The Sentiero della Bonifica
Sentiero della Bonifica cycle and pedestrian path which joins Arezzo to Chiusi is about 62 km along Valdichiana equipped for those who wish to travel slowly, either by bike or on foot.
The Canale Maestro della Chiana
The Canale Maestro della Chiana’s cycle and pedestrian path which joins Arezzo to Chiusi is about 62 km long, and is equipped and protected for those who wish to travel slowly, either by bike or on foot. The ancient road used for both canal and lock maintenance is, in fact, a natural track without any height or level differences which makes it particularly suitable for family sporting tourism, and can be ideally combined with the railway line which serves the Val di Chiana between Arezzo and Chiusi.
Apart from its history and its landscape, this cycle path that crosses the Val di Chiana, is characterized by its important tourist identity in the sense that it is an area that can be fully used and enjoyed; this is frequently the case of other European cycle paths, made for those who wish to travel slowly, using the bicycle as a means of getting to know the area properly. Its essentially flat land renders it ideal for families with children. In other words, the well-known Tuscany of hills and mountains that usually calls for legs which are used to altitude changes, opens out and becomes a friend even to those cyclists who are not particularly or athletically trained. The Canale Maestro della Chiana’s cycle and pedestrian path acts also as an opportunity of coming into close contact with the locals and their homelands, who can tell you all about their area, rich in the production of wine, oil and fruit.
By following the cycle paths, you can discover wine cellars, squares, oil mills, craftsmen, all ignored by traditional tourist itineraries. It is a sort of preferential route towards the heart of a valley, passed through by many but little known by those who cross it by car or train, heading towards a Tuscany that is still to be discovered and appreciated. This route, combined with train transport, enables you to cover the whole way without having to go back over your own steps; and the services available (bike rental, luggage transport, help centres and specialized tourist-accommodation facilities along the way) create a cycle path which is a point of reference in the heart of Tuscany, and which can easily be reached by train arriving at the stations of Chiusi Chianciano Terme and Arezzo. Short detours off the main route allow you to make a real journey of discovery through the art cities of Montepulciano and Chiusi, Arezzo, Castiglion Fiorentino and Cortona.
La ciclopedonale del Canale Maestro della Chiana è anche un’occasione per entrare in contatto diretto con luoghi e persone che raccontano il territorio con importanti produzioni come vino, olio e frutta. Seguendo la ciclabile si scoprono cantine, piazze, frantoi, artigiani ignorati dalle rotte tradizionali del turismo. Si tratta di una sorta di via preferenziale verso il cuore di una valle frequentata ma sconosciuta da chi l’attraversa in auto o in treno, verso una Toscana tutta da scoprire e da vivere. Il percorso in linea, abbinato al trasporto integrato con il treno, permette di effettuare l’intero tracciato senza dover tornare sui propri passi e i servizi dedicati (noleggio bici, trasporto bagagli, punti assistenza e strutture turistico-ricettive specializzate lungo il percorso) rendono questa strada ciclabile un punto di riferimento nel cuore della Toscana facilmente raggiungibile in treno con le stazioni di Chiusi e Arezzo. Brevi deviazioni dal percorso principale permettono di effettuare un vero e proprio viaggio di scoperta in città d’arte come Montepulciano e Chiusi, Arezzo, Castiglion Fiorentino e Cortona.
THE SENTIERO DELLA BONIFICA - VALDICHIANA
To travel slowly along the Canale Maestro della Chiana [Master Canal of the Chiana area] between Siena and Arezzo signifies discovering the quality of a land which man’s genius has recuperated from out of the water. But not only. Etruscan civilization’s magical roots lie in the midst of this broad valley.
The Val di Chiana is an area in perpetual movement and the century-old land reclamation is a symbol of its continuous transformation.
Engineers, mathematicians, hydraulic experts, cartographers, agronomists and architects all collaborated in the land reclamation of this territory: from Leonardo da Vinci to the Arezzo born Vittorio Fossombroni, a brilliant technician who worked on the project for over 50 years, right up till his death in 1844. The Canale Maestro della Chiana is an historical hydraulic engineering achievement which even nowadays, plays an important role in this area. In ancient times, the “Clanis” river flowed, through the Paglia river, towards the Tevere, thus flowing southwards. Around the 11th century, the valley begun to turn into marshland due to the land around Chiusi slowly rising because of tectonic movements and erosive materials deposited there. Therefore, the “Clanis” river was unable to flow smoothly towards the Tevere River and instead, flooded the valley for the next five centuries. The first attempt to resolve this situation was carried out by the Medici, and was then continued by the Asburgo - Lorena family, the Grand Dukes of Tuscany, so thus began the transformation of this valley. The land reclamation and the realization of the ‘Canale Maestro’, across reclaimed areas, canal bridges, tunnels, drains and locks, changed the direction of the water which now flows northwards to eventually flow into the Arno. The result of this, after this area being marshland for centuries, is nowadays one of the most fertile Italian valleys: it spreads over 185 sq. km, 80 of which have been reclaimed and drained out of the marshes, and are protected by embankments, extending for 630 km.
As a consequence, you can cycle along a truly ‘noble’ pathway, shaped by man and by mother nature, working together in total harmony. A different concept of time is this cycle path’s essential factor, in the sense that the joy of going slowly is rediscovered and in the sense of travelling back through time to the distant and enigmatic past of the Etruscan civilization. But the present is, too, to be discovered, on the footsteps of this fascinating past history, along a route which starts from Chiusi in the labyrinth of Porsenna, the Etruscan king who dared to challenge Rome and actually conquered it, right up to Arezzo’s Chimera, a famous bronze statue dating back to the 4th century B.C. (now in the Archeological Museum of Florence). This Etruscan journey takes you through legends and mysteries, thousand-year-old Walls and necropolises at Cortona and Castiglion Fiorentino: places where it is easy to lose oneself in intriguing questions which come to mind about a population which, many centuries before Christ, already knew how to express themselves as a modern people, going beyond the limits of time. “Live” traces of the ancient Etruscan Curtun [Cortona] are visible in the 3rd-2nd century B.C. ‘Tabula Cortonensis’ [the Cortona Tablet]; this Tablet is one of the most important documents of Etruscan civilization. It is, in fact, a contract that certifies the sale of lands between Cortona families, proving the intense agricultural and commercial activity of the times. Impressive sandstone blocks can still be seen in the Walls of Castiglion Fiorentino, another Etruscan capital and an important place on our journey.
Thus, history but also nature makes up this border area of Tuscany where the mirror-like waters of the lakes of Chiusi and Montepulciano, rich in flora and in fauna, registered in the C.N.R [National Research Council] as important biotopes, represent an extremely interesting natural oasis for touring cyclists who are also bird watching enthusiasts.