The Via dei Cavalleggeri was one of our winter hikes, ideal for treks along the cliffs between sky, sea and land!
We chose this evocative itinerary in the land that was once of the Etruscans, among sheer cliffs, Mediterranean scrub and ancient Tusci tombs.
Via dei cavalleggeri
The route starts from Salivoli and more precisely from the parking lot of Cala Moresca, where there is one of the entrances to the network of trails in the area.
We start walking along No. 302, also called Via dei Cavalleggeri(initially on a wide dirt road and then on a path in the middle of the Mediterranean scrub): the name comes from the “financiers” of medieval times who controlled this stretch of coast in concession from the Papal State to the Pisan Republic.
Why the Horsemen’s Way
The cavalrymen also had an important health control function at the time to prevent infectious diseases of the time, such as cholera and typhoid, carried by seafarers from spreading to the mainland.
The trail is almost always halfway up the hillside, surrounded by Mediterranean scrub; from time to time the view opens up and offers a magical view of the cliffs and islands of the Tuscan Archipelago, primarily Elba Island.
In some sections the trail descends right down to the seashore, inside fascinating coves.On the day of our trek, a very strong Libeccio wind was blowing, and the waves crashing on the cliffs offered us a striking spectacle of the force of nature! So it was that, after a series of ups and downs and returns inland, we arrived in about two hours of walking at the cove known as Buca delle Fate.
Fairy Hole on the Via dei Cavalleggeri
The small bay takes its name from the Etruscan tombs, called holes as we shall see, that housed the dead of the Tusci civilization. There is also, unfailingly,a legend that tells of a young fisherman, Valerius, who ventured into these places to look for mermaids, by whom he was later captured and imprisoned in a cave .
His fiancée returned to these rocks every day to weep and search for him in vain. One day a dolphin turned one of his tears into a pearl and gave it to the mermaid in exchange for the young man who was finally set free.
Here the rocks are characterized by so-called “tafoni,” cavities of various sizes that form in granular rocks such as sandstones. In fact, salt water, coming from the sea, settles on the rocks and evaporates with the heat of the sun: the salt crystals dislodge the sandstone granules, which are then removed by the wind. With this chemical and mechanical system, the small cavities enlarge and melt, while the stronger parts of the rock form thin walls so that a fantastic petrified lattice develops and covers the surface of the rocks.
Fairy Hole and Tusci’s Tombs
After a short stop (and a strictly vegan sandwich) we begin to climb with path 301 and cross right through the area of the Buche delle Fate, the Etruscan underground tombs that are easily visible along the initial part of the path. The name was given to them by the woodcutters who, in the last century, lived and worked in the area: in fact, they thought that these cavities were the nocturnal abode of benign supernatural beings. Continuing the ascent, we then arrive at the crest of the hill where, keeping to the right, we throw ourselves onto the Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version) ridge trail no. 300, on convenient dirt road.
We passed by what remains of the small church of San Quirico and, with a short detour to the right, here we are in front of the ruins of the Benedictine monastery of San Quirico.
The monastery of San Quirico Populonia
Reported already in a series of documents dated between 1029 and 1131, the Monastery is located on the slopes of Poggio Tondo, not far from the area where the ancient city of Populonia. From here the monastery could dominate the coastal stretch of the promontory above the cove of the same name at San Quirico and, at the same time, came to be located along the land route that still connects Populonia to Piombino.
Today the triapsidal area of the church and the cloister walls are partially visible. Back on the 300 we now head towards Piombino crossing the area of Campo alla Sughera and then starting to descend, following the long and easy dirt road, towards Cala Moresca.
About two more hours have passed since the Buca delle Fate when, at the approach of sunset, we rejoin the starting point of the trek.
How to get there
It is necessary to reach Piombino, and upon arriving in town, follow the signs to Salivoli and then to the Cala Moresca parking lot.
Useful information: The trail is about 16 km long with 600 m of total elevation gain. There are no particular difficulties, but although much of the walking is in the shade, this trek is not recommended in the summertime because of the high heat.