This route is a scenic loop starting and ending with one of Italy’s leading spa towns that is perfect for a relaxing stay after spending a few hours on two wheels. Montecatini Terme make a great home base if you want to explore the Pistoian Mountains, the Valleriana and the Leonardo hills.
Heading south, all bikers can enjoy this 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 here. This stretch is about 25 kilometers long, and along it you’ll find magical thermal grottos (Giusti Grotto) in Monsummano Terme, a nature reserve at the Padule di Fucecchio, and hilly ridges leading up to Vinci. From Vinci, you’ll wind your way through the bending roads for approximately another 25 kilometres towards the capital of the area, Pistoia, to finally start making the climb towards the Pistoian Appenines.
If you’d like to mix things up or have a change of scene, head towards Abetone. Moving through the northern part of the province, take the SR66 passing Le Piastre, coasting right along the Reno river, you’ll start heading towards Pontepetri and Passo dell’Oppio before reaching San Marcello Pistoiese. Along this part of the route are some great examples of the local culture like the Eco Museum of the Pistoian Mountains. Take a little detour towards Orsigna, which was a favourite retreat of the great journalist Tiziano Terzani.
The next stop is Cutigliano with its orange Touring Club Italiano flag. It's a “Slow City” for the Slow Food movement and it's recognised as one of the Borghi più Belli d’Italia; a categorisation of particularly beautiful towns that are 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 throughout the year. Not far away is Doganaccia, a small suburb of Rivoreta that has a museum of rural and farming culture, Pianosinatico, le Regine and finally, at 1388 meters high, Abetone which is approximately 50 kilometres from Pistoia.
Next you’ll be heading downhill again. Don't miss the extraordinary botanic garden Orto Botanico Forestale, before taking a scenic road called the Popiglio–Fontanavaccaia. Passing through the Pian di Novello at 1134 metres above sea level and the Pian degli Ontani at 856 metres, you'll get to the Popiglio Towers, one of the most interesting examples of medieval archaeology in northern Tuscany. Soon after, in Mammiano, the spectacular hanging bridge or Ponte Sospeso deserves a visit. It’s a pedestrian bridge at 227 meters long and 36 meters high that connects the two sides of the Lima creek.
You’ll continue the descent, exploring an unusual, semi-mountainous and hilly area of typical Tuscan countryside. 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, 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 Svizzera Pesciatina, that includes the towns 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 traditional village with the atmosphere and aesthetic of a prestigious past. From here you can take a little detour to Collodi, a small town perched on the hill slopes.
Montecatini is located less than 10 kilometres away, but the discerning biker 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 theatrical hills that surround the immense plain from which, when the skies are clear, you can see 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 landscape.