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Visita il Mugello, culla dei Medici, a due passi da Firenze e le bellezze toscane

Walking and Biking



The false Elba, the true Elba

It is the biggest island of the extraordinary Tuscan archipelago, with over one hundred kilometres of indented and variegated coastline, modelled by the Libeccio and Maestrale winds, with unending inlets, small coves, like niches set in the tormented rocks.
It is the island of the Etruscans, the Romans, the Medici, and Napoleon. It is the island of minerals, perfumes and flowers. Between sea, mountains and small villages it is, above all in the low season, a relaxing meander always within sight of a spacious panorama.

It is a realm of water and sub-aqua sports which in the transparent surrounding waters find one of the most suitable locations for this pursuit, but it is also a realm of walks between sea and mountain ; an intelligent meandering always in sight of marvellous panoramas emerging from the Tirreno sea. This rock, as it is described by the "Elbani" (inhabitants of Elba), being far away from the continent, until thirty years ago was forgotten by everyone, the people survived thanks to the ever consistent mineral riches beneath the ground.
The unexpected and tumultuous conversion of the economy, which had always been based on the minerals industry, agriculture and fishing, now leans almost exclusively towards tourism. All this brings unarguable benefits to the population :Hotels, pensions, farm holidays, and campsites appear but agricultural activities have been abandoned, the fields, vineyards and allotments easy prey to the luxuriant undergrowth. They closed the furnaces, they rested on their laurels they built too much too badly.
Today the three months of frenetic hard work enable them to forget the never ending long days of the winter and spring. It is only in these periods that the island finds itself again, and re-acquires its real intimacy and genuine nature. It finds its real fascination again characterised by a return to the olden ways as if "painted over" in order to give it back to the inhabitants. Autumn and Spring are the best seasons to visit the island, to get to know the more salient aspects, to appreciate the sensibility and salty sincerity of its population. The Elban Olympus and the Pomonte valley.

When the Mistral blows bringing stable weather the sky becomes limpid and the days are ideal to tackle the thousand metres high Capanne mountain .
The enormous conical promontory certainly represents the most impervious and wildest place in the whole island. Along its circumnavigation, which more or less corresponds with its coastline, and goes from Procchio to Marina di Campo, there is a continual line of villages and typical hamlets. In the internal zone, along the steep precipices covered in low, dense thorny undergrowth there is a complete absence of anthropic activity. In order to climb to the top, unfortunately invaded by a forest of aerials, there are various possibilities : the comfortable cable-car which leaves from Marciana (enquire about the days and hours of departure) and several pathways which cross the valleys, greenhouses and spurs, gently penetrating the rocky and wild ambience of the Elban Olympus. The orography and the dominant winds are the cause of the particular floral diversity which is verified on the same vegetal horizon : chestnut and pine trees, undergrowth of juniper, cysto and lentisk, manage to live together in the small space of a few kilometres. The yellow thorny dwarf broom Salzmannii characterises the topmost part of the ridge with its

cushion like bushes (the most beautiful are those near "Semaforo" (Traffic-light) above Chiessi) which from the top lead down in rays to the sea, while on the rocky sinuous recesses of the gullies and of Monte Giove it is possible to admire, next to the heather, the stupendous lily of S. Giovanni, protected flower typical of the Appenine mountains. As well as the vegetal interest there is also a huge panoramic interest. From the peak and its slopes the vastness of the horizon seems immense and as the islands of Caraia, Pianosa and Montecrsto seem to be close at hand, so do the mountains and cities of the further off Corsica.

Among the various and beautiful valleys which start from Monte Cappane we have chosen those of Pomonte (at the foot of the mountain), Chiessi and Marciana. The first two begin from the rocky magnificence of the mountain to finish in the crystal clear waters of the Tirreno sea which at that place faces the nearby Corsica ; the third descends directly from Monte Capanne. The punchbowls, protected from the north winds, appear like climatic oasis typical of the Mediterranean.
The valleys should be visited in May to be seen in all their multicoloured splendour. The blossoms of the Mediterranean undergrowth and the perfumes of the strongest of the essences inebriates the rambler who occasions to walk there always immersed in a dreamlike ambience, panoramic and interesting under a naturalistic profile.
Leaving from the village of Pomonte you have means of appreciating a world that is disappearing. The last of the old people still come out of their little white houses to work daily in their allotments and vine yards carved, with a lot of hard work, on the sides of the mountain and well irrigated by the copious waters of the Bertone pothole. Along the two ancient well paved and lately re-cleaned mule tracks (believed to be dated from the Roman period), you can reach the Pass of S. Bartolomeo which takes you to Chiessi, the same Capanne with its 1018 metres of crude rocks and finally to the town of Marciana.



Text and pictures Gianfranco Bracci
Translation: Jeremy Carden

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