Mountain bike excursion round the foot of Monte Capanne

Difficulty:quite difficult
Length of route: 19,800 km
Type of road: tarmacadam 70%, grit 30%
Uphill level difference: 540 metres
How long it takes: 3 hours

How to get there

This route starts at the village of Sant'Ilario, in Via del Salicastro near the car park.

What to look at

Before you start off, or when you get back, a tour of Sant'Ilario is worth a visit: an urban, oval shaped architectural jewel, built this way so as to protect the centre. By going through the maze of streets and lanes you get to the centre of the village, with its lit up "Piazza della Chiesa" (Church Square), with the ancient village church watching over it.

Anyway, start off in Via del Salicastro, just outside the village, that gradually becomes a grit road, heading slowly upwards along the foot of Monte Perone, across some small bridges over the natural springs that flow down from the mountain. It isn't a coincidence that this road is so called: many sallows in fact grow in the damp valley.

As you pedal along, you will notice the Mediterranean scrub all around you, and at some points the road is covered in a light coloured, yellowish sandy layer: this is due to erosion caused by the weather that causes the granite - the rocks on the western side of the island consist of granite - to oxidise and crumble. You will also notice some holes in the eroded rocks: inside there are the nests of the bee-eaters, brightly coloured birds that migrate from Africa to build their nests on the island.

The odd pine tree stands high over the scrub. At one point, as the road becomes somewhat uneven, you will start to go downhill and arrive in le Solane; here you have to turn left along a narrow road (2,6 km), and, still going downwards, you will find yourself facing the opposite direction.

Now you will be going along the north-eastern slopes of Monte Perone, and bit by bit you will notice the scrub becoming taller and denser, with more and more holm-oaks. Keep going along an uneven forest road that at times has steep differences in level and you will arrive at the chapel of Santa Rita, with some thanksgiving prayers dedicated to her inside.

Surrounded by woods, you will reach Acqua Calda, and the farm bearing the same name shortly afterwards, and then you will find yourself next to some magnificent examples of holm-oaks. Although at this point you start going uphill, you will notice the forest thinning out, and you will reach the tarmacadam road of Via di Lavacchio; keep going through the woods and past the tiny church of the Madonna del Buonconsiglio in the direction of Poggio.

Go past the Da Luigi restaurant and take the narrow path on your left for 7,3 km. Since this was once a mule track, it is often very bumpy and uneven, with no protection at the sides from the underlying valley, so we advise you for safety reasons to get off your bike. The track heads upwards right through the scrub, and takes you first to a stone bridge then to Via di Rimercoio, from where you'll get back on the tarmacadam provincial road (SP 25) near Poggio (8,7 km). From here onwards you will have to share the road with other vehicles so please be very careful.

Before taking the provincial road of Monte Perone (SP 37), we suggest you stop at Poggio and go along its narrow, winding streets whose buildings seem to be sitting on an ellipsis along the high bends. Back to your route to start the steepest and most difficult of the uphill tracks, going from 300 m to 600 m of the mountain, and even as high as 630 m if you decide to go right to the top of Monte Perone (13,2 km). The tarmacadam road runs across the shady Nivera valley, so called because of some special stone water tanks built to collect the snow and ice during the winter until the spring. Once you have crossed a wood full of holm-oaks, chestnut trees and typical Mediterannean scrub plants, one last effort will get you to the end of your excursion, the summit of Monte Perone surrounded by a beautiful pine grove, consisting mainly of cluster pines, their trunks bent by the wind, growing tall on a bed of brake. Just go up the left hand side along the firebreak that goes right up to the top and you have reached your destination. The view from here of the island and the coastline is breathtaking.

Don't forget, however, that on the other side, near the path that leads to Monte Capanne, you can visit the particularly interesting Butterfly Santuary, where these lepidopters are both studied and preserved. If you want another breathtaking view just follow the nearby butterfly road that takes you to an open space with benches you can sit and relax on, so you can look over the whole area of Marina di Campo as well as the southern islands of the Archipelago that stand out from the sea.

Back on the tarmacadam road you will head quickly down the southern side of Monte Perone, at times quite steep, with pine groves, vegetation and chestnut trees alongside. You will be pleasantly surprised also by the remains of the church of San Giovanni in Campo (XII century), with its huge bell gable, among the most beautiful examples of churches in Romanesque Pisan style. A little further down and you will get to the suggestive, square shaped Tower of San Giovanni (XI century), that dates back to Pisan times, standing on a huge granite rock. Keep going down the SP 29 road until you get to Sant'Ilario, where your excursion comes to an end.

Information from the Tuscan Archipelago National Park.

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