The banks of the Florentine Arno River up to the Renai Park
The course of the Arno River is all Tuscan: 241 kilometers from Mount Falterona, passing through Florence and flowing into the Tyrrhenian Sea after Pisa.
The river is not navigable but it will be possible to ... ride along it by bike. In fact, the Region of Tuscany has already approved and financed the project to build a bike path that will run along its entire length, through the construction and connection between the various sections of bike paths already existing in various municipalities and aligning with the railway line in many places.
As regards the Area Fiorentina, there are already many sections of a track along the river, mainly on the right bank of the Arno, from Girone (in the municipality of Fiesole) to Signa.
For our route we will leave from the Arno embankments of the Florentine center, largely covered by bike-pedestrian areas. The symbolic departure is from Ponte Vecchio and we start riding on the right bank, skirting the river and the front of the Florentine palaces, passing over the bridges of Santa Trinita, alla Carraia and Vespucci, until we comfortably reach the large Parco delle Cascine (Cascine Park), Florence's green lung, full of bike-pedestrian paths leading to the monumento all'indiano (monument to the Indian), built in 1870 at the end of the gardens, to remember a real Indian prince who died in Florence while visiting at the age of 21 and was cremated at this spot. In the nearby palace we can take a break to get some rest before the next leg. We are here at the confluence of the Arno and Mugnone rivers, which we will cross over a small bike-pedestrian bridge.
And it is from here, after passing under the highway bridge, that another interesting bicycle route starts, that of the Renai.
Also accessible on foot, on a dirt road, the Renai trail is well-marked and runs along a river park where numerous signs give explanations and draw attention to flora and fauna.
After about 8 kilometers in this environment, the trail reaches the Renai Park, a large green space full of bodies of water, popular in summer for its swimming pool and ponds where you can both swim and navigate, located in the municipality of Signa.
Once past the Bisenzio river, you need to get off your bike to cross a wide road on the crosswalk and take the little path on the opposite side.
For the return trip we move to the left bank crossing the bridge at Signa, covering a few kilometers in the urban area, inevitably busy with traffic. After a short while we are again on the river park along the banks of the Arno. After a paved stretch, we need to pay attention to the path that turns left and then takes an immediate right onto the summit path on the embankment (it is necessary to cross two steps beside the maneuvering shed of the old waterway).
After a few kilometers the embankment path ends with five more steps to descend. To pass the mouth of the Greve, we take a right for one last digression on paved roads and then return to the banks of the Arno again and do not leave it until we return to the city, at the Porta di San Frediano (San Frediano Gate).
Florence is getting closer and closer, and the skyline over the Arno is beginning to show the tower of Palazzo Vecchio and the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore. We are now at the tail end of our itinerary, but the passage through the Oltrarno district holds some cultural gems we could take advantage of, starting with Santa Maria del Carmine inside which is the Brancacci chapel with the celebrated frescoes by Masaccio, Masolino, and Filippino Lippi. Here Masaccio applies in an accomplished manner the new ideas that were the basis of the Renaissance revolution, so much so that the chapel is regarded as one of the most inspiring achievements of the figurative civilization of the West.
Not far away we encounter the beautiful tree-lined square of Santo Spirito, popular with artists and enlivened by markets and a vivacious evening "movida" thanks to the presence of many clubs.
A few hundred meters later we will be parading in front of the immense Pitti Palace, behind which are located the splendid Boboli Gardens. Continuing straight ahead, the last stretch on Via de' Guicciardini will bring us back to close the itinerary by crossing the Arno again over the Ponte Vecchio.
Notes and tips: the section of the Renai trail and the corresponding section on the opposite bank are very exposed to the sun and therefore we do not recommend them on hot, sultry summer days. The bottom is very varied, with long stretches also on dirt roads, so avoid them (if you are not well equipped and well prepared) on days when there may be formation of sludge.
At the end of the Cascine park and later at the San Donnino station, you can bypass the Arno via bike-pedestrian walkways, with the possibility of shortening and simplifying the itinerary.