Setteponti street: more than a road

by Sandro Fabrizi

One of the most important and most ancient streets in Tuscany is the Strada dei Setteponti, which links Arezzo to the Florence suburbs.  It winds in a scenic hilly landscape made of ancient medieval villages, Romanesque churches, old farmhouses, typical dry-stone walls and much more.

Despite its beauty and numerous attractions, it is still not well known by those who are visiting the heart of Tuscany.
Its origin dates back to the year 1000, built on the traces of ancient Cassia Vetus. In the Middle Ages it was considered the main alternative to the Via Francigena for pilgrims traveling from northern Europe to Rome.

It was only around the Eighteenth century with the advent of the Lorraine family in Tuscany and the consequent reclamation works that the road between Arezzo and Florence moved to the bottom of the valley and the Strada dei Setteponti gradually lost its importance as a road, but it never lost its beauty.
Today it is an itinerary to do slowly, maybe by motorbike or bicycle to admire its beautiful landscapes which reveal themselves behind every hairpin bend.

Between villages and churches

Here we can find two of the most beautiful villages in Italy: Castelfranco di Sopra with its perfectly preserved urban plan and Loro Ciuffenna perched on the slopes of Pratomagno, where you can visit the oldest water mill in Tuscany. Just outside the village the Pieve of Gropina deserves a stop. It has a very beautiful Romanesque architecture and from the back you can admire a wonderful view of the valley.(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFvrGUIRY9s).

There are also other smaller villages to visit such as: Borro, Montemarciano (with its ancient Medieval gate), Castiglion Fibocchi (famous for its Baroque Carnival) and Piantravigne which offers an exclusive view of the Balze of Valdarno.
The route of the Setteponti touches many other Romanesque churches such as: the one in Pian di Scò, the pieve of San Giustino and the Badia of Soffena in Castelfranco di Sopra.

There are many others in the province of Florence such as: the Pieve di San Pietro a Cascia, the church of Sant’ Agata, Pieve in Pitiana and the Pieve di Pomino. Also, worth a mention is the Masaccio Museum, just behind the pieve of Cascia, where inside there is the wonderful Triptych of Saint Juvenal by the young Masaccio.

Along the route of the Setteponti there are villages to visit such as: Borro, Montemarciano, Castiglion Fibocchi and Piantravigne.

Il ponte della Gioconda

There are many others in the province of Florence such as: the Pieve di San Pietro a Cascia, the church of Sant’ Agata, Pieve in Pitiana and the Pieve di Pomino. Also, worth a mention is the Masaccio Museum, just behind the pieve of Cascia, where inside there is the wonderful Triptych of Saint Juvenal by the young Masaccio.
Along the entire route of the Setteponti, some of the ancient bridges are still visible and between them the most famous is certainly Ponte a Buriano, a short distance from Arezzo; it is the point where the old road crosses the Arno river.

When we speak about Ponte a Buriano the thought goes immediately to Leonardo da Vinci who painted this landscape, characterized by the bridge, behind the Monna Lisa.
Around the year 1503, in the same period in which he was intent on painting the Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci drew various hydrographic maps with a “bird’s-eye view” of the Tuscan plains for their reclamation project, including the Valdichiana, the area of Arezzo and Upper Valdarno.

In all its movements from Florence to the province of Arezzo, the most direct route was certainly the Strada dei Setteponti. From here, among other things, Leonardo was able to admire the strange phenomenon of the Balze of Valdarno. He described them in his notes in the Leicester Codex and depicted them in various paintings such as “The Virgin of the Rocks”, Saint Anne and also the “Mona Lisa”.
To expand on the topic I refer to this link:

https://www.lamiabellatoscana.it/2018/08/leonardo-da-vinci-e-il-valdarno-un-legame-poco-evidenziato.html

A small museum was dedicated to him in Ponte a Buriano called Leonardo & l’Aretino, which can be visited by appointment.

When we speak about Ponte a Buriano the thought goes immediately to Leonardo da Vinci who painted this landscape behind the Monna Lisa.

The “Cammino della setteponti” route

In 2016 Cammino dei Setteponti was created; it is a pedestrian path from Reggello to Arezzo, about 50 km long, to be done in three days. Unfortunately, even today it is not signposted but if you want to do it yourself you can find useful suggestions in this link:

https://www.lamiabellatoscana.it/2019/01/come-fare-il-cammino-della-setteponti-da-soli.html.

The Tuscan Region has been interested in how to secure its safety and make it easily usable for some years. The plan is to connect Florence to Arezzo by pedestrian way; we hope that it will be realized as soon as possible.
After all these ideas maybe you want to go around here and maybe you are wondering when the best time is to visit the Setteponti. For me there are two: spring and autumn.
In spring there is definitely the most suitable climate and you can admire the countryside in bloom displaying its most beautiful colors, while the many dry walls are enlivened by the lilac of the iris and the yellow of the broom.
In autumn, instead, the leaves of the vineyards and fields are tinged with yellow, giving really incredible shades of colors.
Beyond my suggestions, I guarantee that any time of the year and any way you choose to visit it, it will always be an unforgettable experience.

Find out more:

Walking along the Via Setteponti road