The Tiber, Tevere for the Italians, is the main watercourse of Rome, which was founded on its eastern banks, but rises in the Apennine Mountains in Emilia-Romagna and flows 406 kilometres through Tuscany, parallel to the Casentino, then Umbria and finally in Lazio. In Tuscany, precisely in the province of Arezzo, its valley is known as the Valtiberina and thanks to the river Tiber is a very rich land with many treasures. Every corner of the valley, from the fertile plains to the mountain, has a natural wealth: sheep, Chianina cattle, pigs of all races, orchards, vegetables, Kentucky tobacco, wheat, spelt, chestnuts, sweet herbs. This is the Valtiberina Flavour Trail.
The trail guides travellers through green plains, woodland and ancient villages, such as the lovely medieval hamlet of Anghiari. Enlisted as one of “the most beautiful villages in Italy”, I Borghi più Belli d’Italia, recipient of the Orange Flag for excellency in tourism, hospitality and environment, Anghiari sits on the top of a hill, surrounded by olive groves, with a breathtaking view over the valley. The town, however, is above all famous for the Battle of Anghiari, which took place here on June 29th 1440, when Florence beat Milan with a shrewd strategy. Today the village produces an excellent virgin olive oil and preserves ancient handicraft traditions such as woodcarvers and antique furniture restorers as well as goldsmiths. A typical dish of Anghiari is the bringoli, large homemade spaghettis.
The next stopping place is Monterchi, surrounded by fields of sunflowers and maize, which grounded into flour is used for the local dish: polenta. The town, in fact is renowned for its famous Polenta Festival held in Autumn in addition to the fresco of the Madonna del Parto, the Madonna of Childbirth, by Piero della Francesca. Spiralling up one passes through fields of Kentucky tobacco, for the Tuscan cigars, and reaches Sansepolcro, birthplace of many painters, among which Piero della Francesca. The town is also the home of Buitoni pasta, founded in 1827.
Proceeding towards Badia Tedalda, with the Riserva Naturale dell’Alpe della Luna, Moon Alp Wildlife Park in the vicinities, one crosses vast green pastures where the enormous white Chianina cattle are bred in the wild. The tiny village of Badia Tedalda is surrounded by thick forests, well-known for the truffles, mushrooms and sweet herbs one can pick here. These forests were once crossed by pilgrims on their way to Rome. Inhabited since the Neolithic period and then turned into a Roman municipium, the hamlet still preserves ancient memories.
Pieve Santo Stefano, founded by the Romans, is today famous for its collection of unpublished works conserved in the National Diaristic Registry Office. The fields are full of apple and pear trees as well as the true protagonist, the prugnolo, St. George’s mushroom, for which is held a festival in spring. Neighbouring Caprese Michelangelo is the birthplace of Michelangelo Buonarroti. Surrounded by chestnut groves, the village is renowned for the namesake chestnut as well as the mushrooms and other underbrush products which are picked in the woods. The chestnuts are generally dried and then grounded to produce the flour with which so many delicious local dishes are prepared.
Along the trail crossing these villages one can stop and savour the many generous products of this land. From the Chianina beef to the traditional cold meats and salami, from the tasty fruit of the brushwood to the wide variety of mushrooms and truffles, not to mention honey, cheese, bread, olive oil and wine. Truly a land to taste with both eyes and palate.