“Between the Bisenzio Valley, the Sieve Valley and the Marina Valley, the ridge of the Calvana mountains is shaped like a horse’s back: the hind legs pointing toward the Bisenzio and the Sieve rivers, the forelegs stretched apart, one resting on the Maglio-Altociglio hill, the other on Crotogio-Croci di Calenzano. The neck and head rise proudly up to Monte Maggiore. The saddle thrown on the horse’s back by man rests on the Passo della Croce fault, above Sofignano. […]” (Calvana Ritrovata, Bartolozzi, Marchi, 2006)
Draw this profile in your mind and you will have no further doubt as to the true inhabitants of the Calvana grasslands. And by now they wear no saddles, no longer belong to man. Left free, they have discovered the best conditions for living and reproducing in the wild state, totally independent. They are the inhabitants of Calvana. The horses and nature.
The history of this land dates back to the remote past, when in unfathomed geological ages it was only an ocean floor, where the deposits of marine skeletons and shells formed a deep soil with calcium carbonate sediment, which slowly, patiently rose as the chain of Apennine mountains gradually formed.
Through chemical reaction with rainwater and carbon dioxide, these rocks have undergone profound transformation. Karst features are not typical of the nearby Mount Morello or its sisters in the Apennines, but only here has its force been unleashed, giving the Calvana its special aspect, seductive but severe. For millenniums, the morphology of this area has favoured the transit of many different populations. Like a gangplank running from north to south for 16 km, it leads from the Apennines to the plain we see today, once a lake, and later become a crossroads of trade headed for the sea, for distant lands. First Etruscans, then Romans, found these mountains a welcoming place to settle in. From the rediscovered Gonfienti to the necropolises on the slopes, from the sluices in the valleys to the shards in the sinkholes, the soul of Calvana breathes a distant past of travelling pilgrims, merchants, brigands and soldiers.
From one side to the other flow the waters that have carved out the valleys; to the west the Bisenzio, wild and fierce, to the east the Marina, gentle and quiet. The ridge of Calvana is a kind of thoroughfare: from Montecuccoli the northernmost peak rises toward Aia Padre and Poggio Mandrioni, up to Montemaggiore, the highest mountain top, rising to 916 meters above sea level. Then it slopes down from Cantagrilli with its scenic cross to a height of 808 meters, a land strewn with fertile sinkholes. Descending still further, it goes on to Poggio Cocolla, the Croce della Retaia, to arrive at the balcony over the plain of Poggio Castiglione at 397 meters, the lowest and southernmost peak, just above the factories of Prato. In the karst territory, no water is found along the slopes. The water from the rain that sinks into the mountain returns to the surface only at the height of 400 m, in a few precious springs, amid the ravines and galleries carved out over millions of years. Higher up there is no other source of water apart from the ingenious aqueducts of the Romans and the Etruscan ditches, along with the few drinking troughs of the shepherds who populated this zone in recent centuries.
It is on the ridges that, closing your eyes, you can feel the boldness, the grit and the welcoming characteristic of Calvana, and can hear the galloping hooves of horses and see the light that gilds the sinkholes framing this magical place.