Parco di Pratolino e Villa Demidoff

Among the villas and abbeys on the Mugello Hills

Woodlands, nature and ancient traditions

This tour, which will give us a glimpse of some of the most breathtaking landscapes in Mugello, leaves from Vicchio. Everything in this town - the schools, squares, theatres and roads - reminds us of its illustrious sons: Giotto and Beato Angelico. Yet, as we cross the Sieve River, in the locality of Ponte a Vicchio, the nature and landscape are sure to enchant.

We pedal along the bottom of the Sieve valley towards the town of Borgo San Lorenzo. Cultivated fields, farm houses, and farmers working the land attract our attention and push us to reflect. Once past the town of Sagginale, near the town of Borgo San Lorenzo, we turn left towards Salaiole, leaving the bottom of the valley behind us and cycling towards the hills that lead to Florence.

This five-kilometre stretch is one of the most breathtaking in the Mugello. The road becomes narrow, but its conditions are tolerable and it rises gently. The traffic, virtually non-existent, allows us to move back in time to an era prior to industrialization. We pass three manors in succession – Votandi, Vitarete, La Bartolina – three outstanding architectural structures that bear witness to the historical and agricultural wealth of the land and that seem to continue to carry out their age-old vocation. It is easy to imagine rural life before the introduction of cars and industrialization, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see a carriage drawn by oxen coming round the bend. Once we pass the hamlet of Il Poggiolo though, the road leaves the small Torrente Fistona valley and we snap back into the present. We start to ascend what is a renowned climb for every amateur cyclist in Mugello: the Le Salaiole climb.

Less than two-kilometres long, the climb presents an average 10 percent gradient that touches 20 percent in some spots. The ascent requires all the arm and leg strength we can muster, as well as the lowest gears, to avoid the greatest humiliation for any self-loving cyclist – that of having to get off one's bike and walk the whole way. After 15.3 km, fortunately the climb comes to an end and, continuing through the woods, we can “catch our breath” as we ride down to state road 302, Brisighellese-Ravennate. We merge into this road by turning left towards Florence. The road, which is wide and excellently paved, rises up at a 3-4 percent gradient through the Fosso di Polcanto. The traffic is constant and at 20.3km we reach Vetta alle Croci. Once across the pass, some 200 metres later, we turn right towards Bivigliano.

Again, we enter the woods, thick woods, and after a quick descent followed by a steep yet brief climb, we cycle gently uphill for a couple of kilometres through a pine wood. At 23 km from the start of the course, we reach the crossroad that leads to Monte Senario (3.7 km alternative route with an average 7 percent gradient, which suits more powerful cyclists! description from Vaglia) –  on the top of which a convent bearing the same name stands overlooking the entire, incredibly breathtaking, Sieve valley.

We cycle towards Bivigliano, reaching this quaint locality, which stands at 600 metres above sea level (the highest point of today’s excursion), and at 26.4 km from the start of the tour. The town’s exceptional location, set among chestnut woods that dominate the Carza River valley, and its short distance from Florence make it an ideal place for anyone who wants to abandon the city smog and to commune with nature. Once outside Bivigliano and past the Poggio Uccellini Campsite we turn right towards Polcanto. We find ourselves riding through a road lined with chestnut woods; it is gently rolling with a few steep but brief climbs. A couple of kilometres later, on the left of the road, we can admire the Buonsollazzo Abbey. This structure, presently private property, is extraordinary for its location in this dense forest and for its remarkable size.

Several hundred metres later, we find the small Tassaia church and, at 32.1 kilometres, a one kilometre descent. The road is uneven and runs entirely through the woods, which are at times terribly thick. At 33 km from the start of our tour, a fresh water fountain allows us to quench our thirst and maybe, given the amount of energy expended, even stop for a snack. However, at this point, the worst is over and the road starts to descend, sometimes quickly, until we reach the town of Polcanto (35.3 km), where, on our left, we again meet state road 302. The tarmac road is in good condition and gently dips towards the bottom of the valley, giving us the opportunity to admire the breathtaking landscape, which is at first woodland and later farmland. At 45.7 kilometres from the start of the course, we meet the intersection that goes to Sagginale and, moving right, cycle back along the same route towards Vicchio, which we reach 54.4 kilometres later.

WHAT TO SEE:
Vicchio

Situated on an escarpment near the Sieve River, Vicchio boasts the S. Giovanni Battista Church, Pretorio Palace, Museum of Sacred Art, Popular Religiousness Beato Angelico, home of Giotto, Barbiana Church, Montesenario Convent and Villa Demidoff.


 
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Cycling