The Upper Valdarno is a valley crossed by the Arno river which is located between Florence and Arezzo. The entire valley is well delimited by the Chianti hills that are located to the south-west and by the Pratomagno mountains that rise to the north-east. The landscape of the Valdarno is characterized by the presence of the Balze, of the very particular structures composed of clay, gravel and sand that reach up to a hundred meters high which were formed by erosion following the drying up of the ancient lake that once covered the whole area. It is a very suggestive phenomenon that over the centuries has inspired several artists such as Beato Angelico, Masaccio and especially Leonardo da Vinci who studied them for a long time and also portrayed them in his most famous work, the Mona Lisa.
Inhabited since the Stone Age, the Valdarno is rich in historic villages of medieval imprint such as the so-called “terre nuove” of San Giovanni Valdarno, Castelfranco di Sopra and Terranuova Bracciolini. Other main centers include Montevarchi, Cavriglia and Loro Ciuffenna in the province of Arezzo, while Incisa, Figline, Reggello and Rignano are part of the Valdarno Fiorentino. In the area there are also several spectacular villas, parish churches such as Gropina and castles, among which the very special Sammezzano Castle deserves a mention.