This route is a scenic loop starting and ending with two of Italy’s leading spa towns, both perfect for a relaxing stay after spending two hours on two wheels: Montecatini or Montsummano Terme. These two resort towns make great home bases if you want to explore the Pistoian Mountains (Valle della Lima and Abetone district), the Pesciatina mountains (Valleriana) and the Leonardo hills.
Starting-ending point: Montecatini Terme
Route length: about 200 kilometers
Heading south, the “motorcycle tourist” can enjoy a hilly area that recalls the most famous images of Tuscany. This is Montalbano, also known as the “Leonardo Hills” due to the fact that the genius’s birth city, Vinci, is located at the extremity. This stretch is about 25 kilometers long, and along it you’ll find the quasi-magical thermal grottoes (Giusti Grotto) in Monsummano Terme, the nature reserve at the Padule di Fucecchio, the hilly ridges leading up to Vinci. From Vinci, you’ll wind your way through the bending roads toward the capital, Pistoia (approximately another 25 kilometers) to finally start making the climb toward the Pistoian Appenines.
If you’d like to mix things up, have a change of scenery and head toward Abetone, moving through the northern part of the province, you take the SR66 and in Le Piastre (740 meters), coasting right along the Reno river, you’ll start heading toward Pontepetri, Passo dell’Oppio (821 meters) and then San Marcello Pistoiese. Along this part of the route are important examples of the local culture (Eco Museum of the Pistoian Mountains) and the chance to take a little detour toward Orsigna (a favorite retreat of the great journalist Tiziano Terzani).
The next stop is Cutigliano, with its orange Touring Club Italiano flag, its designation as a “Slow City” for the Slow Food movement, and its recognition as one of the “Borghi più Belli d’Italia,” a grouping of small towns in the peninsula, all of great historic or artistic interest. Cutigliano is the gateway to the Pistoian mountain district best known for winter sports, but also for its unrivaled scenic views during the most beautiful seasons. Not far away is Doganaccia, a small suburb of Rivoreta, which has a museum of rural and farming culture; Pianosinatico, le Regine and finally, 1388 meters high, the step leading up to Abetone (around 50 kilometers total from Pistoia).
Next you’ll be heading downhill again. Without skipping the extraordinary Orto Botanico Forestale (botanic garden), you’ll take a scenic street called the “Popiglio–Fontanavaccaia.” Passing through the Pian di Novello (1134 meters), Pian degli Ontani (856), it leads to the Popiglio Towers, one of the most interesting examples of medieval archaeology in northern Tuscany. Soon after, in Mammiano, the spectacular hanging bridge (Ponte Sospeso) deserves a visit. It’s a pedestrian bridge (227 meters long, 36 meters high) that connects the two sides of the Lima creek.
You’ll continue down, exploring an unusual, semi-mountainous and hilly Tuscan territory. Ultimately, your goal is to get to the Pesciatina mountains and return to Montecatini Terme. The route corresponds to the SP34 and the stops are Piteglio, Prunetta and then Macchia Antonimi, Calamecca, and Crespole. From here, you’ll take a route that’s as twisting and winding as it is exciting, moving through green forests and small stone villages. The area you’re in is the Valleriana, also known as the area of “Antiche Castella,” beginning with Pontito, Stiappa, San Quirico, Sorana, Aramo, Fibialla, Medicina, Castelvecchio with its incredible Romanesque church, and Pietrabuona.
At this point, you’ll be close to Pescia, a tried-and-true village with the atmosphere and aesthetic of a prestigious past. If you want, from here you can take a little detour to Collodi, a small town perched on the hill slopes.
Montecatini is located less than 10 kilometers away, but the discerning “motorcycle tourist” should choose to take the hilly route through the towns of Uzzano, Buggiano Castello, Colle, Massa and Cozzile. That way you’ll be able to see the veritable amphitheatre of hills that surrounds the immense plain–and when the skies are clear, you can even see some parts of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
In Montecatini Terme, why not treat yourself to a well-deserved, relaxing spa treatment? Alternatively, you could take a dip in the hot waters of the thermal open-air pool in Monsummano Terme, taking in the beauty of the surrounding landscapes.