Giro Dei Castagneti

Castagneti Walking Tour track map
28,40 Km
919 mt
Altitude Difference
7 Hours
Travel Time
Discovering the history of the chestnut

The Chestnut Route

A dive into a sea of colors in every season: the shades of green, on the treetops, on the meadows and on the mosses and lichens that line the streams, the brown and autumnal orange in the centuries-old chestnut groves, the bright yellow dotted with black of the salamander, the gray of the beech trunks.

The loop, created to be started and concluded in Migliana, winds around some of the best-known paths in the Prato mountains until it plunges into the valley floor of the Acquerino Cantagallo Nature Reserve, where the Bisenzio river originates.

History merges with nature in this tour which tells of the trades of the forest (chestnut growing, silviculture, charcoal burners), the bloody events of the Liberation from Nazi-fascism (the battle of Poggio Alto and the killing of the Biancalani cousins), the rural life of the farms (Vespaio), the era of the upper middle class and the nobility who changed the face of the local vegetation (the Vai and the Beeches of Javello and the Guicciardini and the Usella Farm), the traditions and spirituality (Tabernacles of Migliana).

In all this, the chestnut is the leitmotif of this tour between two Natura 2000 sites: Monte Ferrato and Monte Javello and the Pratese Apennines.

Route Description


The ending of the name suggests that the town was founded by the Romans, probably by the consul Emilio. In medieval times it was the dominion of the Alberti family; at least two of the three ancient fortifications can be traced back to their presence, the ruins of which are still visible (one in Castiglioncello and a couple near Monte Castiglione). Both were located in a favorable position to control the underlying roads and the fortresses on the opposite side of the Bisenzio, such as those of Cerbaia and Montauto.

The oldest building in the town – in addition to the fortifications now in ruins – is the Old Church, which appears in documents from 1189. The new church, built next to the previous one at the end of the 1930s and where functions are now celebrated, is dedicated to “Santa Maria Assunta”. Inside, a fresco decorates the polygonal apse. This is “Assunta, the Evangelists and the People of God” (1998), a work by Silvestro Pistolesi.

Life in past centuries in Migliana was characterized, as in many villages along the Apennine coast, by activities linked to the forest and agriculture. Chestnuts, of various types particularly suitable for transformation into flour, have always been the primary commodity, both for the food of the locals and for trade. In the past cereals and vines were also cultivated; now the products of excellence, in addition to chestnuts, are oil and potatoes. The cultivation of olive trees at this altitude, in fact, is facilitated by the little or no presence of agents harmful to the fruit, such as the fly, which prefers lower areas. The potato, which has been judged among the best in the Bisenzio Valley, benefits from soils with little stagnation, such as those of Migliana: the result is a tuber with a full-bodied flavor and dry pulp, very suitable for tortelli and gnocchi.

Chiesa vecchia di Migliana

And again thanks to the altitude and its greenery, Migliana has become famous since the last century as a summer holiday destination. Nowadays the village is lively in every season: many visitors are attracted by the gastronomic excellences (schiacciata, cantuccini, cured meats – exported to various parts of the world -, chestnuts, mushrooms and potato tortelli) and by the festivals. From mid-December to the end of January, numerous nativity scenes are set up by the inhabitants in each hamlet, suggestive for their placement in niches, stables, rock walls and for the mechanisms that make them some of the true jewels of craftsmanship, collected in a Via dei Presepi which has a tradition of several decades. Furthermore, Migliana is the gateway from the east side to the Acquerino Cantagallo Nature Reserve. This makes it the ideal base for many sportsmen, walkers and nature lovers who leave the village every weekend to quickly reach destinations such as Vespaio, the Bisenzio Springs and Le Barbe.

Tour of the Tabernacles

It largely coincides with the CAI path 16, on what centuries ago was called “Via di Pistoia”, and is dotted with numerous Marian aedicules of different eras. The tabernacle of Uccellaia, now rebuilt in Le Piastre, for example, dates back to 1560, that of Osea – the last one, in the highest part, along the road to Le Cavallaie – dates back to 1749. The locals built these aedicules right in the areas where most of the day took place, given that the professions of the time were structured in the woods, among chestnuts, wood and coal. The tabernacles were therefore an offering to the Madonna – sometimes for a grace received, sometimes for an important event – and had a propitiatory character, both for the protection of the harvest and for the traveler who used the path, going from the Bisenzio valley to the Agna via the Cavallaie pass. Since time immemorial, every year, on the occasion of the feast of the Ascension, the Migliani have paid homage to the Madonna with a walk, flowers and prayers along the very suggestive path that skirts the town and enters woods and chestnut groves. From most of the ridge tabernacles, paths wind down towards the Trogola stream – on the opposite side to the town of Migliana – which marks the border with the Acquerino Cantagallo Nature Reserve.

