The road to Porciano: Consuma to Porciano

After the road crests at the Consuma Pass, it dips down to the hamlet of Ponticelli. There’s a bus stop here, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, where the bus from Florence offloads passengers going to towns in the Casentino and the busses from the Casentino offload the passengers going to Florence. For the most part, the timing is coordinated, but the first time it was a little nerve-wracking, wondering if we’d be stranded here!

Ponticelli bus stop.

Ponticelli bus stop.

After Ponticelli, the road climbs again through a heavily-forested area (as I mentioned in another post, the wood used for the scaffolding and machines used to build the dome of the Duomo came from the forests of the Casentino), but at one point, the land drops away from the road and I can see Poppi and the valley opening up before me. From here, I am usually narrating the journey in my head for the benefit of my siblings, wishing they could be along for the adventure and thinking how much they would enjoy this trip. When I am bringing someone to Porciano for the first time, I try not to narrate – I don’t want to impose my feelings on their first impressions.

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Looking into the Casentino Valley towards Poppi.

The bar that marks the turn.

The bar that marks the turn towards Porciano.

Then it’s time to make the turn at Scarpaccia, where a bar (meaning a place to get food and drink, not just alcohol) marks the turn. Now I’m almost to Porciano and I swear I can feel the tug of the place. Soon Castello di Romena comes into view. No matter the angle I see it from – from Porciano, on SR70 from Bibbiena, or from here – I get a catch in my heart because it’s so beautiful.

 

Castello di Romena.

Castello di Romena.

A couple more twists and turns and Porciano comes into sight. I’m like a showman when someone is with me – if no one is behind me, I stop the car and point out the village with Castello di Porciano behind it. Then it’s down into Stia, a little town of which I am very fond, a turn onto a small bridge across the Arno River, with the centro storico on the right and the football (soccer) field and La Rana, a restaurant overlooking the Arno, on the left.

A turn onto Via Dante Alighieri and I’m almost there. I pass the house where a dog named Zoe and her canine companion whose name I haven’t found out yet live, hoping to catch a glimpse of them both; if I see them, I sometimes pull over and distribute scritches! Another turn, and Porciano comes into view again. Different times of day and seasons have shown me the hills ahead glowing with light or wind ruffling the olive trees, displaying the silvery undersides of their leaves. In the fields on either side of the road, I often see a shepherd with his flock. Another turn or two and I’m in the piazzale below the castle. I pass the local cemetery, turn into the drive, and I have arrived.

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As I said, it’s a journey I’ve made many times; I never tire of it and it is never less than beautiful.
Images © Melissa Corcoran

The road to Porciano: Pontassieve to Consuma

After Pontassieve, I make the turn towards Consuma. For me, this is the dividing line in my journey, perhaps because after this, the road twists and turns and climbs up and dives down even more than it has until now and the towns become smaller.

In a lay-by after the turn, a produce truck is usually parked. The fruits and vegetables are bright spots of color in the spring and summer. The offerings are less colorful, but equally delicious, when funghi come on the market in the fall. A turn of the road and I’m going through the village of Le Palaie.

Shortly after Le Palaie comes one of the most beautiful parts of this drive – the Frescobaldi vineyards. I have seen the vineyards in the dead of winter – long, straight lines of vines, bare of foliage atop bare earth, in the spring when the leaves first start appearing and each vine looks like it’s wearing a mohawk, in late summer and early autumn when the leaves are turning gold and the vines are bearing fruit, and I am always tempted to capture the image. There is, fortunately, a place where I can pull off and pull out my camera.

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After the vineyards comes Diacceto, a pretty town. From the parking lot off this main road, there are views of layers of hills, with the bell tower of a church playing a prominent role.

After Diacceto comes one of the oddest sites of the drive, Le Cupole. I’m both intrigued and slightly appalled at this ‘flying saucer’ – surely there’s an interesting story behind this building, which houses a restaurant, and the similarly-styled house nearby. Since I’ve heard the food is good, I’ll probably wind up there some day for a meal!

Le Cupole.

Le Cupole.

The scene of my triumph!

