Departure: Rio nell'Elba (178 m a.s.l.);
Destination: Rio nell'Elba;
Length: 12,8 km;
Difference of level: 610 m;
Type of ground: 5,2 km tarmacadamed and 7,6 grit;
Interest: historical, archeological and scenic.
From the square in Rio nell'Elba a short road that initially goes through the town then takes you to Le Panche (327 m, open space with picnic tables); here you take a very scenic tarmacadamed road, and after 2 km you're at the slopes of Volterraio. An uphill path, first surrounded by Mediterranean scrub then by bare rocks, in about 40 minutes takes you to the magnificent castle (394 m.) built during the Pisan era to protect the inhabitants on the eastern part from the continuous pirate attacks.
A lookout place against sea attacks and a place to hide during the attacks, Volterraio Castle blends in perfectly with the inaccessible rock it stands on, and dominates the whole of the north of the island. At the top, you will see the winds of time have made their cruel marks, but that makes it no less fascinating: the walls around it, the stairway to the drawbridge, the patrol walkway with its sentry boxes, the square tower, rooms and vaults, the remains of a furnace, wells and water tanks, underground deposits, merlons and slits.
The path takes you back to the tar road, follow it for about 4 km (left turning) till you get to the nice Romanesque church of Santo Stefano alle Trane, from the XII century. With the ancient lime furnaces at the side, follow a lane up to the main path that connects the peaks on the eastern side. You go northwards, along the ridge, with a breathtaking view of the gulf of Portoferraio, the agricultural flat lands of Magazzini and Porto Azzurro to the south, and the eastern part of Monte Calamita.
Once you get to Monte Castello (390 m), that dominates the silent valley of Monserrato as well as the suggestive Sanctuary dedicated to the Spanish Madonna, bearing the same name as the valley, keep going till you get to the peak of the mountain; from here, you have a 360° view of Rio Elba, the mines, the abandoned mining sites, the Giogo Tower, the magnificent Volterraio, the beach of Barbarossa, and Porto Azzurro. The road down, steep and quick, takes you back to Le Panche and to the peace and quiet of Rio nell'Elba.
Information and Photographs from the Tuscan Archipelago Tourism Promotion Offices