10 things not to be missed between Amiata and Val d'Orcia - a small tour guide
Val d'Orcia and Amiata, green lines that stretch to infinity, the roar of the thermal waterfalls and avenues bordered by cypress trees that touch medieval villages and Renaissance treasures. Recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the Val d'Orcia is ready to be visited in the silent cornices of an ancient historical residence: the charming bed and breakfast Borgo Tepolini .We are in the green heart of the provinces between Grosseto and Siena, at the foot of Mount Amiata and among the hills of the Val d'Orcia with centuries-old olive groves and farmhouses that enchant the passage. Starting from Borgo Tepolini B & B it is easy to reach the main towns of the Val d'Orcia Grossetana and Siena and of the western side of Mount Amiata as Arcidosso , Santa Fiora, San Quirico d'Orcia, Radicofani and Bagno Vignoni, a renowned spa in Tuscany. Also nearby are the art cities like Siena, Montepulciano and Pienza. And here are the 10 basic steps to be able to appreciate the beauty of the places !! A few days to spend between cities of art and natural beauty of the Val d'Orcia ... Let's go !!
..... we start with the side of the Val d'Orcia
A village famous all over the world for Brunello, Montalcino dominates the valleys of the Asso, Ombrone and Arbia from the top of a hill . Famous above all as the home of this precious wine, Montalcino is still a small town with an intact medieval village , pleasant to walk around, where you can take beautiful walks waiting for the time to enter a restaurant to enjoy the local specialties and, of course, a good glass of Brunello.
info and news: http://www.prolocomontalcino.com/it
2 - The Abbey of Sant'Antimo ,
it is only 9 Km. from the village of Montalcino. According to the legend, it was born on the remains of a chapel built by Charlemagne in 781 AD. The abbey is a magnificent example of Lombard-French Romanesque art. Built in alabaster and onyx, it has an extraordinary apse formed by radial chapels and also capitals decorated with geometric, floral and animal figures. One can attend the functions sung in Gregorian. Magnificent view of the Val d'Orcia
Timetable and info: http://www.antimo.it/visita.html
3-Bagno Vignoni and Bagni di San Filippo - The thermal springs of the Val d'Orcia
The Amiata seen from the Bagno Vignoni pool, against the backdrop of the Val d'Orcia, is one of the most beautiful views of the province of Siena. The hot water that flows here is another of the many gifts of the ancient mountain. Bagno Vignoni is a medieval village, even if the origin of the baths, like that of Bagni San Filippo, is probably Etruscan;
The main square is made up of a huge pool of warm and steamy waters, which in winter above all create a magical suggestion, immersed in the Leonardesque landscape that surrounds the town. The water has replaced the typical paving of the Italian square. Around the pool, a Renaissance palace attributed to Bernardo Rossellino, the creator of Pienza, another of the pearls of the Val d'Orcia, flows from the water like a vision, while the medieval loggia and the chapel that is inserted there are dedicated to Santa Caterina da Siena, who attended these places. The sulphate-bicarbonate-calcium-magnesium, carbogassose waters, flow from various sources at a temperature of 42 ° C and are particularly indicated for diseases of the osteoarticular and rheumatic apparatus, the respiratory system and the upper airways, of the exchange, of skin diseases and of the female genital apparatus, even if currently the available treatments are addressed only to the therapy of the musculoskeletal system.
A few kilometers are also to visit the Baths of San Filippo.
From the center of the village along the white road on the left you will arrive at the " Fosso Bianco ", a torrent immersed in the woods, where several hot springs meet in a succession of "pools" in the natural swimming pools. Along the way, to be crossed on foot, it is possible to admire the particular limestone formations which, thanks to the suggestive shapes, have inspired different names such as the white whale or the glacier.
The thermal waters of San Filippo, known since the Roman period , possess different hydrological characteristics used for therapeutic purposes. The Baths have been frequented by illustrious personalities over the centuries, in particular by representatives of the Florentine Medici family: Leonardo the Magnificent, Cosimo I who renovated the baths in 1566 and then in the seventeenth century the Grand Duke Ferdinando II.
