On the tracks of history discovering the Pistoia Mountains
The route, which is not challenging, has a constant but not very aggressive slope and runs along the original route of the former Ferrovia Alto Pistoiese. The railway, which was active from 1926 to 1956, replaced the horse-drawn carriage service and was a route linking the Porrettana Railway to the Pistoia Mountains.
We go up by train as far as the Pracchia station, where the bike tour begins. From Pracchia we arrive along a paved road to Campo Tizzoro, riding along a stretch of the Valle del Reno, an important place of natural ice production until after World War II. At Campo Tizzoro we can visit the Museo e rifugi S.M.I., an example of industrial archaeology and a recovery of an important air-raid shelter and war material factory.
Leaving Campo Tizzoro behind us we cross, alternating stretches of asphalt and simple dirt road, a beech and coniferous forest, characterized by the presence of wild fauna: we may find traces of ungulates, wolves, foxes and ride under the flight of the buzzard.
We climb steadily as far as the inhabited area of Maresca, a proto-industrial center linked to ironmaking which, with its small station and a restored Ferrovia Alto Pistoiese wagon on display in the square, celebrates the history of the famous little red train. We then cross the bridge over the Maresca Stream and turn into the steepest and most challenging dirt stretch, which leads us to the highest point of our ride, the Alpe Piana pass (870 meters above sea level). One of the works of the Segnavie project welcomes us on this pass. In front of us is a wide-open view of Monte Gomito, Alpe Tre Potenze and Penna di Lucchio.
At last the gentle descent brings us to the foot of the village of Gavinana, whose small station is in neoclassical-style. Under our wheels now runs the ancient history of the battle of Pistoia, in which the Roman conspirator Catiline lost his life. Until a few decades ago, the town's peasants told of a large number of Roman helmets, shields and coins found during land clearing work.
Here it is really worthwhile, for those with e-bikes or excellent legs, to climb to the medieval village and admire its central square, with the 11th-century parish church and the ancient fountain spraying fresh water. We continue on asphalt toward San Marcello, the capital of the Pistoia Apennines nestled on a beautiful natural balcony. For tireless riders, from San Marcello you can lengthen the route to the suspension bridge of Mammiano, known as “delle Ferriere”, which until 2006 held the Guinness World Record for the longest pedestrian bridge in the world.
The return begins from San Marcello: we ride past the local station that served as final stop and descend to the entrance of the railroad track that takes us steadily uphill along a dirt surface to the Alpe Piana pass and then downward, back along the route previously traveled as far as Pracchia.
Itinerary by Castanea - Tuscany Hiking.