Stage 32 – Arezzo-Castiglion Fiorentino – Medium difficulty stage, not long. We leave the Arno valley to enter the alluvial plain of the Chiana, so the route always keeps close to the hills. It is therefore quite bumpy, not excessively tiring, with no traffic: it almost always develops on dirt or gravel roads.
On the outskirts of Arezzo, the stage begins in Santa Maria delle Grazie, an ancient religious settlement that deserves a careful visit. Leaving the gate of the courtyard area, formerly the cloister of the convent, take Via Andrea della Robbia, up to the underpass of the ring road. Then Via Giulio Salvadori (cyclists follow the Sella municipal road to continue on the Monte Lignano municipal road and arrive at the Pieve La Sassaia di Rigutino; a total of 16.3 km). After a few crossroads there is a small bridge and the locality of San Marco Villalba, where there is a small hostel. Climb up in the middle of an olive grove and arrive near the Bosco di Sargiano natural area. Climb the slopes of Monte Lignano, in the middle of a beautiful wood. Then on partially unpaved and partially paved roads up to the Castle of Policiano. Continuing, you pass the crossroads that takes you back to Santa Maria a Pigli. Immersed for a while in a beautiful olive grove, then in the woods, you cross a small ford and arrive at the Castle of Policiano. There is a flat stretch; then you find yourself mainly in the midst of stupendous olive groves, with continuous ups and downs. Further down the SS 71 Statale Umbro Casentinese Romagnola will be the point of reference up to Orvieto. You need to pay close attention to the signs, even if they are quite numerous and clear, because there are a myriad of paths; having entered a highly anthropized area, you pass in the vicinity of welcoming villas and farmhouses. The path, always easy, retraces an ancient road: it is said that Hannibal also traveled before the battle of Lake Trasimeno. It has evident Etruscan and Roman traces, especially in the retaining walls. With this wonderful landscape full of fantastic colors in your eyes, after several detours you reach the road that from Rigutino leads to Pieve di Sassaia, where you meet an extraordinary hospitable who will make you forget the effort, making available his extraordinary hospitality, cuisine and also the overnight stay. After the stop in Sassaia we continue towards Castiglion Fiorentino, another town that deserves all the attention. From Pieve di Sassaia you return to the houses of Sassaia. (cyclists get off at Rigutino on the SS 71 which they then leave at Vitiano to return to the pedestrian route) Through various country roads you reach Ottavo; then you are in Vitiano; (in Via Cozzano the bikes go towards the SS 71, which they will follow up to Via Palazzo del Pero for 1.6 km). Thus we begin to descend towards Castiglion Fiorentino, cross another stream and arrive on the provincial road. Following it, you arrive at Porta Fiorentina, the entrance to Castiglion Fiorentino.
32 – Points of Interest
Castiglion Fiorentino – The inhabited centre of Castiglion Fiorentino developed in Etruscan times, already starting from the 6th century B.C.; a fundamental crossroads between the two lucumonias of Arezzo and Cortona, the town was built on top of the hill, as evidenced by the archaeological excavations carried out in the area of the Cassero Tower. The Etruscans carried out an initial reclamation of the Val di Chiana, at that time crossed by the Clanis River: this river flowed in the opposite direction of the present Maestro Canal and constituted an important navigable waterway connecting the Arno with the Tiber. But with the empire of Augustus, the landscape changed radically: among the causes of the Tiber floods, which from time to time flooded Rome, was the Clanis, a tributary of the Paglia, which poured the waters of the Arno out into the Tiber. The Romans therefore blocked the mouth of the Clanis, causing the water to stagnate, and the consequent swamping of the Val di Chiana. It is probable that Castiglione developed in this period, built on high ground, and therefore immune to malaria. Worth seeing: the Municipal Palace, built in the 14th century; the Municipal Art Gallery, housed on the premises of the ancient Church of St. Angelus; the Cassero Tower; the Praetorian Palace (1412); the Vasari Loggia (built in 1513); the Municipal Theatre; the Church of St. Francis; the Parish Church of St. Julian (15th century); the Church of St. Augustine, the Church of the Madonna della Consolazione.
Parish Church of Sassaia – Climbing up the scenic road that leads from Rigutino to Monte Lignano, at about 375 metres above sea level, you come across the ancient Parish Church of St. Cyricus, better known as the Church of Sassaia. It is a structure of early medieval origin, which was the parish church of Rigutino until 1936, the year in which the large neo-Gothic building located further down the valley, designed by Pilade Ghiandai and inspired by the Cathedral of Arezzo, was consecrated. Since 2009, the evocative rooms of the former rectory have been transformed into the Pieve la Sassaia Refuge, included on the Via Romea Germanica route. Those from Italy and abroad who decide to stay at this charming “albergue del pellegrino” (pilgrim’s hotel), furnished with 18th and 19th century furniture and enriched by a library with over 1,200 books, are welcomed by a real “ospitalero”, as they existed in the Middle Ages along the route to Santiago de Compostela.