Colline del Montalbano

Seeing Monte Albano on motorcycle

A trip through Leonardo's hills

Behind the lively SP43 lies a road which was once used for the Pistoia Rally. It climbs Monte Albano with curves and turns that are super to drive. The hills that surround the road are dotted with vineyards and olive orchards, and nearby Vinci, the native town of Leonardo da Vinci, the major Renaissance genius.

Departure/arrival: from Empoli to Pistoia
Distance: 38km
Duration: 1 day
Kind of road: mixed, hilly
Province: Florence, Pistoia

Set your GPS: Empoli, Vinci, Fornello, Porciano, San Baronto, Casalguidi, Pistoia

We set out from Empoli, the city of Jacopo Carucci, also known as "il Pontormo", the painter and artist of great talent. Putting our bikes into second there are two ways to get to Vinci: the SP43 which is alot of fun and which climbs and descends along Leonardo's hills, or the SP13, which is a country road from km 13 onwards and which heads directly to the destination. Either way, olive fields abound. As you near Vinci, you will be overwhelmed by the advertising: the cellars of Leonardo, the Mona Lisa restaurant. Everything seems to point to Leonardo's birth place. The best way to honor the genius is to visit the Museo Leonardino in Palazzo Uzielli. The Mona Lisa is one of his greatest works, but he was also an inventor, architect, scientist and one of humanity's geniuses.

The road narrows and climbs all the way to Valdinievole and its town of Lamporecchio: a tasty stop especially in the summer when the Brigidino festival is going on (August). A brigidino is a warm and crispy wafer with anise hints and it's impossible to eat just one! The fair takes place along the main roads of town on the first Tuesday in August and the following Wednesday. We now enter the woods and keep a steady speed along the curvy roads. In Salvino, there are views of the terraced vineyards of Chianti Docg, while from Fornello the road changes name from SP13 to SP9 of Montalbano. The excitement also grows: this is where the special rally of Pistoia used to be held: it's a good ride and worth every kilometer.

The road climbs and stops in Porciano, a town worth visiting, with its two towers from the 1800s and the S. Giorgio church. The intersection between Porciano and SP9 is a meeting point for bikers, where it is worth deviating towards Lamporecchio. Heading back to Pistoia, there's Papiano and its enchanting Renaissance Villa, known as "The American" for its owner from the 1800s. It's a flashy but beautiful building. San Baronto is at the end of the Montalbano road: after visiting the Romanic abbey, which was faithfully rebuilt after the WWII bombings, we return to Pistoia.

The Leonardo hills wave goodbye and thank us for visiing: at km 8 there's the last big curve, then the roundabout that leads us to Casalguidi, where it's time to put the motorcyle up on its kickstand and enjoy the center of the city.

For more information: www.provincia.fi.it, www.provincia.pistoia.it, www.casapontormo.it, www.museoleonardo.com, www.stradadileonardo.org 

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