In the heart of Tuscany, there's a route that crosses the splendid forests of Montalbano and allows you to take a trip back in time to the when human innovation began to understand how to use water to produce energy. This path is via dei Mulini, in Vinci.
The name of the path derives from the presence of 5 water mills along the route, dating between the 16th and 18th centuries. Although these historic structures are often ruins, it's still possible to understand how the water from the streams was conveyed inside the mill to produce the energy that powered the heavy millstones.
The path is part of the hiking network that surrounds the birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci and can be traveled on foot or by mountain bike. It's an itinerary of about 3.4 km that's easily accessible for all ages. On foot, it takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes for the outward journey and 1 hour to return.
The route starts from the birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci in Anchiano. A visit to the historic home of the great genius, scientist and nature scholar, is perfect for starting an excursion that allows you to appreciate natural beauties and human ingenuity.
During the time of Leonardo, there were over 30 water mills used to grind grains around Vinci. These were certainly an inspiration to the great scientist for his studies on water.
Going up along via Sant'Amato, you arrive at the beginning of Via dei Mulini. The path enters the woods of Montalbano, following the course of the Vincio river. Not far away are the remains of the Baldassini Mill, the oldest and one of the best preserved.
Constructed in 1581, the owner's name, Baldassini, can be read on the surface of one of the corner blocks of the building. The basement held the mechanism that allowed water to be transformed into energy and which moved the large stone mill located on the upper floor where flour was produced. The water came out of the mill through the arched openings, visible on the facade.
Continuing along the path, we come to the Bongi Mill and the Camillino Mill, both dating to the 17th century. The latter, in particular, has undergone a recent restoration and the central structure of the building is well-preserved, as well as the basement where the water once was, and the millstone room on the upper floor.
The last two mills of this route are located at the end of the Via dei Mulini, in Barco Reale, the historic hunting area used by the Medici family in the seventeenth century. A passage through the wall that bordered the vast estate allows you to access two seventeenth-century mills: Mulino Nannini, also known as the Mulino del Barco, and Mulino dei Poveri.
At this point, it's possible to return along the Via dei Mulini. Alternatively, you can prolongate the walk by continuing along the trekking route n.14, that returns to Anchiano via Santa Lucia. It's a moderately demanding route that will take another hour of walking.