Search

Cycling the Pratomagno Part 3


The top of the Pratomagno massif in Tuscany
Bees and wildflowers at the top of the Pratomagno massif

Poppi - La Croce di Pratomagno - Poppi

24.5 miles / 3,500 feet / 2.5 hours


The north-eastern side of the Pratomagno ridge line has a much gentler gradient than the south-western side

This is a very straightforward ride that goes straight uphill to the highest point of the Pratomagno and then straight back down again so you won’t even need a map. There are many reasons why I like it; it starts in the most interesting town in the Casentino valley, it ends with the best views available anywhere in the Pratomagno and, linking the two, it has one of the quietest roads with a gradient that is never too hard, averaging only 5.5% over the entire 12 mile climb.


The view from la Croce di Pratomagno
Trails everywhere for hikers, horses and mountain bikes

There is one important thing to note however if you’re on a road bike. When you reach the restaurant ‘Da Giocondo’ at just under 5,000 feet, the paved road ends leaving you with about a mile to walk along a very uneven strada bianca and then steeply uphill on a dirt track to reach the actual Croce di Pratomagno at the highest point. So a pair of non-cycling shoes will be needed as well as a lock for your bike. Or simply do the bike ride in the morning and drive back up later in the day which is what I do because otherwise you’ll do all of the work and completely miss the best part.


Poppi castle
Poppi castle

The starting point, Poppi, is situated at about 1,400 feet of elevation and outside the centro storico there are plenty of places to park and then you simply unload your bike and head straight up the mountain.


Poppi
Poppi, looking back from the early part of the climb

There’s only one place to stop on this route, the small village of Quota located 5 miles and 1,100 feet into the ride. It’s an attractive little place with one surviving bar to grab a coffee and something to eat.

The tribute to Professor Ranieri Magini in Quota
The tribute to Professor Ranieri Magini in Quota

It’s yet another place in this region that was the site of a war crime in July 1944, but the only one where the intervention of a displaced elderly professor from the University of Florence managed to avert a larger scale atrocity from taking place.

No evidence remains of what he said to the Germans that day over the course of several hours but the result was that they released the 30 young men they had already rounded up in the square (representing such a large percentage of Quota’s working age men that it would probably have resulted also in the death of the village) and instead executed 5 men who were childless, including one who volunteered to take his brother’s place, his brother being the father of six small children. A much better result for sure but a barbaric war crime nonetheless.


Da Giocondo, La Croce di Pratomagno
The end of the paved road at Da Giocondo restaurant

After Quota there’s another 7.25 miles and 2,400 feet to go and for the first few miles it definitely feels a little steeper than before, but it flattens out considerably as you get nearer to the top.

Once at Da Giocondo, a 20 minute walk uphill will get you to the highest point. Before the actual Croce however you will come across a memorial to Bert Hinkler, Australia's most famous pioneering aviator of a century ago. An exceptional flyer and inventor of aviation instruments, he held many solo flying records and had just left London in January 1933 to attempt to break the flying record to Australia when he fatally crashed into the Pratomagno massif near this spot.


Bert Hinkler's memorial on the Pratomagno
Bert Hinkler's memorial

La Croce di Pratomagno was first erected in 1927, though subsequently rebuilt and repaired several times since then, and sits at 5,200 feet. Given how many high mountains there are in Italy this is an unremarkable height, but less common are the 360 degree unobstructed views from the top courtesy of the isolated nature of the Pratomagno massif accentuated by the river valleys surrounding it.


La Croce di Pratomagno

The descent back to Poppi is long but not as fast and exhilarating as some of the others I have written about due to the less than perfect road surface and, as ever, there's one quite short and shallow climb that interrupts the descent and I found it particularly unwelcome to tired legs.


The Pratomagno ridge line with Monte Secchieta in the distance
The Pratomagno ridge line with Monte Secchieta in the distance