Trail 115: San Giuliano Ring, Dante Pass and Villa del Polacco
Which of you know the ring of St. Julian’s?
Dear lovers of hiking, nature walks, scenic views, and hiking with friends! Today we want to offer you a walk that is simple but at the same time full of unique sights and Mediterranean scents.
The 115 ring
This is the Mount Pisano Route 115, a loop that begins and ends in the center of San Giuliano Terme but can also be undertaken from Dante Pass, for those arriving by car from Lucca or otherwise from the eastern side of Mount Pisano.
We will propose a slightly lengthened version of the official trail with two detours that will allow you to enjoy a view of the Plain of Lucca, precisely in the Passo Croce area and a panoramic viewpoint from one of the peaks (242m above sea level) that frames the village of San Giuliano Terme
Technical characteristics of the St. Julian’s ring:
Length: 6.3 km
Height difference: 315m
Average travel time: 3h
Fund: White road, paved road and trail
Let’s set off along the San Giuliaano ring!
We begin our itinerary from the center of San Giuliano, the Monte Pisano Store, in front of the Palace of the Lorena family, now Bagni di Pisa, which will serve as the starting and return point for this simple but fun trek up Monte Pisano. The road ahead will be marked from the start with classic red and white signs typical of mountain trails. From Monte Pisano Store we will begin to climb along the paved road that leads to the town hall of San Giuliano Terme (Via Niccolini).
We will then travel a hundred meters or so and once we leave the municipal buildings behind us we will find several roads in front of us: to our left a large parking lot, to the right the road that leads toward Pisa and in front of us the SS12-radd of the Abetone and Brenner that leads to the “Forum” or “Galleria dei Monti Pisani,” a road tunnel that allows us to reach the city of Lucca in a short time.
The road of interest to us, however, will be neither busy nor paved; in fact, looking well ahead slightly to the left, we will find a small road with an ancient perimeter wall indicating the junction of Trail 115.
Here the real trekking will begin, we will enter an olive grove and via a path with little incline in a short time we will reach Ristorante il Foro, right next to the tunnel mentioned earlier. After a short pause to observe the panorama we will have two choices in front of us: we can in fact decide to follow along the marked path and directly reach the Dante Pass via an ascent that in about 30 minutes reaches the place favored by the Supreme Poet, or detour via the dirt road to the northwest that again in about 30 minutes will lead us to “Passo Croce.” In this article we are going to describe the itinerary following this detour.
We will then travel the white road that at certain times of the year will give us the typical scents of the Mediterranean scrub with views of much of this portion of Mount Pisano.
Once at Passo Croce, we continue on to the Dante Pass.
We will reach Passo Croce after leaving the view of Pisa behind, and it will be time to give way to the Lucchese Plain with the Pizzorne Mountains marking the northeastern boundary and the Apennines to the north, in winter often whitewashed with a soft blanket of the whitest snow. We will have the opportunity here to sit and relax in the green meadows that characterize this meeting point of several hills on Mount Pisano.
After a break, it will be time to continue our journey to Dante Pass, and we will do so by following a portion of Trail 00, the one that like a spine crosses from north to south and back again. A long and challenging trail but one that fortunately (or unfortunate) for us today we will only encounter in a short, relatively flat section.
We will skirt Mount San Giuliano for about 20 minutes, and to our right will return the unique views of the Pisan Plain and the coastline. On the clearest, haze-free days, the prison island of Gorgona
(here is a nice article about our last guided tour of this mysterious and inaccessible island)
and Capraia will show up on the horizon.
Having finished skirting Mount San Giuliano we will arrive at Dante Pass, but not before facing a short but steep descent that will lead us to the large square in front of our stage. Usually the descent is equipped with ropes that can be used as an aid for an easier and safer route. Of course, no special mountaineering skills are required, simply the rope can be used as a hand support.
The breathtaking view from Dante Pass: Littoral and Archipelago Islands on the horizon!
Having faced the descent we would arrive at the place mentioned by Dante in the 33rd canto of the Divine Comedy vv 28-30 (Find out more with this article dedicated to Dante’s Pass), The stone bust of the Poet will confirm that we have arrived in the right place, and via a short road beside it we will reach the large meadow with views of San Giuliano Terme and the valley, this time with the possibility of seeing portions of Versilia and Liguria.
At this point in our journey we will again be able to decide on the way forward between two possibilities:
- Follow trail 115, which loses elevation from here along a well-marked and beaten path to the Polish Villa
- Continue along route 00 and reach the top of the hills near Dante Pass and then veer toward the Villa via a slightly steep descent
In this story we are going to illustrate the second option.
We will now leave Dante Pass continuing southeastward and ascending along the clearly distinguishable slope due to the red color of the earth that characterizes it. We will then follow the path until we reach the first of the two hills involved from which we can begin to see Mount Faeta and the eastern part of the Pisan Plain.
Upon reaching the second peak we will find signs for trail 00 on our left, but we will have to turn right and begin the descent down the path carved out of the rocks until we return again to 115 further downstream. Having crossed 115 we will now be on a scenic dirt road that will lead us directly into the grounds of the Villa del Polacco, or Villa Belvedere or also known as Villa Bosniaski
Find out more with this dedicated article
The majestic Villa of the Polish
The Villa, now reduced to ruins, still retains its great charm and gives visitors glimpses into a past rich in art, elegance and luxury. Entry to the structure is now prohibited due to obvious hazards caused by collapses from above and of the floors below so we invite you to admire it only from the outside.
Next to the villa we will find a narrow path to one of the most exciting points of interest of the entire loop: “The Belvedere” an ancient building that like a terrace on the Pisan Plain gives a breathtaking view (especially at sunset) of Pisa.
After we have treated ourselves to a special break with a view it will be time to embark on the last part of our journey to San Giuliano Terme. The last portion of the ring can be reached by going around the villa and reaching the northwest facade. From here the signs will lead us inside an olive grove that will gradually cause us to lose the modest elevation we had gained up to the town of San Giuliano Terme. We will continue along the promenade that runs along the Fosso del Mulino to the main square where we can decide to indulge in a well-deserved drink or coffee at Bar Shelley, inside the Bagni di Pisa admiring the sumptuous spa residence of the Lorraine family.
It’s time to put on your shoes and unpack the ring of St. Julian’s
With this guide we hope to have introduced you to a new itinerary for discovering Monte Pisano and its beauties, we also invite you to undertake this and all other trails you wish with the right equipment albeit very simple, to always bring enough water and to respect the basic rules to always ensure your own safety, the safety of others and the protection of the surrounding environment.
For any information needs remember that the Montepisano Staff is always available and ready to suggest tips and insights for a unique and exciting hike. At the Montepisano Store you can also find maps and the possibility of arranging guided tours by professional GAE guides.
Have a good hike
Mount Pisano always with you
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