There is still a lot to discover in Tuscany that is off the beaten track. One is Val di Chiana, with fabulous countryside and suggestive villages in a valley, and the best way to do this is to explore it along the Path of Reclamation, Il Sentiero della Bonifica. This last is a road opened a few years ago that crosses the entire valley along the Maestro della Chiana channel.
The ideal place to start this trip is undoubtedly at Chiusi, a small town with a prestigious history, having been among the most powerful of the Etruscan towns in the area, powerful enough to have threatened Rome with their king Porsenna in 508 B.C.E. As testimony of this, we have the local archaeological museum, which houses a whole series of precious relics. Intriguingly, under the main square of the town we have a network of tunnels that constitute a veritable underground town, where we can find numerous vases and cinerary urns.
The path starts two kilometers outside the town, in Chiusi Scalo, and after a few miles you skirt the suggestive lakes of Chiusi and Montepulciano, which are home to a very rich fauna of migratory birds. Montepulciano is also the location that has given the famous wine its name. Then you enjoy miles and miles of wonderful countryside of green hills, vineyards and cultivated fields illuminated by the sun. Nature at its most artistic.
Once you reach the village of Brolio, take a detour of about 4 miles to the beautiful town of Cortona, the setting for Frances Mayes’ travel memoirs Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany. The town has preserved its medieval aspect intact, with the enchanting Signorelli Square and its ancient walls. For those who have the stamina to make the climb, Girifalco fortress offers a truly unique view of the surrounding areas.
Returning to the path, after about 3 miles of cycling, make another very short detour to Castiglion Fiorentino, a town where, at its top, you’ll see the dramatic Torre del Cassero, an interesting medieval site whose ruins evoke an atmosphere of early nineteenth century romanticism, with a breathtaking view over the entire landscape.
In the final stretch of the canal path you’ll find a bust with a commemorative plaque to Amadeo Peter Giannini if you stop in Ponte alla Nave. Giannini is the noted Italian American who founded the prestigious Bank of Italy in United States in 1904.
Finally, just before the path ends at the imposing Pratantico bridge, stop to admire the stupendous hydraulic work of Monaci Lock, built in the Middle Ages by Benedictine monks.
Once off the path, the only spectacular way to conclude your adventure is to visit the small city of Arezzo, whose Piazza Grande served as the setting for some scenes in Roberto Benigni’s Oscar-winning movie, “Life is Beautiful”.
Along the path you’ll find numerous charming facilities for accommodation, and restaurants where you can taste some local specialties such as Ribollita or Pici all’aglione, perhaps accompanying them with one of the excellent local wines; maybe even Montepulciano.