We set out from Empoli, the city of Jacopo Carucci, also known as "il Pontormo", the painter and artist of great talent. Putting our bikes into second gear, there are two ways to get to Vinci: the SP43 climbs and descends along Leonardo's hills, or the SP13, a country road that heads directly towards our destination. Either way, there are olive groves all around.
As you near Vinci, you'll see Leonardo everywhere with signs for Leonardo cellars and the Mona Lisa restaurant; everything seems to point to Leonardo's birth place. The best way to honor the genius is to visit the Museo Leonardino in Palazzo Uzielli. The Mona Lisa is one of his greatest works, but he was also an inventor, architect, scientist and one of humanity's greatest geniuses.
The road narrows and climbs all the way to Valdinievole and the town Lamporecchio; a delicious place to stop, especially in August when the Brigidino festival is going on. A brigidino is a warm and crispy wafer with hints of anise and it's impossible to eat just one! The fair takes place along the main roads of town on the first Tuesday in August as well as the following Wednesday.
Now, we enter the woods and keep a steady speed along the many curves. Salvino hosts views of the terraced vineyards of Chianti Docg, while from Fornello the road changes name from SP13 to SP9 of Montalbano. This is where the special Pistoia rally used to be held. It's a great ride and worth every kilometer.
The road climbs and stops in Porciano, a town worth visiting, with its two 19th century towers and the church of S. Giorgio. The intersection between Porciano and SP9 is a meeting point for bikers and provides the chance to deviate towards Lamporecchio. Heading back to Pistoia, you'll come across Papiano and its enchanting Renaissance villa, known as "The American" due to the nationality of its 19th century owner; it's an unusual but beautiful building. San Baronto is at the end of the Montalbano road after the Romanic abbey, which was faithfully rebuilt after the WWII bombings.
It's time to wave goodbye to the hills surrounding Leonardo's homeland. After 8 km there's one last big curve and a roundabout that leads us to Casalguidi, where it's time to put the motorcyle up on its kickstand and enjoy Pistoia's city center.