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Biking along the Bonifica Trail
Photo ©Enrico Caracciolo

Cycling from Arezzo to Monte Cetona in the footsteps of the Etruscans

Follow the traces of the Etruscans from Arezzo to San Casciano dei Bagni

Ride your bike across the Valdichiana and Val d'Orcia along this itinerary, discovering oases of nature, astonishing hamlets and historical hydraulic engineering structures. You’ll delve deep into the heart of the Etruscan civilization, exploring its legends and mysteries, millennia-old walls and necropolises, and traces of a society that was able to express modernity many centuries before the birth of Christ.

The route begins in Arezzo and ends in San Casciano dei Bagni. It’s an easy ride and roughly follows the Sentiero della Bonifica at the beginning, a bike trail connecting Arezzo to Chiusi along the famous Canale Maestro in the Valdichiana. While on the road, you’ll come across CortonaMontepulcianoChiusiCetona and many more.

From the Arezzo city centre, head toward the Canale Maestro and pass by the Chiusa dei Monaci channel. This is where you’ll begin the Sentiero della Bonifica bike trail.

The first part of the route winds along the banks of the canal until Foiano della Chiana. At this point, head east in the direction of Camucia and Cortona. While here, you should definitely visit the Etruscan Academy Museum and the town's archaeological area.

After touring Cortona, head back to the canal along the same path until you reach Villa Farneta, then travel down the Canale Maestro and the Sentiero della Bonifica towards Torrita di Siena. From here, the route continues uphill in the direction of Montepulciano and Chianciano, where the descent into the valley begins. Both the Civic Museum in Montepulciano and the Archeology Museum of Acque in Chianciano conserve imporant Etruscan artefacts.

At this point, the itinerary heads to the east again towards Chiusi, leaving behind the Pietraporciana Nature Reserve, south of Chianciano, home to majestic beech forest. To the south, the nature reserve merges with the slopes of Monte Cetona.  

About 12 kilometres outside Chianciano, you’ll move back onto the Sentiero della Bonifica, which will take you to the Lake Montepulciano Nature Reserve and, shortly after, Lake Chiusi. Both the nature reserve and Lake Chiusi, home to herons and little egrets, are oases of silence and are rich in stories and legends. On the night of July 3rd, many people still gather at the lake to try to spot the golden trail left by St. Mustiola on the water. Legend says that the saint, persecuted and chased by Emperor Aurelian, managed to cross the still and dark waters of the lake at night by using her cloak as a boat, guided by the light of her trail.

Chiusi is located a few kilometres to the south, where we recommend a visit to the Labyrinth of Porsenna, named after the Etruscan king who dared to challenge the Romans, successfully defeating them.

The itinerary continues towards Monte Cetona, home to Etruscan secrets, overlooking many villages and vineyards and the hills in the Valdichiana and Val d'Orcia. After a few ups and downs along the SS 178, your next stops will be the villages of Sarteano (boasting dozens of well-preserved Etruscan tombs and frescoes) and Cetona (the Civic Museum of the Prehistory of Monte Cetona and the Belverde Archeological-Natural Park are worthy of any bucke tlist).

The final part of the route follows the SO 221, running along the slopes of Monte Cetona, and ends in San Casciano dei Bagni, a village in a magnificent location overlooking the fortress in Radicofani and the Val d’Orcia. You should also know that Casciano dei Bagni is a spa town, boasting an impressive 42 springs!