Leonardo Da Vinci was so fascinated by the peculiar rock formations of Le Balze in the Valdarno area, that he added them to the background of his most famous painting Mona Lisa.
The vast area of Le Balze is located in the Valdarno (Valley of the Arno) between Florence and Arezzo and can be seen in the towns of Terranova Bracciolini, Loro Ciuffenna, Castelfranco di Sopra, Pian di Sco, Laterina, in the province of Arezzo and Reggello, in the province of Florence.
Consisting of layers of sand, clay, and gravel the rocks of Le Balze reach heights of up to a hundred meters, all shaped differently and interspersed with deep ravines. The Valdarno as it is today is the result of geological phenomena, which occurred after the drying up of the lake that covered the entire area millions of years ago. Under the influence of erosion, the lake sediments slowly crumbled and formed oddly shaped rock formations similar to Bryce Canyon in Utah.
Itinerary Le Balze of Castelfranco di Sopra
An excellent way to discover the beautiful area of Le Balze is on foot following the itinerary CAI 51 that starts in Castelfranco di Sopra. This circular route of about 6 km leads you through a variety of landscapes and close past the rock formations.
The itinerary starts just outside the walls of the old village of Castelfranco di Sopra. You can park your car next to the post office and on the street corner you’ll see the map that indicates the beginning of the path. Just follow the red and white signs past vineyards, through a forest, over a stream and up close to the rock formations.
Close to the Agriturismo Le Balze, you’ll have a choice to add some extra kilometers to the itinerary by climbing to the village Piantravigne to enjoy the stunning view. Since it was 35°C we decided to continue on the circular path and drive up to Piantravigne later.
The indications of the CAI 51 itinerary are very clear, and there is no risk of getting lost. It took us a little of 3 hours to complete the walk, but it was a hot July day, and we stopped a lot to take photos.