Some tabernacles accompany the visitor from the beginning of the village, on the main road: they closed the traditional Tour of the Tabernacles, which began and ended at the Church, after the Mass which was celebrated at the Filetta tabernacle (1923), located in an evocative centuries-old chestnut grove just above the Vivaio. Only recently the place of Mass was moved around a recently built tabernacle, dating back to 1993, located above the Vivaio fountain.

Cavallaie Road

Above the place called the Vivaio, where some of the town’s wash houses stood, a tabernacle built in 1993 on the occasion of the then parish priest’s departure for a mission, accompanies the visitor towards the climb that reaches the Cavallaie pass and then continues towards the degli Acandoli. The dirt road, built in the last century as a forest road, crosses ancient chestnut groves that are still cared for and productive. Some wooden installations along the route show passages from the Gospel and the prayers that have accompanied the traditional Tour of the Tabernacles for years. A curiosity: the mechanical structure located on the right, after a few bends from the Vivaio, is the pump that for some years has been extracting the water that serves the town of Migliana (it replaced an old pump located under the town, damaged by the paleo landslide that in 2014 caused a lot of damage to homes in the Rio della Villa basin).

castagno strada delle cavallaie

A crossroads, almost at the end of the climb, leads on one side to the Cavallaie pass and on the other to the Vaiano area of Mount Javello. Proceeding towards the Vaianese side, the road crosses wild chestnut groves: after a shelter for shepherds and woodcutters, on the left, in about ten minutes you arrive at Fonte alle Fate, one of the numerous springs in the area. The water that is collected in an old bathtub comes from the rocks just above.

Fonte del Prete

In the middle of a suggestive beech forest is the Fonte del Prete, located on a plateau in the upper valley of the Rio di Pollatia, at the base of the last ascent before the ridge of Mount Javello. Above the source, a plaque from 1878 reads: “In lasting memory of the knight. Giuseppe Vai, a very upright man of rare prudence who carefully wanted the eastern part of this mountain to be made wild and the plantations to be diligently protected by woodland cultivators from the ruinous waters”. Giuseppe Vai, owner of Villa del Mulinaccio, passionate about botany and cultivation, in the second half of the 19th century took care of the various reforestations of Mount Javello.

Pian delle Vergini

Just above the Fonte del Prete, once you reach the top, there is a meadow plateau called Pian delle Vergini, once rich in raspberry plants. The entire summit of Javello, from Pian dei Massi to Capanno del Duca, has a crown of large, tall beech trees: they are the Javello Beeches (or Grossi Beeches or Vai Beeches). These are “greenhouses”: their function was once that of marking the boundaries and repairing the ridge areas; the trees were grown and trained with care and cut only on very rare occasions.

madonna del faggio

The camp of the Orlando Storai partisan formation was based in the area from 22 February to the end of March 1944; from June to early September of the same year that of the Bogardo Buricchi brigade, formed after the dissolution of the previous formation. On April 25, 1946, a small block was placed in the area, in memory of the War of Liberation, which was then demolished and rebuilt in the 1970s. Continuing towards the Cavallaie, a tabernacle dedicated to the Madonna contains the sacred image that was once placed on the large beech tree behind it (Faggio della Madonna), in a small clearing which lights up with beautiful blooms in spring.

Passo delle Cavallaie – Croce Biancalani

At the foot of Mount Cavallaie there is the pass of the same name, at a crossroads of paths that lead, on one side, to Montemurlo (and to the Fattoria di Javello, owner of the woods in the area, on land partly ceded to the State and forming part of the Forestry Complex Acquerino Luogomano and the Acquerino Cantagallo Nature Reserve), on the other towards Migliana. Continuing towards the Acandoli pass, you begin to glimpse the outline of Poggio Alto; peak quite bare of vegetation from which you can enjoy a 360 degree view of the surrounding valleys.

Panorama passo delle Cavallaie

Thanks to the visibility given by the position, during the retreat of the front in 1944, the German army placed a position on the mountain, from which it could control the ascent of the Commonwealth liberation armies, which arrived from Montale. The area was the scene of one of the bloodiest battles in the area, where both German soldiers and very young soldiers from India, enrolled in the English army, died.

