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The cliffs of Valdarno, the scenery that inspired Leonardo da Vinci.
Le Balze di Valdarno
In the countryside around Reggello in the area called Valdarno, between the famous Tuscan cities of Arezzo and Florence, the landscape is characterised by unusual rock formations or cliffs. In Italian these cliffs are called Le Balze, some are as much as 100m high.
Le Balze with Pratomagno in the background
This spectacle of nature is located on a plateau of Valdarno, just below the mountainous area of Pratomagno. The Balze were formed by an extensive lake, which slowly receded over millions of years, and which uncovered the rocks on its bottom. The continuous erosion shaped these typical sharp rock formations of pinnacles and spires. The yellowish rocks are composed of stratified sand, clay and gravel. Besides the spectacular scenery, the Balze offer a variegated habitat for many birds and plants. On the clay grounds you find herbs and on the sand several types of shrubs and trees. The river Arno and its many tributaries have found their way between these natural rock formations. Since 2005 Le Balze is a protected natural reserve of Tuscany. The area covers surfaces of the municipalities Reggello, Pian di Scò, Castelfranco di Sopra, Loro Ciuffenna and Terranuova Bracciolini.
From the towns around the natural reserve you can enjoy a beautiful view of the Balze: Vaggio, Faella, Pino, Certignano. Also Piantravigne, a small village which is built on top of the rocks, is worth a visit.
Leonardo da Vinci was very impressed by these mythical rock formations and he used them as a background in several paintings. The most famous painting with the Balze in the background is his masterpiece La Giocanda, better known as Mona Lisa.
You can choose guided walks to go see the beautiful rocks or you can explore them yourself. This lovely territory is highly recommendable to those who like walking.