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CRETE SENESI AND VAL D'ORCIA

The Crete Senesi refers to an area of the Italian region of Tuscany immediately to the south of Siena. It consists of a range of hills and woods among villages and includes the comuni of AscianoBuonconventoMonteroni d'ArbiaRapolano Terme and San Giovanni d'Asso, all within the province of Siena.

Crete Senesi are literally the "clays of Siena": the distinctive grey colouration of the soil gives the landscape an appearance often described as lunar. This characteristic clay, known as mattaione, represents the sediments of the Pliocene sea which covered the area between 2.5 and 4.5 million years ago. The landscape is characterized by barren and gently undulating hills, solitary oaks and cypresses, isolated farms at the top of the heights, stretches of wood and puddles of rainwater (commonly referred as fontoni, literally "big springs") in the valleys. Badlands and biancane are typical conformations of the land.

The Val d'Orcia or Valdorcia extends from the hills south of Siena to Monte Amiata. Its gentle, cultivated hills are occasionally broken by gullies and by picturesque towns and villages such as Pienza and Montalcino (the Brunello di Montalcino is counted among the most prestigious of Italian wines). Its landscape has been depicted in works of art from Renaissance painting to modern photography.

Within the Val d'Orcia is a strip of land following the Orcia river between the DOCG zones of Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Here the Sangiovese and Trebbiano-based wines are produced under the Orcia Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) status. 

INFORMATION ON THE ITINERARIES

We suggest visiting the Crete and Val D'Orcia in two or more separate trips, particularly if you wish to spend time wine tasting or enjoying the thermal baths. The "Crete,Pienza and the Thermal Baths" and "The Brunello Road" are our recommended routes; However for those who have limited time, we have designed the "Condensed itinerary" with selected villages to visit in one day.

For walking and cycling please check the "Via Francigena".

 

SAN QUIRICO, BAGNI VIGNONE, BAGNI SAN FILIPPO, MONTEPULCIANO, PIENZA, MONTE OLIVETO

MONTALCINO, SANT'ANTIMO, POGGIO ALLE MURA, BRUNELLO WINERIES

(ALTERNATIVE TO THE FIRST TWO)

MONTE OLIVETO, SAN GIOVANNI D'ASSO, PIENZA, BAGNO VIGNONI, MONTALCINO

VIA FRANCIGENA

WALKING AND CYCLING

THE BRUNELLO ROAD

 

MONTALCINO, SANT'ANTIMO, POGGIO ALLE MURA, BRUNELLO WINERIES

MONTALCINO

The hill upon which Montalcino sits has probably been settled since Etruscan times. The population grew suddenly in the middle of the tenth century, when people fleeing the nearby town of Roselle took up residence in the town.

The town takes its name from a variety of oak tree that once covered the terrain. The very high site of the town offers stunning views over the Asso, Ombrone and Arbia valleys of Tuscany, dotted with silvery olive orchards, vineyards, fields and villages. The lower slopes of the Montalcino hill itself are dominated by highly productive vines and olive orchards.

During medieval times the city was known for its tanneries and for the shoes and other leather goods that were made from the high-quality leathers that were produced there. 

Like many of the medieval towns of Tuscany, Montalcino experienced long periods of peace and often enjoyed a measure of prosperity. This peace and prosperity was, however, interrupted by a number of extremely violent episodes.

During the late Middle Ages it was an independent commune with considerable importance owing to its location on the old Via Francigena, the main road between France and Rome, but increasingly Montalcino came under the sway of the larger and more aggressive city of Siena.

As a satellite of Siena since the Battle of Montaperti in 1260, Montalcino was deeply involved and affected by the conflicts in which Siena became embroiled, particularly in those with the city of Florence in the 14th and 15th centuries, and like many other cities in central and northern Italy, the town was also caught up in the internecine wars between the Ghibellines (supporters of the Holy Roman Empire) and the Guelphs (supporters of the Papacy). Factions from each side controlled the town at various times in the late medieval period.

Once Siena had been conquered by Florence under the rule of the Medici family in 1555, Montalcino held out for almost four years, but ultimately fell to the Florentines, under whose control it remained until the Grand Duchy of Tuscany was amalgamated into a united Italy in 1861.

gradual economic decline has recently been reversed by economic growth due to the increasing popularity of the town's famous wine Brunello di Montalcino, made from the sangiovese grosso grapes grown within the comune. The number of producers of the wine has grown from only 11 in the 1960s to more than 200 today, producing some 330,000 cases of the Brunello wine annually. Brunello was the first wine to be awarded Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) status. 

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ABBEY OF SANT'ANTIMO

The foundation of the original Benedictine monastery dates to the time of Charlemagne. 

The earliest document relating to the abbey is a land grant of Louis the Pious dated December 813, now in the Archivio di Stato of Siena. The abbot received full temporal powers in an imperial document of about 952.[1] Following a bequest of Bernardo degli Ardengheschi, construction of the present church was begun before 1118, a date which is inscribed on the altar step and on a column to the left of it. Parts of the earlier structure remain visible in the crypt and in the so-called Cappella Carolingia, or Carolingian chapel. 

