ancient fortress, a short section of the wall that encircled the inhabited area still remains visible, while the structure of the village, with the inner streets leading to the upper part of the town, still repeats that of the ancient village. The church of San Niccolò, with an ancient castle gate nearby, is worth visiting.
The State Road 633 continues for about 9 km to the gates of Montecatini, allowing us to enjoy a wide and privileged view along a sometimes technical descent. At the end of the descent we turn right and through via Bruceto always keeping to the right we enter Viale Bustichini until we turn left at the junction with Viale Simonicini, Viale dei Martini to find ourselves at the departure point in front of the Municipal Stadium.