From the plains to the mountains, forests, rivers and lakes
Thick green forests and crystal-clear river waters: a varied territory with many parks and nature reserves to visit. Such as the National Park of the Casentinesi Forests, the Sasso Simone and Alpe della Luna Reserves along the Apennine ridge, and the river reserves on the Arno. These are protected places that can be accessed in exchange for respect and care for the environment.
Located in the Tuscan-Romagna Apennines, included in the territories of Tuscany and Emilia Romagna, the National Park of the Casentino Forests, Monte Falterona and Campigna is a paradise for nature lovers that offers endless hiking possibilities in every season. A protected area crossed by more than 600 kilometres of trails for all needs, including breathtaking views, millenary forests, sacred places, traditions and places to be discovered.
Since medieval times, the uncontaminated and extraordinary nature of the Casentino forests has favoured the settlement of monks and mendicant orders, whose hermitages and monasteries were promoted in the peace and silence of the woods. The most famous are the XI century Hermitage and Monastery of Camaldoli and the Sanctuary of La Verna, where St Francis was stigmatised in 1224.
A magnificent example of how nature and man manage to live in symbiosis to give life to places of unique spirituality, Camaldoli is the mother house of a Benedictine congregation founded by Saint Romuald in 1012, a short distance from the Tuscan-Romagna Apennine ridge. Immersed in forests tended for centuries by the Camaldolese monks, a hermitage and a monastery still represent two references for ecumenical and interreligious dialogue.
On 14 September 1224, St Francis of Assisi received the stigmata on Mount Verna. At the site of the miraculous episode, a sanctuary was built, which is still visited by pilgrims from all over the world. The Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli and the Stigmata Chapel house some of the most beautiful Della Robbia terracottas ever made. Sasso Spicco is a mystical place where the future saint loved to take refuge to pray and meditate under a gigantic hanging boulder.
Visiting the Casentino and Valtiberina nature parks you will come across delightful villages full of history, art and traditions handed down from generation to generation. In some cases the villages developed around powerful medieval castles, in others they grew up next to influential monastic complexes that chose the area for its isolated location.
The Apennine forests are a cure-all for the mind and body. This is well known by those who choose the Alpe della Luna Nature Reserve and the Sasso di Simone e Simoncello Nature Reserve, east of the Valtiberina, for their walks and excursions on foot and by bicycle, in areas where the flora and fauna offer surprising encounters in every season.
Included in the territories of Pieve Santo Stefano, Badia Tedalda and Sansepolcro, in the heart of the Tuscan-Romagnolo Apennines, the Alpe della Luna Nature Reserve takes its name from the mountain group that acts as a watershed between the Tyrrhenian and Adriatic basins. The predominantly wooded area is characterised by a dense network of watercourses and rich and varied flora. Ripa della Luna is the most scenic spot in the protected area.
The Sasso Simone Nature Reserve borders the Sasso Simone and Simoncello Interregional Natural Park, forming a unified nature complex. The symbols of the two protected areas are two enormous parallelepiped-shaped limestone reliefs. Equipped areas, environmental education centres and a dense network of trails allow for walks and excursions to discover an area divided between three valuable regions.
In the upper Tiber valley, where the Apennine chain slopes down to the plains, there are unique environments such as the Formole Nature Reserve, made up of meadows and pastures alternating with dense woods, and the Monti Rognosi and Valle del Sovara Nature Reserve, a protected area with a rugged and mysterious appearance due to its particular geological composition.
Located in the upper Tiber valley, in the municipal territories of Pieve Santo Stefano and Caprese Michelangelo, the Formole Nature Reserve extends to the hydrographic right of the river. The protected area alternates meadows and pastures with thick turkey oak and downy oak woods. At the entrance to the reserve is the Equestrian Selection Centre, which breeds, trains and selects Maremma and Haflinger horses for the services of the Carabinieri.
The Monti Rognosi, in the territory of Anghiari, are distinguished by their particular geological composition: they are in fact made up of ophiolites, from the Greek ophis (snake) and lithos (rock), hence “snake rock”, of magmatic origin, dark green and black in colour. The rocks contain precious minerals with astonishing colours that change according to weather and light conditions, on which a unique vegetation grows, with endemic and specialised species.
These are the places that Leonardo da Vinci studied in his work as a cartographer, but they are also those that inspired him on several occasions, so much so that they became the landscapes of some of his most famous works. The area stretching from the confluence of the Chiana River in the Arno River to the Balze (crags) allows visitors to relive the immortal masterpieces of the Renaissance genius by observing them through their own eyes.
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.
Two contiguous protected areas, in the sign of two famous Romanesque bridges over the Arno: Ponte Buriano and Ponte Romito. The Ponte Buriano e Penna Nature Reserve and the Valle dell’Inferno e Bandella Nature Reserve are the ideal places for those who want an original experience, thanks to their rich biodiversity and the incredible landscapes that can be admired directly from the river.
The Ponte Buriano e Penna Regional Nature Reserve is a Tuscan landscape rich in biodiversity and with great ties to history. Large green spaces and woods for walking. Accessible paths cover an area of about seven kilometres along the bed of the Arno, from the Romanesque bridge of Ponte Buriano to the Penna dam. This trekking is a way to reconnect with nature and find inspiration.
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.
Valdichiana and Etruscans routes
The valley is formed by a fertile plain, born from the reclamation of an ancient marshy area, and by gentle hills that surround it, on which there are splendid towns and ancient villages. Today, these villages, which have remained almost intact, represent a priceless heritage of art, history and beauty.
Middle Ages and Renaissance in Arezzo and its valleys
From the castles of Casentino, to the strongholds of Val di Chiana, to the fortified villages of Valtiberina. So many fascinating places, where the mystical Middle Ages of the parish churches and the bloody battles between Guelphs and Ghibellines gave way at a certain moment to humanistic thought. Thus began that cultural and philosophical renewal that later marked the Renaissance period and filled the land of Arezzo with new light, bringing the artistic and architectural masterpieces that we can still admire today.