Following the rolling hills just outside Borgo San Lorenzo, after a few kilometres, I reach the dirt tracks away from traffic and I feel reborn. The Mugello is perfect for gravel and MTB. Even if there’s mud, the terrain stays compact and doesn’t block the rear wheel. There’s no real climbs and descends along the first section, so I have fun pressing down on the pedals. The wheels slide amid woodland and green fields as the scenery opens up like postcards.
I decide to stop for a coffee in Galliano. Away from mass tourism, this place still maintains the true essence of Tuscany, filtered through local eyes and the walls of houses. I take a couple of photographs, refill my water bottle and get back on the bike. Now the climb begins.
This route is perfect for those who love to exert themselves and, to quote Brocci, “tasting effort”. For me, climbs are personal meditation, yoga for cyclists. Feeling and managing the exertion, being able to reach that unreachable bend before taking another and so on. The road climbs up and intersects with 280-degree views over a valley that resembles something out of Tolkien, a middle earth by bicycle.
There are still a few kilometres to go before reaching the Pass. In my mind, the climb was harder, but the ground slides under my non-tassellated wheels. I have to pay attention to the motorcyclists as this road is much loved by petrolheads. But with the right precautions, like keeping to the right and keeping the lights on, even during the day, my climb’s not at risk. A roundabout appears around a bend, plus a sign, Passo della Futa, and a concrete walls with cast iron plaques. Gastone Nencini is remembered on this wall, the Tuscan champion who won so often on these roads. There’s also a signpost for the German Military Cemetery of the Futa (Cimitero Militare Germanico della Futa), in Firenzuola, where 30,000 young people lost their lives in vain while trying to keep the Gothic Line. I really recommend getting off your bike and experiencing the silence on these terraces. At the top of the hill, a concrete tooth points into the sky. Regardless of who was right or wrong, I feel deep compassion for those twenty year-olds who lost their youth in these woods. Travelling by bike means this too: taking time to think and not forget.
It’s nearly dark. I can choose between sleeping at a lodge or on the campsite. Given the time of year, I opt for the lodge and its amazing tagliatelle pasta with meat sauce. If it had been warmer, I’d have loved to have slept under the stars here.