Photo ©Enrico Caracciolo
Sentiero della Bonifica
Cycling from Chiusi to Arezzo along the Canale Maestro della Chiana waterway
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62 km
Difficulty
Easy

The Sentiero della Bonifica beside the Canale Maestro della Chiana waterway runs between Arezzo and Chiusi through the valley that bears evidence of Etruscan civilization. The trail is approximately 60 kilometres long and affords shelter and signposting for slow travellers, whether on foot or by bike.

Perfect for an active family holiday, the old road used for the upkeep of the waterway and its locks was a route without any inclines, integrating well with the local public transport network.  

This area changed, starting in the mid-14th century, with a widespread reclamation campaign, which began with the Medici family and continued under the Hapsburg-Lorraine rule, calling on eminent scientists and clever engineers like Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo Galilei and Vittorio Fossombroni, a technician from Arezzo whose name was given to the canal. Today’s lock system, which dates to the grand ducal era, interwines with nature, history and local specialities, making it the perfect destination for people on cycling holidays, also due to the vicinity of two railway lines that facilitate your return to the point of departure.

The cycle and walking path of the Canale Maestro della Chiana also provides an opportunity to see places and meet locals who explain local produce, such as wine, oil and fruit. Along the way, discover wineries, squares, oil mills and craftspeople that tourists often don’t a chance to get to know firsthand. This corner of Tuscany was once frequented by Etruscans, as seen in the Labyrinth of Porsenna, in Chiusi, the millennial walls and burial places such as those found near Cortona and Castiglion Fiorentino. The route is a sort of fast track to the heart of a popular valley that remains unknown to those who drive through it or travel through it by train.


Step 1
Lakes Chiusi and Montepulciano
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We start pedalling at Chiusi railway station, easily reaching the beginning of the trail. The first part of the journey provides incredible nature as we ride through the greenery surrounding Lake Chiusi and, immediately afterwards, Lake Montepulciano, perfect places for enjoyable stops sought after by nature lovers and birdwatchers. Having cycled about 15 kilometres, the route winds its way into the sunny Val di Chiana along the banks of the Canale Maestro. Just after the 20km mark, the trail skirts the Callone di Valiano, an impressive 18th-century feat of engineering used to regulate the flow of water from both Lake Chiusi and Lake Montepulciano.

Step 2
Exploring the Chiana Valley
 

Now it’s time to cycle into the heart of the valley beneath Valiano. The final stretch of the Val di Chiana Senese lies between Chianacce and Torrita di Siena as far as Foiano della Chiana. Just before the 35km mark, we pedal near Botte allo Strozzo, an ingenious hydraulic system in which the water of Allacciante delle Chianacce is raised up to meet the Canale Maestro before flowing into the “Allacciante di sinistra”. This marks the beginning of the Arezzo section of the Sentiero della Bonifica cycleway.

Step 3
Seeing old hydraulic structures
 

Cortona, seen on the hilltop to the east and an essential stop for Etruscans, doesn’t actually lie along the Sentiero della Bonifico, but it can be reached with a 12-kilometre detour via the Sentiero dei Principes Etruschi: be warned, the final climb is demanding. Foiano della Chiana, skirted by the cycleway, is home to the oldest carnival celebrations in Italy, dating to 1539.

The cycleway runs between Marciano della Chiana and Castiglion Fiorentino. Close to kilometre 49, the route brushes past the Frassineto hydraulic lodge before perpendicularly intersecting the road to the major farms of Font’a Ronco and Frassineto. The final section of the journey along the Canale Maestro della Chiana takes us through the orchards and vineyards of Civitella in Val di Chiana and affords views over the important canals built in the 19th century to channel the water of the side canals into the Canale Maestro.

Step 4
Chiusa dei Monaci
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We cross the Ponti d’Arezzo and begin the busy route towards Arezzo, skirting Ponte alla Nave (which was mentioned in Leonardo da Vinci’s 1502 map). With almost 160 kilometres behind us, the journey is coming to a close as we reach a striking feat of hydraulic engineering, Chiusa dei Monaci, a mill powered by the water of the Chiana since 1115.

 

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