Length of journey: 12.8 km
Rating: medium; total climb: 610 m
Maximum height: Cima del Monte peak (516 m)
Type of terrain: 5.2 km paved road, 7.6 km trail
Route interest: historical, archaeological and scenic
From the square in Rio nell’Elba, you’ll find a small alley that leads through the village until reaching Le Panche (327 m). From here, go down a paved road, which offers fine views and will take you along for 2km until you reach the slopes of the Volterraio. It’s an uphill track from this point onwards as you follow a path characterized by Mediterranean vegetation and bare rocks, leading you to the imposing castle (394 m) in about 40 minutes. Built when the Maritime Republic of Pisa ruled these seas, it was designed to protect the island’s population from frequent pirate attacks. A lookout post and a hideout in case of aggression, the castle of Volterraio is perfectly camouflaged among the rocks, dominating the northern side of the island. Once you reach the top, you’ll notice that time has inflicted indelible marks on the structure. Nonetheless, its charm is still very much intact: visit its boundary walls, its stairs to the drawbridge, its wall-walk and noteworthy watchtower, its square tower and much more. There are also rooms and vaults, the remains of an oven, wells and cisterns, in addition to storage spaces, underground passages and embrasures.
The itinerary goes back onto the paved road for 4 km (keep left at the crossroads) until reaching the pretty Romanesque Church of Santo Stefano alle Trane which dates back to the 12th century. You’ll pass an ancient lime oven as you follow the path uphill to the main trail which continues along the crest, connecting the peaks of the eastern mountainside. Our itinerary goes north along the ridge, where you can admire extraordinary views of the Gulf of Portoferraio and the cultivated valley of Magazzini. To the south, you’ll find Porto Azzurro and enjoy a glimpse of the eastern side of Mount Calamita. Once you reach Mount Castello (390 m), which dominates the silent valley of Monserrato, and enjoy the lovely Sanctuary dedicated to the Spanish Madonna, continue to the top of the mountain. There, you’ll be sure to enjoy a fabulous 360° view of Rio Elba, including its abandoned mines, the Tower of the Giogo, Volterraio, the Barbarossa beach and Porto Azzurro. The descent, which is steep and swift, will bring you back to Le Panche and the tranquil stillness of Rio nell’Elba.
(Arcipelago Toscana - Tourist Information Office)