2) Passo della Raticosa
The average gradient of this climb (4.2%) does not grant the course its due: it is, in actual fact, one of the most difficult climbs in Mugello. For almost 7.5 straight kilometres the average gradient is never inferior to 7-8% with peaks of 10% and more, and the last 1,500 metres are just as tough. A 39/25 inch gear is, therefore, necessary for those of us who are not true climbers. Furthermore,the sun and wind can turn out to be troublesome at times. The road surface is, on the other hand, in excellent condition and the traffic limited except on Sundays in summer. Once we leave Firenzuola there are no water fountains for 9 kilometres. The average time it takes an amateur cyclist goes from 45 to 55 minutes, while an excursionist may take from 1’05” to 1’15”.
The Raticosa Pass is certainly one of the most famous Apennine passes. For over 300 years it has united Florence to Bologna and, until the Autostrada del Sole motorway was constructed, was the principal road between the two cities. Today it is mainly renowned to and employed by excursionists, motorcyclists and cyclists from both sides of the mountain. The tour here described is definitely one of the most difficult so far.
Upon leaving the town of Firenzuola we take state road 503, which runs along the Santerno River and up towards Bologna. After 1.5 kilometres of gentle climbs and dips, as we near a crossroad, the road starts to really climb. The first slopes are immediately arduous and with a gradient of nearly 10%. Given the steep climb and the fact that it snakes through a territory that is wide open and therefore prone to harsh winds and the scorching sun, it is difficult to appreciate the width of the road, its excellent surface or, in particular, the magnificent view of the Santerno River valley below and the mountain crests above. Fortunately at Collina (3.5 km) this stretch ends and we can enjoy 500 metres of slow descent before taking on another strenuous climb (7-8%). At the hamlet of Pagliana (5.8 km, 730 m.a.s.l.) the road continues to climb steeply until we reach, at 7.1 kilometres, the crossroad with state road 65.
We turn right, but the road continues to climb for another 2 kilometres until, near a water fountain, it levels and after a series of climbs and dips leads us, first, to the hamlet of La Mazzetta (10.4 km), and then, following a descent, to Pietramala (water fountain on the right). Our last strenuous challenge begins. A difficult (9-10%) 1500 metre climb finally leads us to the Passo della Raticosa (12.9 km), which is found at 968 metres above sea level.
To return to Firenzuola we can turn back along the same road to Passo della Futa and from there cycle down through Cornacchiaia to the Santerno River valley (37 km total). Alternatively, we can cycle along the road that goes to Piancaldoli and reach Firenzuola by way of Caburaccia and Peglio (38 km of extremely breathtaking landscape), or even go all the way to Piancaldoli and then coast the Santerno River up to Castel del Rio (about 60 km). Ultimately, we could take the road that goes from the Passo della Raticosa to Bologna, turn towards Piamaggio 5 kilometres later, reach Lake Castel dell’Alpi (there are not many road signs so it’s best to ask for indications), coast it and here turn back towards Valdirosa and Montefreddi, and thus cycle on the highest asphalted mountain pass in Mugello (1,131 m.a.s.l.) and return back onto state road 65 at La Mazzetta.