The SP441 Massetana
begins at the intersection with the SS73/SS73bis Senese Aretina
, but there's hardly time to shift into third and you're already at the first stop - take a left and visit the Cistercense Abbey of San Galgano
. This ruined church, open to the elements, shows a grandeur of times gone by. In the nearby Church of Montesiepi you can visit the famous sword in the stone, which was put there by the noble cavalier Galgano Guidotti da Chiusdino.
It's still early for open roads. There are two straight bits and a slight curve before Palazzetto
, but then things get started in earnest. At km7 Chiusdino
appears on the right: a lovely medieval village, this is where San Galgano Guidotti was born (1148-1181). To visit it follow the signs to right. In September be sure not to miss the Dessert Festival. If you miss the turn, there's another chance with another, even more exciting road. The name changes: from Siena to Grosseto
and from SP441 to SP162. At km11 the Merse river runs alongside the road: and then come the woods. The forest light in the Archeo-mineral Park of Montieri (which is famous for its copper mines) makes the shadows dance. The road is fun and colorful with reddish dunes - the so-called Roste, which start at km13.5
For those who stay on the Massetana, the valley road is easy and fun. Turn to the right and head through two medieval towns, Montieri and Gerfalco
, both of which are worth exploring for their metal-rich hills. Then, farther on, the SP87 climbs towards Boccheggiano
, and this is a great road with superb views. At the roundabout at Gabellino, a stop for a coffee at the bar will help you decide which route to take: betray the SP162 and hop over to Castiglione della Pescaia
, or aim for Prata, to verify the famous quote, "You're as edgy as the roads in Prata."
Turn off to Prata
and its historic fruit orchards, where they have local plants and rare trees on the verge of extinction. To visit it you have to skip the side road with the sea view and climb a little. Then, take the turn for Niccioleta, the mining town, which was the setting for a massacre by Fascist Nazis that took the lives of 83 miners, and the last chance to explore the area before heading back on the Massetana.
The last part of the road is sharp curves, and full of stops all the way from the SR439. Massa Marittima
makes it all better with its museums of Art and History of Mining. And there's this to say, too: everything is in one piazza (Garibaldi): Cattedrale di San Cerbone, Palazzo Pretorio, home-tower of Conti Biserno and Palazzo Comunale. The Sienese Fort
dominates over everything. The curves are done, only straight roads remain. The itinerary ends in Follonica
: a quiet seaside town where you can lie on the beach and dream about Elba. And by the way, Piombino harbor is not that far...