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The Val di Cecina and Metallifere Hills

Southern Tuscan coast rich in hiking trails and nature itineraries

Places:Monteverdi, Larderello, Pomarance, Volterra, Montecatini Val di Cecina, Ponteginori, Casale Marittimo, Bibbona, Bolgheri, Donoratico

Point of departure/arrival:Donoratico
Elevation gain: 1,750m
Road surface: asphalt
Activity level: challenging
This itinerary requires fitness and a good degree of training; the distance and elevation gains are for well-trained legs. The most difficult stretches on the route are the climbs up to Serrazzano (short but steep), Volterra and Montecatini Val di Cecina. The villages of Castagneto Carducci and Bolgheri, which are in the area of the departure/arrival point, are well worth a visit. All the towns and villages crossed by the itinerary are worth a stop, especially Volterra.
Departure is from Donoratico on the Old Aurelia towards Cecina. After about 1km at Il Bambolo, turn right towards Castagneto Carducci on the “Bocca di Valle” (SP329). The road rises slightly for 3km to San Giusto where the easily pedalled 2.5km rise to Castagneto Carducci begins (6.8km) Beyond the village, the road enters a wood and winds towards Ponte d’Oro where a rise of about 2km to the Bocca di Valle pass begins (12km). At a very evident left bend, follow the signs for Monteverdi Marittimo, staying on SP329 and ignoring the turn off for Sassetta. A final uphill burst, and then an easy, pleasant ride up and down for about 9km to Monteverdi Marittimo (22km). Staying on the main road, start the lovely 3km descent to Canneto (26.5km). Just before the village, the road starts to rise again. Before entering the village, turn right at the intersection and follow the signs for Serrazzano. The climb can be pedalled but does require some effort.

After about 4km you reach the ridge of the metal-bearing hills with views ranging over the Val di Cornia (on your right) and Monterufoli forest (on the left). The ridge road continues to rise and descend, and beyond the turn off for Lustignano (32.5km) begins to rise towards Serrazzano (32.5km). For the first 2km the going consists of demanding twists and turns, while the last kilometre is an 11% incline leading to the centre of Serrazzano village. It is then downhill towards the boric-acid fumaroles in the Valle del Diavolo (Devil’s Valley) and the junction with SR439 (44.5km) where you turn left for Pomarance. The road is wide and all downhill before it climbs up to Montecerboli (46.6km) with its panoramic view of Larderello and the Devil’s Valley, where the National Energy Board plant produces geothermal power.

The descent to the Val di Cecina begins here. The lovely, scenic road runs mostly downhill for 9km to Pomarance (56km) where, following the signs for Volterra, you continue to descend into the wide Cecina valley. After 13km you reach Saline di Volterra (69km). Here you turn right for Volterra, cycling the spectacular (and fairly busy) road that winds through ridges and gulleys caused by erosion as it climbs up to the “city of alabaster” (78km). The last 2km are extremely challenging. Before reaching the city walls, the route turns left downhill on the equally spectacular Monte Volterrano road (SP16), which descends steeply towards Val d’Era, and joins SR439 after about 9km (87.3km). Here you turn right, and after little more than 1km, go left onto SP32, which climbs fairly steeply up toMontecatini Val di Cecina. After 2km the climb becomes exacting; continue in “bursts” for 2.5km to the centre of Montecatini Val di Cecina (93.2km).

After crossing the town, turn left for Ponteginori, going downhill for 8km on a demanding road that twists and turns through the vineyards of Buriano to the intersection with SR68 (101.7km), where you turn right. After about 2km, you reach Ponteginori (103.5km) and leave the busy “Volterrana” to turn left towards Micciano and Querceto on the “Camminata” SP19. Going over the railway crossing and the bridge on the Cecina river, carry straight on as the road rises and falls towards Casale Marittimo. After approximately 9km you meet the Sterza valley bottom road (112km) and carry straight on for Casale Marittimo. Cycle on the flat for about 2km, pass over the Sterza bridge, and then begin the climb to Casale Marittimo. There is a steep 1.2km incline as far as the turn off where you continue on SP19 towards Bibbona, still riding uphill for a short while before beginning the downhill descent.

On the right is the hill-town of Casale Marittimo, on the left the beautiful Macchia della Magona (Magona Scrub), a magnificent wooded area inland from the village of Bibbona. It is a mostly downhill 3km ride to Bibbona (121.5km). At the (unmistakable) big intersection, leave the main road and turn left towards Bolgheri. After an initial demanding but short climb uphill, you reach a T-junction. Turn left onto the lovely Bolgheri Road, which runs for 5km through vineyards and olive groves in a total of 4 uphill/downhill stretches, to the famous cypress avenue at Bolgheri. After a visit to the little village (127.5km), follow the road downhill along the cypress avenue (about 1.8km) to the left turn for Castagneto Carducci. Ride for 9km among centuries-old oak trees to San Giusto (138.5km), turning right at the T-junction for Donoratico (142km).