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From Balze to Pratomagno

Valdarno and the Pratomagno massif

The Upper Valdarno is a wide natural basin over which the Arno flows, closed to the north-east by the Pratomagno massif and bounded to the south-west by the Chianti Mountains. The river enters through the “Valle dell’Inferno”, a long gorge now occupied by two adjoining reservoirs, where the Valle dell’Inferno e Bandella Nature Reserve is located. The landscape is very diverse: alpine and lonely on the high slopes of the massif, rugged by picturesque erosion phenomena of clayey and sandy sediments accumulated in the Pliocene in the natural area of the Balze, where the flat part begins, winding along the course of the Arno.

A varied and picturesque landscape

From Valdarno to Casentino

Valdarno and Casentino are united and at the same time divided by the Pratomagno massif. From every point of its ridges, it is in fact possible to observe the two valleys, with the Arno river flowing through both, encircling the mountain complex on three sides. From the Valdarno towards Pratomagno, you first travel gently through characteristic terraces of vineyards and olive groves, then ascend in altitude through lush chestnut and beech woods, until you reach the ridge formed by a “great prairie”: Pratomagno. Access to the massif from the Valdarno side is from the villages along the Setteponti road, particularly those set in the territories of Loro Ciuffenna and Castelfranco Piandiscò.

Along the ancient Cassia Vetus

Flanked by the Pratomagno massif on one side and the course of the Arno on the other, the Via Setteponti roughly traces the route of the important Roman consular road Cassia Vetus in the Upper Valdarno. Along its route, enchanting villages, jewels of art and faith, vineyards and olive groves sloping gently towards the valley floor and the unforgettable landscape of the Balze can be seen.

Formerly a fief of the 17th-century condottiere Alessandro del Borro and later owned by prestigious families such as the Medici Tornaquinci, the Torriani, the Hohenlohe Waldemburg and the Savoia-Aosta, Il Borro is one of the most enchanting villages in the Upper Valdarno. Since 1993 it has become an exclusive wellness oasis, respecting the traditions and history of the place.

In its stretch between Ponte Buriano and the borders with the Florentine territory, the Via dei Setteponti offers postcard views and unique experiences among art, nature and traditions in every season. It is a seamless journey among ancient bridges, precious churches and castle ruins, touching the territories of five different municipalities and heterogeneous landscapes.

A unique natural landscape

“…from the Upper Valdarno up to Arezzo a second lake was created, which poured its waters into the aforesaid lake and occupied the whole of the aforesaid valley of the Arno di Sopra, for a space of 40 miles in length. This valley receives above its bottom all the earth brought by the waters, of that muddy, which still can be seen, at the foot of Prato Magno, remaining very high where the rivers have not consumed it; and within this earth can be seen the deep layers of the rivers that have passed here, which descend from the great mountain of Prato Magno…”
Leonardo da Vinci / Leicester Codex

One of the most characteristic landscapes in Tuscany, the Balze del Valdarno are the astonishing result of geological phenomena that are still ongoing, leading to the constant erosion of the sediments of a large dried-up lake from the Pliocene era. These natural sculptures fascinated Leonardo da Vinci, who depicted them in some of his most famous works. Today they are the protagonists of evocative itineraries immersed in nature to be travelled on foot and by bicycle.

In the stretch of the Arno from Ponte Romito to Ponte dell’Acqua Borra, the Valle dell’Inferno e Bandella Nature Reserve is an oasis created thanks to the lake and marsh area that formed after a dam was built on the river to produce electricity. Over the years, the protected area has gradually become populated with the fauna and flora typical of wetlands.

From Casentino to Valdarno

The side of Pratomagno opposite that of Valdarno is the Casentino side. From the Casentino towards Pratomagno, the climb is immediately steeper than in Valdarno and the climate is much wetter and colder. For this reason, the forest formations: woods, chestnut and beech trees, are moved a little lower. The ridge then continues with its large grasslands to the Passo della Consuma on the border of Florence. Access to the mountain from the Casentino side is from Talla towards the Passo della Crocina, from Raggiolo, Castel San Niccolò and Cetica and at its end from Montemignaio.

The large meadow at the top of the mountain

The Pratomagno mountain massif geographically divides the Casentino from the Upper Valdarno. On its highest peak there is a large modular cross from which one can enjoy an extraordinary panorama. Traversed and photographed in every season by hikers, cyclists and trekking enthusiasts, the Pratomagno is home to splendid forests and villages rich in history.

Discover some offers for your stay

Other suggested routes

Arezzo territory and the Ponte Buriano and Penna Nature Reserve

Cycling, walking, horse riding, canoeing or rafting: there are many ways to experience the territory around Arezzo. Amidst hills covered with olive groves and vineyards, along the banks of the Arno, here nature is truly beautiful and allows experiences that would be unthinkable elsewhere.

Valtiberina and Casentino between rivers and forests


Between the sources of the Arno and the Tiber valley, the rivers that have most recounted the history of Italy, you can travel through an area rich in splendid centuries-old forests and small villages that ooze history, fortified towns that were the scene of ancient battles, or places that gave birth to the greatest protagonists of Renaissance art and culture.