The Carolingian chapel has frescoes by Giovanni d'Asciano with stories of St. Benedict and currently acts as sacristy. Under the chapel is a crypt with a nave and two aisles divided by four columns.

The Sala Capitolare (Capitular Hall) is decorated with a triple mullioned window with richly decorated capitals. Typically French in inspiration is the ambulatory with radial chapels. In Italy this scheme is known only in Santa Trinità of Venosa and the Cathedrals of Acerenza and Aversa, all in southern Italy, and in Santa Maria of Piè di Chianti, Marche. The ambulatory housed the pilgrims to pray the Martyrium, the place where the Saint's relic are placed.

The aisles and the ambulatory are groin vaulted, while the nave has trusses. The nave, which is c. 20-m high, is divided into three sections: the huge arcades, the matronaeum and the chiaropiano (upper floor).

Notable is the so-called capital of "Daniel in the lions' den", work of the French Master of Cabestany. It shows Daniel praying between the hungry lions, and, on the other sides, the lions devouring the accusers.

The outer walls are made of alabaster, you can shine a light against the walls and see the light translated/reflected back out to the eye.

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CASTELLO DI VELONA

Located on a promontory, the Velona Castle enjoys a 360 degree view of its ancient olive groves and vineyards. It was built as a medieval fortress in the 11th century. The Watchtower remains intact from the 12th century, a reminder of the ancient rivalry between Siena and Florence, while the rear part of the Castle is late medieval. In the Renaissance the Castle was transformed into a residential villa; the Main Loggia was built in this period; the "Velona" is represented in the geographical maps painted in the Vatican by the famous cosmographer, geographer and mathematician from Perugia Ignazio Danti.

The Velona Castle has been recently converted in resort and includes a winery.

RECOMMENDED BRUNELLO WINERY

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RECOMMENDED BRUNELLO WINERY

CORTE DEI VENTI

SANT'ANGELO IN COLLE

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POGGIO ALLE MURA

The village of Poggio alle Mura was buit in the early Middle Ages in a period before the year 1000 and developed significantly from the second half of the thirteenth century, following the battle of Montaperti (1260). The village particularly developed during the Middle Ages given its position which allowed it to easily control the vast Sienese territory between Montalcino, Mount Amiata and Maremma, at the confluence of the Orcia and the Ombrone. The castle was owned by the Tolomei and the Placidi families.

In 1978 it was purchased by the Italian-American Mariani family to found the Castello Banfi company which transformed the village into a tourist-accommodation structure connected to the wine-growing activity. 

RECOMMENDED BRUNELLO WINERY

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ARGIANO

RECOMMENDED BRUNELLO WINERY

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POGGIO RUBINO

RECOMMENDED BRUNELLO WINERY

RECOMMENDED BRUNELLO WINERY

CASTELLO ROMITORIO

CASTELGIOCONDO

RECOMMENDED BRUNELLO WINERY

CASTIGLION DEL BOSCO

RECOMMENDED BRUNELLO WINERY

Archaeological excavations of the estate at Castiglion del Bosco revealed that it has been occupied from as far back as 600 BC, with the Etruscans prizing its elevated position as a military outlook.

Castiglion del Bosco’s castle was built in classic medieval style. The castle is certified for the first time in a tax document from the early 1200s as "Castellione Iuxta Umbronem".

In 1318AD Castiglion del Bosco was taken over by the Gallerani family– prosperous merchants who held public offices in Siena. 

Castiglion del Bosco also bears the imprint of other Sienese families, one of whom brought here the artistic talents of Pietro Lorenzetti, whose fresco Annunciazione ai Santi (1345 AD) still adorns the tiny church of San Michele, located in the central part of the Estate.

In 1967, Consorzio del Brunello di Montalcino was established with Castiglion del Bosco as one of its founding members. The organization was created as a voluntary association of producers who regulate and control the quality of Brunello di Montalcino production. In 1966, it became one of the first Italian wines to achieve the DOC (Controlled Denomination of Origin) title and in 1980 earned the DOCG (Controlled and Guaranteed Denomination of Origin) status.

Beginning in 2003, Castiglion del Bosco underwent a restoration project at the hands of new owners, Massimo and Chiara Ferragamo. Massimo Ferragamo is Chairman of Ferragamo USA and the youngest son of Wanda and Salvatore Ferragamo.

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MURLO

From 1189 to 1778 it was the seat of the homonym "Feudo vescovile di Murlo", ecclesiastical signoria governed by the bishop of Siena, of which remains the palace and the adjacent church of San Fortunato, where the Bishop celebrated religious rites.

The hill of Poggio Civitate was an ancient settlement located in the commune and currently the site of archaeological investigations.

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​©2019 by  Simona Bencini all rights reserved.​