An ancient path, recently restored, starts shortly after the Cavallaie pass and leads to the road that connects the Acandoli pass to the Vespaio. Among suggestive beech forests and numerous waterways (which form, further down, the Rio degli Acandoli) the route passes in front of the cross installed at the point where the cousins Imo and Luigi Biancalani. Very young (one was from 1927, the other from 1925), they were killed by gunshots while they were busy with their work as lumberjacks, perhaps because they were mistaken for partisans.

Croce Biancalani Acquerino Cantagallo

Cascina il Vespaio

Historic building that belonged to the Javello Farm, used for peasant functions and restored at the end of the last century with the functions of a refuge and social recovery centre. The Vespaio is one of the buildings belonging to the Regional State Property used to serve the use of the Acquerino Cantagallo Nature Reserve (together with Cascina Le Cave and Cascina di Spedaletto, respectively used as a refuge and visitor centre; in Cerliano and Cascina Le Barbe we find two bivouacs).

The farmhouse once housed cattle and some herbaceous crops in the surrounding clearings, but most of Vespaio’s production came from the fruit chestnut groves that surround the entire area.

After management entrusted to a Prato consortium and after years of abandonment, the Vespaio is now managed by the agricultural company of the monks of the Montecuccoli Abbey of the order of the Hesicasts of San Giovanni Climaco.

Cascina Il Vespaio prato con fiori

Sorgenti del Bisenzio and Mulino dell’Almanacco

The so-called “Sorgenti del Bisenzio” are represented by the union of two streams, the Rio delle Barbe and the Trogola. The first originates from the slopes of Monte Bucciana, the other from the slope of Monte Javello, in the Le Cavallaie area (Fonte delle Frascine). The recent theory, which sees the main Prato river as being born from the confluence of these streams, is supported by a study carried out at the end of the last century by the CDSE (Historical Ethnographic Documentation Centre). From the name – “bis” “entius”, or double watercourse – the research led to the identification of two streams with hydrographic basins and similar flow rates, the Trogola and the Barbe, precisely. Historically, various hypotheses have been made about the sources of the river: the most accredited (and universally accepted by the inhabitants), also expressed by Emilio Bertini, founder of the CAI of Prato in his “Guida della Val di Bisenzio” of 1881, is that the name Bisenzio was given to the stretch that started from the Mulino della Sega, where the waters of the Rio di Bacuccio arrive in the Trogola torrent.

Trogola Bridge

In local tradition, the ancient bridge has various names: Ponte di Trogola, Ponte di Taglianico, Ponte di Luogomano. It connects the hamlets of Cantagallo and Luogomano to Migliana and from there, on a long road made suitable for vehicles towards the middle of the last century, which passes through Schignano and Figline, leads to the Prato plain. The asphalt section of the road is still called Via di Cantagallo and a good part of it winds through the northern part of the provincial capital.

The one called “strada delle Svoltoline”, which starts from the bridge, was the route taken from Cantagallo to bring goods to the Prato market. It was also used for shopping and visiting relatives in the plain; during the war, it was the road that many displaced persons took to find shelter both in the village of Migliana and in the rural buildings of the surrounding woods (still present among the wild chestnut groves of the area are the “ghost” villages of Taglianico and Valipiana, inhabited until 1950s/60s of the last century, now in ruins: buildings built at low cost and held together by mud, having lost their roofing, were quickly ruined by water).

Along the “strada delle Svoltoline” (which coincides with the beginning of the Cai 38 path, which connects Migliana with the ridge between the Bucciana and Cicialbo mountains), we find centuries-old chestnut groves where, with a bit of luck, it is possible to spot the animals that from some decade they returned to inhabit the area: roe deer, deer, wild boars.

Just before the town, an iron cross, the Croce dei Montini, indicates the intersection with the Sentiero dei Tabernacoli.

Ponte Trogola Taglianico

Pian di Valicaia

Large, flat, centuries-old chestnut groves frame Monte Castiglioni, the highest peak in the area. Here, in medieval times, a fortification was built, probably by a branch of the Alberti family who needed to control the borders with Prato, with Vernio and with the relatives who on the opposite side owned the Rocca di Cerbaia.

On the top of the mountain remain the ruins of what must have been an important and complex construction and not just a lookout post. To praise the amenity of the place and its legend – the dramatic story of the daughter of the lord of the castle and her lower-ranking lover – Emilio Bertini in his “Guida della Val di Bisenzio”.

Download The App

The “Giro Dei Castagneti” is finally a reality thanks to the “Acquerino Cantagallo” App! The App is available for Android and iOS, download it and try all its functions. It’s time to set out on a journey and discover the wonders of the Acquerino Cantagallo Nature Reserve!

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