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The Balze of Valdarno

The Balze of Valdarno, in Montevarchi also known by the name of “Smotte”, are composed of stratified sand, clay and gravel.

They are up to 100 meters high, have several forms and are crossed by deep gorges. They were formed by weathering and erosion of watercourses.

A few km from the Motorway Autosole (A1) Valdarno, between Florence and Arezzo visitors can admire this interesting phenomenon. The Balze are one of the most beautiful and fascinating landscape of Valdarno.

These strange natural formations can be seen in the towns of Terranova Bracciolini, Castelfranco di Sopra, Pian di Sco, Laterina and Reggello.

Since 1998 an area of the Balze of nearly 3000 hectares, in the municipalities of Castelfranco di Sopra, Loro Ciuffenna, Pian di Sco and Terranova Bracciolini, was declared a Protected Natural Area of Local Interest.

The Balze were formed from sediments deposited by a lake about 20 km long which occupied the current Valdarno in the Pliocene and Pleistocene.

Over the millennia, when the lake has receded, its sediments have been subjected to a continuous action of erosion by the weather that have shaped up to take on fascinating forms known as “Balze”.

The cliffs, with their pinnacles and towering cliffs are a characteristic landscape of Valdarno, but not very well known, which deserves to be seen.

Even Leonardo da Vinci was fascinated and represented it in some of his paintings, such as in the landscape background the Mona Lisa.

In the plateau above the cliffs, visitors can admire enchanting views of cities, villages, farms, vineyards, olive groves and fields.

The whole landscape is impressive, even the names that characterize this area as “Hell” “Purgatory” and “House of Fairy” suggest a charming and magical atmosphere.

Rivers, ponds and small lakes scattered in the area are an important habitat for the reproduction of amphibians, insects, crustaceans and aquatic plants.

For some time the authorities have been considering plans to protect this unique landscape and to promote tourism in this area. Until now, however, little has been done, and so this small and charming “monument valley” in the heart of Tuscany remains unknown to many.

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