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ORCIA VALLEY: ON A WALK THROUGH THE CRETE SENESI

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Crete Sensesi

Val D'Orcia is no longer the unknown area of ​​the 1980s, but it is still a magical spot with a hundred shades of green in spring and all shades of yellow and orange in autumn.

From Siena towards Perugia/Arezzo follow signs to Asciano and start the SS 438 Lauretana (the connection between Tuscany and Loreto, a famous road in the early Renaissance) which opens onto a magnificent landscape. The ideal would be to have time to make pieces of it on foot or by bike, but it's also very pleasant by car.

In Asciano there are several museums, the choice is yours, if you want to see just one we suggest Palazzo Corboli is a gem!

You can then continue to Chiusure. There are few houses, if you stop you can reach the top of the village: there is a terrace from which you can see the world. Immediately below there is Monteoliveto Maggiore, an Olivetan monastery, a center for the transcription and restoration of manuscripts in the Middle Ages, with cloisters frescoed by Sodoma and Signorelli.

However, if you are in this area for lunch or dinner, another solution to try is Licia Gorelli's Bar Tabacchi in the center of Chiusure. Something from the past: a village bazaar that has everything and also makes food by taking vegetables from the garden and homemade pici. You have to call her before you go, to decide on the menu and because she has little space.

In the opposite direction, but always very close to Chiusure, San Giovanni d’Asso is the center of the white truffle area in the province of Siena.

If you wish to continue with our tour you need to go down to Buonconvento and from there continue to Montalcino, then San Quirico, Bagno Vignoni, Pienza and Montepulciano. If you do not have all this time from San Giovanni d’Asso you can cut and immediately reach Pienza then perhaps pass through Monticchiello and finally Montepulciano.

The UNESCO heritage of the Val d’Orcia is magnificent for the landscape and for the towns listed, and not just those. There would be too many things to say about each. We limit ourselves to brief notes, we leave the rest to you.

We do not go into describing the small civic museums present in each location: each of them contains some masterpiece, such as the wooden statues of Montalcino, for example.

In Montalcino you can climb to the top of the fortress. Inside you will find one of the many Brunello tasting possibilities. It is not so different from the others but the environment is pleasant. For the wines, beware: there are bottles that exceed, even by a lot, a hundred euros. If you want to visit a historic winery you can go to the Fattoria dei Barbi because many of the others require a reservation.

I Barbi is located a few kilometers from Montalcino in the direction of Sant’Antimo, another magnificent abbey that you could visit. It dates back to the 19th century and has alabaster columns; there you can do a complete tour every day at 12.00 and 15.30 which costs € 5 per person and just be there 5 minutes earlier.

San Quirico is very quiet, with fewer tourists and with historic gardens: the Horti Leonini.

Bagno Vignoni is a fraction of San Quirico d’Orcia, with few inhabitants, but an incessant landscape thanks to its proximity to the Via Francigena. A small group of houses around a tub of sulphurous water. The sixteenth-century basin in the Piazza delle Sorgenti, which volcanic gushes from the subsoil at high temperatures. They were already thermal baths for the Romans and also the caste Santa Caterina was attracted by its steaming waters. If you take two steps from the hill towards the river bed you can find the ruins of old mills and free tanks.

Andrej Tarkovskij, Russian director was fascinated by the pool of thermal water in which Saint Catherine of Siena had immersed herself and took inspiration to set her famous 1993 film Nostalghia. The story, written jointly with Tonino Guerra, won the Grand Film Award at the Cannes Film Festival.

In Pienza, the square is a jewel of harmony but it should be found with few people and now it is very difficult. If you can avoid the central hours of the day, you may be able to enjoy it anyway. The bar from whose terrace you could see the world has become a hotel but visiting the Piccolomini Palace or even from the stretch of walls near the Duomo you get the same magnificent view, especially at sunset.

Montepulciano is the largest town. Very beautiful square, panoramic points and cellars for tasting the Nobile. Unlike Montalcino, here the most beautiful historic cellars are in the center: the “de Ricci” ones are a spectacle, beyond the wine. They are open every day after 10.30 until 19.00.

Finally, even just for a look from the outside: the San Biagio Temple, a masterpiece by Antonio da Sangallo the Elder, is just outside the walls that enclose the historic center.

If you are there for dinner, you can go to Osteria Acquacheta, right in the center. Lots of tourists now, but authentically Tuscan innkeeper, it's still a great place for a grilled steak.

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