The National Park of Casentino
The magic lands of chestnut forests
The Casentino, with its National Park, is a land of chestnut trees. The most heavily forested valley in Tuscany, this enchanted place spotlights the historical relationship between human settlements and landscape.
Throughout the area, many villages are nestled in the woods, located in functional spots that are perfect for processing timber and coal or collecting underbrush. The valley retains the integrity of its landscape; it borders Romagna on one side and runs along the Arno River on the other, until the Poppi castle. This territory is also deeply linked to the Etruscan culture of Mount Falterona, a peak that is considered the sacred mother of the river, whose source springs from this area and runs throughout Tuscany.
The National Park of the Casentinesi Forests is a noble and historical landscape which owes its status as a park to the farsighted vision of both monks and forest managers. Here, one can visit the ancient forests of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany—those which once supplied wood to the arsenals of Livorno and Pisa and served as raw materials for the Opera del Duomo in Florence.
Mule tracks, bridges, churches, villages and mystical places, like the shrines of Camaldoli and Verna (where St. Francis received his stigmata), add charm to this vast, unspoiled environment. It was Italy’s first regionally-owned reserve, established in 1959.
One can reach the Casentino via two roads from Florence and Arezzo, going through the Consuma Pass or through the Giovi Valley from Romagna. Cycling fans can enjoy several routes which boast varying degrees of difficulty. Among the most challenging, there’s the ‘Passo della Calla’ (26 Km), which is highly recommended in both late spring and autumn. The Valtiberina Toscana trail (31 Km) is one of the area’s easiest and it is recommended year-round even with a touring bike. For those who love horse-back riding, the Casentinesi Forest Riders Association has created four unique routes that allow you to reach the Casentino from Arezzo, thanks to a two-day journey.