“Path of the Hobbits”
This is San Donato in Collina, a little hamlet of Bagno a Ripoli (in the province of Florence) which has only 400 inhabitants. San Donato is a fascinating place: it is really quiet and surrounded by particular woods and paths along which you can walk even with your children. San Donato in Collina has a very lush nature, its scenery is stunning and here everything fully respects all the typical Tuscan traditions and culture.
Do you fancy a particular trip? Its name is “the path of the Hobbits”.
ccording to legend, the Hobbits would be born together with human beings in the East part of Middle-Earth. They were smaller than men, Elves and dwarves too; they were mortal and used to live in some holes they created on their own. There were three different Hobbits families called Harfoots, Stoors and Fallohides. All of them had something in common: they were always looking happy and had very long fingers, big feet and curly brown hair. They really did not like venturing or changing habits and they used to eat a lot; they loved parties, gifts and they fully enjoyed every opportunity they had to spend some time together. They were very quiet and peaceful by nature and had a very developed sense of duty, fairness and altruism.(<> – Tolkien ).
Let’s start our exploration of the world of the Hobbits from San Donato in Collina, the little old village along the provincial road n° 1; this was the medieval road that once used to connect Florence with the northern part of Valdarno. During the XIXth and the XXth centuries, until the 60s more or less, San Donato was full of hotel accommodations and, thanks to its fresh air, many people liked spending their holidays in this place. Our trip begins from the very centre of the village: walking along the street that starts from the church, we reach the graveyard and then we take the little street on the left. Once arrived to the crossroads, we turn to the right: just after few metres, on the left side of the street, we find Villa Gamberiana, a renewed old stone cottage. The building includes also a little restored church that dates back to the IXth century; it is dedicated to San Michele (St. Michael) and it is still used as a place of worship. Continuing for two kilometres more along the same street, we arrive to another crossroads where several paths intertwine; one of them leads to Poggio delle Piglie (590 MASL), another one to Fontesanta and, on the right, there is the one for Poggio Firenze. After a short rest by the lakeside, we can visit the refuge in Fontesanta. It is located in the very middle of a chestnut wood and it dates back to 1953, when it was built by the inhabitants of Antella (a small area near Bagno a Ripoli). During underground movements, many fights took place exactly in these forests; actually, this is where, in 1944, the partisans won an attack organized by the German army using armoured vehicles and flame-throwers and also where, a bit later, they joined the English troops in order to free Florence.
Let’s continue our trip towards Poggio Firenze (675 MASL), from where we should be able to enjoy the view of the fantastic scenery between Florence and the area of Chianti. Once a Palaeolithic building, which dated back to Aurignacian period, used to lay here and it was probably the most ancient human settlement in the area. There is also much evidence that this area was full of mammoths hunters and great artisans. Moreover, Poggio Firenze was one of first Etruscan settlements along the commercial road which used to link Arezzo to Fiesole; nowadays, this fascinating place is one of the best to have a short rest.
We have not arrived to the real world of the Hobbits and all the other creatures that live in the wood yet. Continuing along a narrow path of the hill, we finally enter a chestnut wood and we go on with our exploration among the ferns. By now, we have walked for 4,5 kilometres (2.9 miles) more or less along a pretty steep gradient. It has been quite hard, but the view of that stunning landscape is a great reward: the scenery is dotted with wonderful villas and farmhouses. San Donato in Collina is just a little more than three kilometres far from here. We have enough time to keep looking for our Hobbits dwellings inside the hollow chestnut tree trunks or inside the little holes at the foot of the oaks. Suddenly, when we were about to stop searching, a laugh-like song starts playing loudly among the trees:
The daylight is dying!
To fly would be folly,
To stay would be jolly
And listen and hark
Till the end of the dark
to our tune
This was the voice of the Elves, of course.