The Road of the Seven Bridges eludes us but we wouldn’t have wanted to miss Vallambrosa.
SS65 goes all the way to Florence but we come off at Lake Bilancino and head east through Borgo San Lorenzo. There’s another road we want to check out: Strada dei Sette Ponti (Road of the Seven Bridges) between Pontassieve and Arezzo.
This isn’t actually all flawless, bucolic countryside. A lot of people live around here, the roads are busier and the towns are not tourist traps.
The road to Pontassieve however is in the spirit of Futa and Raticosa. Some bends have sequentially flashing warning lights (or are they urging you faster?!)
Fairly typical of the towns you drive through is Rufina.
We’ve been shadowing the A1 all afternoon. To think we could have driven the 113 miles between Bologna and Arezzo in two hours..
The Lamborghini Grand Tour drew our attention to ‘Sette Ponti’, one of the roads on the 50th anniversary celebration drive. We assume it must be the twisty back road SP85 rather than the main SS70…
…but it’s quickly obvious no convoy of Lamborghinis will be coming down here. However this is not an error we come to regret.
Our day: filthy windscreen… steering wheel in constant use… lovely towns and villages built on the hillside.
At Tosi, SP85 swings hard left and straight up the northwest slope of Monte Secchieta (4,750ft), part of the Pratomagno chain running parallel to the Apennine ridge in the east.
We wonder what we’re getting into… by all the pine cones on the road – the smell is fantastic – it’s clear this is not a major route. But it’s fine, no big drops. Buses come up here.
Well, what would you do?
Suddenly the road pops out on a tree lined avenue heading for the front door of the Abbey of Vallombrosa. Established in 1036 there have been Benedictine monks and nuns here ever since. Check the bus stop.
This village is mentioned in Paradise Lost: ‘Autumnal leaves that strow the brooks, in Vallombrosa’. Milton’s endorsement encouraged many other writers to visit including Wordsworth, Trollope and Mary Shelley.
Then there’s the (very) Grand Hotel Vallombrosa. We can see this view through the front door but don’t stop because it looks too expensive. Turns out the maximum room rate is €100 but it‘s only open from June to September. We are definitely coming back.
Bong. Fuel is now critical. This road goes all the way to Arezzo but there’s no chance of a garage up here.
We discuss taking it easy on the way back down but cannot help it..
The truly adventurous would have gone straight back up the mountain. The sensible would have hopped on the A1. We opt for the main road into Arezzo. It’s not that bad but there’s a lot of stop start through the towns and villages for the last 25 miles when really it’s time for an ice cold beer.
The satnav hotel listing takes us to Hotel Continentale. Nothing super special – €138 B&B – but they do have a roof top terrace looking up to the ancient old town.