Next comes Borselli and then the turn off to Vallombrosa, which is a marker for me and a word I love. Now I’m in Consuma and almost to the pass into the Casentino Valley. The gas station here is the site of one of my minor triumphs when I figured out how to use the self-service pumps. A bar and grocery are next – the pastries in the bar are pricey but lovely. And then I’m at the pass.

It’s one of my most favorite phrases in the world these days – driving through the Consuma; it sounds so romantic and adventurous. The pass is the dividing line between the provinces of Florence and Arezzo. Its height above sea level – 890 meters (2900 feet) – doesn’t seem that high, but it’s high enough to have its own weather system. In the winter, we keep tabs on the weather and the status of the pass, as it can be closed to traffic.

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The Consuma Pass in summer…

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and winter.

The first time I made this trip, I was on the bus with my friend Catherine. It was a Sunday morning and the bar, aka the chalet, at the pass was open. We were astounded and amused when the bus driver pulled into the parking lot and said he was going for coffee. Most of the passengers followed him into the bar. Ten minutes later, everyone came back to the bus and we went on our way to the bus stop at Ponticelli.

To be continued…

Images © Melissa Corcoran.

The road to Porciano: Florence to Pontassieve

It’s a journey I’ve made many times; I never tire of it and it is never less than beautiful.

For me, when I’m driving, the journey starts by going north from my apartment. I started using this route when I didn’t have cellular data for google maps and didn’t think I could remember how to navigate through the city. This way is simple – up one road, turn right, down another road to Sieci, after which the route is fairly simple. Even though I now know at least one way through town, I still prefer this way because it’s easier to navigate.

The bonus of this route is how lovely it is. It’s hard to believe that this open, sparsely-populated area is so close to Florence. The road climbs through neighborhoods like Pian di Mugnone and Caldine, which are connected by a pedestrian pathway near the river as well as by the road. Occasionally, I stop in the pastry shop in Pian di Mugnone for treats to take to Porciano; often I stop for gas in Caldine because the man at the gas station is so pleasant. Across from the gas station is one of my favorite wall shrines.

The road twists and turns and continues climbing until the right turn, then starts downhill. One day when I was driving to Porciano early in the morning, the most beautiful fog formations I’d ever seen were in the valleys to my right. There have been other days when people were pulling over (even though there was no safe place to do so) to take pictures of the fog that so often lies in the valleys.

The road downhill is a lot of fun to drive. I realized I had become my mother the day my friend Catherine was with me. I was whipping around the curves (at the speed limit, I might add; well, maybe a little over) and saying ‘whee,’ when she asked me to slow down a little as it was making her nauseous. I did, but pointed out that I was going the speed limit. She replied that the speedometer probably wasn’t working since the tires weren’t on the ground. Yep, that was my mom’s style of driving.

Along this road is an old Romanesque church, Pieve di S. Martino a Lubaco. I had passed the sign for it many times before I finally stopped one day and visited the church. There was the church, with a couple of houses, and chickens in the yard, and a friendly cat or two. The interior is simple and peaceful.

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Pieve di S. Martino a Lubaco.

The road decants me onto Via Aretina in Sieci. When I turn left, there is a lovely view of the Arno river – broad and flat and calm most days, although a couple of times in the spring, it was rushing, due to rain and snow melt. Sieci always strikes me as a friendly place. At one of the roundabouts is a food truck. The long line at lunch-time reminds me that some day, I should stop there for a snack!

Pontassieve is the next town. When driving, the route is around town, but the bus goes through town, which is interesting. It was a few trips on the bus before I realized that the town’s name derived from a ponte (bridge) over the river Sieve. It’s intriguing to go through a town on a bus – sitting higher than in a car, looking up stairs and down alleys.

One of the bridges over the Sieve.

One of the bridges over the Sieve.

A bus-eye's view.

A bus-eye’s view.

After Pontassieve, I make the turn for Consuma.

To be continued…

Images © Melissa Corcoran.

Autumn afternoon

Images from a walk above Porciano (in the Casentino Valley). It was a perfect autumn afternoon – blue sky, sunshine, warm but not hot. As is common here, the cloud formations were beautiful.

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All images © Melissa Corcoran.