The Upper Tiber Valley in Tuscany has remained much as it was since the ancient Romans were using the sturdy oak trees of the zone to construct the Empire.
The river also offered a convenient way of transporting the timbers all the way to the capital.
Notwithstanding this activity, the first permanent towns only rose in medieval times thanks to the presence of various monasteries.
Indeed, the monks of the St. Romualdo order set about regulating the zone by controlling the traffic on the river and issuing contracts for land cultivation.
The whole area was eventually centralised between the very same St. Romualdo order, the Hermitage of Camaldoli in the Casentino valley and the Abbey of Monte Corona near Perugia.
Today, the woods and country walks are as wild as they used to be and visitors can enjoy the rare flora and fauna in special protected zones, as well as the more common deer, badgers and foxes without too much difficulty.
Do head to the artificial Lake Montedoglio in the centre of the Upper Tiber Valley in Tuscany where bird spotters can see a range of water birds from herons to the fabuously named ‘Knights of Italy’.
Read on about the individual towns of the valley, but do make a note of the following areas to explore further: the thick woods of Germagnano and Montecasale, the chestnut and beech tree forest of Caprese Michelangelo and the green meadows of Badia Tedalda and Sestino.
Dominates the Upper Tiber Valley in Tuscany and is the gateway through the Apennine hills to the Adriatic coast. Legend states that the town was founded by two pilgrims, Arcano and Egidio, returing from the Holy Land. Here they received a vision and decided to construct a small chapel, the 'Santo Sepolcro', to house relics taken from Jerusalem.
The Palio of the Balestra (image above) has teken takes place every year more or less without interruption since the 15th century. It is held firstly in May when the Crossbowmen of Sansepolcro go to the town of Gubbio to compete with their archrivals in honor of Saint Ubaldo. Then, on the second Sunday of September, the Crossbowmen of Gubbio exchange the favor by going to Sansepolcro to challenge them in honor of Saint Egidio (Patron Saint of Sansepolcro). The people who take part in the demonstration wear medieval costumes and, in particular, the Crossbowmen of Sansepolcro wear costumes designed on the basis of those originally painted by Piero della Francesca centuries ago. The distance of the target (called a corniolo) from the crossbowmen is over 100 feet.
Impregnable, medieval town protected by a 13th century solid wall and still visible today. Fought tenaciously for Tuscan and Florentine interests throughout history including the famous Battle of Anghiari on the 29 June 1440 which itself was remembered by Leonardo Da Vinci and his fresco in Palazzo Vecchio.
Founded around the year 1000 and is still home to a 15th century fresco by Piero della Francesca called the 'Madonna del Parto'. The wealth of Monterchi was always based on agriculture and fruits of the forest. The annual "Sagra della Polenta" is one to look out for.
Located at 663m above sea level and surrounded by rolling hills, thick chestnut woods and fertile fields. It was here in 1475 that Michelangelo Buonarroti was born. Ruled by Florence from 1384.
Pieve Santo Stefano
Located on the borders of Tuscany, Umbria and Romagna and known as the "Città del Diario" for the public archives where the townsfolk have recorded thier thoughts and feelings for years. Even the town hall is L shaped like a book.
Devoted to Saint Francis and sits on a spectacular rocky outcrop between the Casentino and the Valtiberina Toscana. Saint Francis arrived here in 1213 having met count Orlando Catani who was the feudal ruler of Chiusi. The latter gave him the mountain top.
This ancient Roman municipium conserves many artefacts from the XI century B.C. and IV century A.D. Also of note is a small funeral temple. Following the Romans, the Longobards were present for many years.
Sits along the S.S. 258 which links Romagna to Tuscany. It is said that in the hills surrounding the town
Left the world 'le sette note miracolose'. Today, it is a genuine, off the beaten track discovery and retains an ancient cordiality, old world hospitality and traditional cooking.
Get to know the typical food and wine of the Valtiberina by following this link or the dedicated article below - www.stradasaporivaltiberina.it