Siena and its lands: the Chianti region, the Val D’Orcia, the Crete Senesi, the Val d’Elsa, the Val di Chiana, the Monte Amiata and the Val di Merse
The lands of Siena are pictured and represented in the paintings realized by the great masters of the Sienese school in the fourteenth-century, from Simone Martini to Ambrogio Lorenzetti. Since then, not much has changed in the landscape surrounding Siena. You’ll find a farmhouse on each hill like in Etruscan ages, small villages surrounded by large expanses of green, winding streets lined with cypresses-which seem to lead to a path that opens to a world where all is harmony and beauty. Lands of ancient and authentic flavors and fine wines exported all over the world. Lands with an extraordinary art history, archaeology, anthropology and natural heritage, suitable for every type of tourist stay! Sunny Tuscany & Italy offers you a range of suggestions for holidays in the beautiful landscape of Siena!
Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the old center of Siena has preserved its glorious medieval past which includes: the steep and winding streets enclosed among high walls, which are organized around the famous Piazza del Campo, the heart of the city and the monumental scenery of the passions of the well-known “Palio” (famous horse race held twice a year). The city is famous for its art, museums, medieval cityscape and also for its delicious cuisine: when you visit Siena, remember to taste the fine salami of Cinta Senese and the famous desserts (like the renowned “panforte” and the “Ricciarelli” cookies).
All the lands of Siena have a long culinary and enological tradition and offer many high quality gourmet products such as: the fine extra-virgin olive oil (which lies at the heart of Tuscan agriculture), the spicy smell of saffron (cultivated and exported from the Middle Ages), cheese (in particular the famous Pecorino of Pienza) and red wines (like the Brunello of Montalcino or the Vino Nobile of Montepulciano). The Renaissance town of Pienza and the medieval village of Montalcino are both in the heart of the wonderful Val D’Orcia, named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO: a luxurious land of rolling hills, cypresses, barren lands alternating with green vineyards, and wonderful isolated abbeys (like the famous Abbey of Sant’Antimo).
Rolling hills and lush rows of vineyards also characterize the landscape of the Chianti region, famous for its beautiful medieval villages and above all for its renowned Chianti wine, appreciated and exported all over the world.
The precious saffron, exported since the Middle-Ages, together with the renowned Vernaccia white wine, are better known as the “Gold” of San Gimignano, the medieval town famous all over the world for its high towers, placed in the heart of the Val d’Elsa region. Crossed by the historical Via Francigena (the Road to France), the ancient medieval pilgrimage route from Rome to France, the wonderful region also holds other important medieval villages, like Monteriggioni and Colle Val d’Elsa, the city of crystal production.
The ancient route of the Via Francigena also crosses the Crete Senesi region, characterized by a very particular landscape: the arid soil (made of barren clay loams) creates an almost lunar landscape, dotted with isolated abbeys (like the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore), and with charming medieval villages (like Buonconvento and San Giovanni d’Asso), the birthplace of the famous white truffle. Searching for typical flavors and smells, you could also visit the Val di Chiana area, well-known both for its products, like the famous Chianina beef and the renowned Vino Nobile of Montepulciano, and for its important thermal basins, with the therapeutic waters of the spas of Chianciano Terme, Montepulciano and San Casciano dei Bagni.
If you want to spend a relaxing holiday dedicated to mental wellness, you can also choose to hide away in the chestnut forests of the Monte Amiata. There you can enjoy an ancient sleeping volcano, whose warm heart spills beneficial sulfurous waters, engendering the thermal baths of Bagni San Filippo.
You can also find many natural hot springs (the Farma stream and the thermal baths of Petriolo) in the Val di Merse area. The green region characterized by a dense network of rural hospitality services is ideal for lovers of green tourism and frequently visited thanks to the presence of the famous Abbey of San Galgano (a wonderful Cistercian abbey), which is now in ruins. Close to the Hermitage of Montesiepi you can find a chapel which preserves the ‘sword in the stone’ which San Galgano himself plunged in 1180 into a rock to have an altar to pray at... a fascinating mystery that mingles with the Celtic legend of King Arthur and his sword Excalibur.