Downhill to Panzano   Digg!

Gaiole - Vertine - Radda - Panzano

-- click on thumbnails for larger image --

The village of Vertine on the hill ahead Approaching Vertine's fortified entrance

As I left the hotel preparations were underway for a wedding in the Romanesque church.

I crunched my way across the gravel and set off up the ridge towards the village of Vertine.

Part of the castle

Today's route was to take me back almost to Radda and then northward to Panzano.

Pieve di San Bartolomeo a Vertine

Vertine is only about one kilometre from Gaiole but about 100 metres higher on a ridge.

You enter the village through a fortified gate which has seen traffic pass through for nearly ten Centuries ... the Casello di Vertine having been built in the 11th Century as was the Pieve di San Bartolomeo a Vertine.

View from the battlements Lots of pots One arch on top of another
Rounded valley
Radda in the distance to the West Classic Tuscan scenery ... hill top villas, olive groves, cypresses and tower cranes

After Vertine the road becomes a strada biancha and it continues to climb to the top of the ridge ... where views open up westward across to Radda.

The trail briefly joins the Montevarchi to Radda Road before turning north to descend into the Pesa valley.

Approaching Radda from the east Stream in wooded valley

Chianti in the centre of Tuscany is much more wooded than the region south of Siena.

It also has many more streams and rivers.

Rather than following streams or rivers along valley bottoms I seemed to be constantly climbing in and out of them.

I thought that Siena and Florence were in opposite directions? Maybe their trees need trimming? The hillsides are more wooded in this part of Tuscany than further south
Downhill for a change Windmill to brighten the view

After crossing the Torrente Pesa at about 350 m altitude I was about to begin a climb up to 760 m.

Fortunately there was to be a good excuse to stop halfway up ...

It's unusual to find a lake half way up a hill Only about 500m to go to get to Volpaia

The climb is well graded and after about four kilometres of zig-zag climbing ... you reach a final straight section which reveals Volpaia on the horizon ahead.

Volpaia ... although not on a hilltop ... provided a strategic viewpoint over the Pesa valley in Medieval times.

The final climb into Volpaia A rather sad sign A well
Quiet back streets Many steps to the front door Keep out the sun
View from the cafe View of the bar

Nowadays ... for me at least ... the main place of interest in Volpaia was the Bar.

This allowed me to take on board sufficient refreshment to tackle the remainder of the hill ahead.

An ornate bell

Before setting off I wandered around the back streets of this small village ... the shaded streets being a welcome change from the sun on the open road.

Friendly wave from a fellow cyclist

I wasn't the only cyclist attracted to Volpaia.

A number of local cyclists ... on considerably more sporty machines than mine ... were making the same journey.

Strada biancha Leaving the village of Volpaia behind

After prevaricating as long as I could ... it was time to climb the rest of the hill.

Above the village the road becomes a strada biancha.

Apart from the occasional rock the surface ... at least in the dry and with wide tyres ... is almost as good as tarmac.

View back to Volpaia and across the Pesa valley Bends north of Volpaia

As you gain height you get wonderful views back over the roof-tops of Volpaia, to the Pesa Valley beyond and across to Radda.

The track continues to snake its way up the hill-side ... the twists and turns causing you to completely loose your sense of direction. The trail also becomes more wooded ... providing welcome shade.

180 degree bend
So this is where the ham comes from ... Still climbing ...

Along this section there are a number of pig farms ... all with the pigs routing in the relatively dry soil.

Eventually the track tops out at an altitude of 765 metres which is a shade over 2,500 feet.

... more climbing ...

From this high point it is almost entirely downhill for the final 5 km down to the large village of Panzano.

... downhill at last?

The track straightens out and the trees receede ... so that you can see the line of descent laid out like a white ribbon for several kilometres ahead.

A slight uphill

The desecent follows a ridge so you get fine views both to the north and south ... and as you get lower the fields become markedly greener.

Walls across the slopes

Eventually I reached Panzano.

At the centre of the village lies Piazza Gastone Bucciarelli which sits on a small col ... the oldest part of village is situated on top of a small hill a few hundred metres to the north.

In the old part of the village appearances can be deceptive ... the neo classical Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta di Panzao was constructed only 100 years ago ... on the site of a 12C predacessor.

Rough walls of the (relatively modern) church The climb up to the Church of the Assumption Worshiping the sun?
Time stands still Alley with shrine at end The shrine itself

From the fortified walls of the old centre there are rewarding views out over the local countryside. Panzano is sited at about 500 m altitude and looks out over the Conca D'Oro.

Views from the walls out to the countryside Views from the walls out to the countryside Views from the walls out to the countryside
Number 1 priority ... a bar The oldest part of Panzano sits atop its own hill

Piazza Gastone Bucciarelli is home to a couple of bars ... so it was wise to stop for some refreshment before searching for my hotel.

View north as the sun begins to set
Hotel aproach Hotel front door

As the sun started to set the countryside began to live up to its name of 'Golden Valley'.

I descended to my hotel ... for a good nights sleep.


Kirby James   Digg!