4 - San Quirico d'Orcia
In the heart of the Val d'Orcia , there is the ancient village of probable Etruscan origin of San Quirico d'Orcia, located at 424 meters above sea level, surrounded by a landscape of hills, olive groves, vineyards and oak woods. . The historic center is characteristic for its paved streets and stone fountains. In the Middle Ages the town was located on the route of the Via Francigena , witnessed by the presence of the Hospital della Scala, a place where hospitality was offered to pilgrims. The remains of the tower of the Cassero and the Horti Leonini , a typical sixteenth-century garden that can be accessed from an entrance between the walls and the square, are worth a visit. San Quirico also has some important churches from the historical-artistic point of view: in addition to the aforementioned Collegiate of San Quirico (more precisely Collegiata dei Santi Quirico and Giulitta) and the Romanesque Church of San Biagio a Vignoni, the Church of San Giovanni must be mentioned Baptist at Bagno Vignoni, the Church and the Chapel of Our Lady of Vitaleta, symbolic image of the Val d'Orcia and the Church of Santa Maria Assunta and the Oratory of Mercy. In the Vignoni district there is an ancient castle, Vignoni Castle in val d'orcia, almost uninhabited, former residence of the Salimbeni family in the 12th century, and later of the Amerighi family from the 14th century. The site has a beautiful panorama around the Val d'Orcia. It has a medieval tower cut off, a restored Romanesque church (inside there was a crucifix by Giambologna, now kept in the museum of Montalcino, and a baptismal font from the XV century, now at the Collegiate Church of San Quirico) and, next to the church, the building (rebuilt in the early nineties) of the fifteenth century Palazzo degli Amerighi, in which the conspiracy against the Spanish oppressors of Siena (1555-1559) was ordered.
5 - Pienza: the pearl of the Val d'Orcia
The history of Pienza, unlike that of neighboring municipalities, is not characterized by long periods of medieval events and wars. The city in fact was nothing but a small village of the Val d'Orcia until 1462, known as Corsignano. The event that changed the fate of Pienza was the birth in 1405 of Enea Silvio Piccolomini who 53 years later became Pope Pius II. Just a journey of the pontiff to Mantua led him to cross the place of birth and the degradation that he found led him to decide the construction over the ancient village, entrusting the project to the architect Bernardo Rossellino: construction that lasted about four years and led to light a harmonious town with typically fifteenth-century forms. The untimely death of Pope Pius II also closed the history of the municipality which has since remained almost unchanged.
For the beauty of its historical Renaissance center in 1996 Pienza became part of the natural, artistic and cultural heritage of UNESCO, followed in 2004 by the same valley area where it stands: the Val d'Orcia.
Much of Pienza's significant historical and artistic heritage is concentrated in the charming square dedicated to Pope Pius II, a personality that has given so much to the town: the Renaissance and the Cathedral are in front of the Palazzo Comunale and next to Palazzo Borgia and Palazzo. Piccolomini. The Romitorio is made up of premises dug into the sandstone by hermit monks, and is located near Pienza in val d'orcia.
info and news: http://www.prolocopienza.it
6 - Montepulciano: the birthplace of the Noble
Legend has it that Montepulciano was an Etruscan settlement built by order of King Lars Porsenna. Historically, the city appears for the first time in 715 with the name of Castel Poliziano, always disputed between Florence and Siena because of its economic and strategic importance.
The central nucleus of Montepulciano is the main square: Piazza Grande. The complex of the square includes the Cathedral, the Palazzo Comunale, the Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo, and the Palaces Nobili-Tarugi and Contucci. The Cathedral stands on the site of the ancient Romanesque parish church of Santa Maria.
Opposite the minor side of the Palazzo Nobili-Tarugi we find the exceptional beauty of the Well of the Griffins and the Lions, built in 1520 by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger.
The city is linked to the production of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, one of the oldest and most prestigious wines in Italy. Going through the town center you can visit some of the oldest cellars in the area.
Other important monuments to see:
Palazzo Neri Orselli: (Civic Museum and Pinacoteca Cruciani)
Palazzo Ricci: seat of the Library and Historical Archive
Church of San Francesco, Church of Santa Lucia, Palazzo Avignonesi, Palazzo Batignani, Palazzo Cocconi, Palazzo Bucelli, Palazzo Cervini, Tower of Pulcinella, House of Poliziano, Church of S. Agnese, Church of S. Biagio
and now we are going to visit the area of Amiata and the Val d'Orcia grossetana
7 - Daniel Spoerri's garden and artistic park
The garden of Daniel Spoerri is located near Borgo Tepolini about 2 km. away, in the municipality of Seggiano, in the val d'orcia grossetana.
It is a large sculpture park started in 1991, and still today under development.
The sculptural path develops in an estate of more than 16 hectares composed of various landscape profiles, within which the works are integrated or opposed, now they hide, now they stand, however, in dialogue with the space.
Next to the artistic path you can also follow a botanical called by the numerous white cards on the path where the names of the plants are reported and reported some curious information or notes on them.
The typical plants of this habitat: chestnut woods, olive groves, a particular native species, the seggianese olivastra, the broom bush and perfumed plants are linked to the interventions and the two intertwining paths invite to unite the different perceptions of this alchemical and magical place: "it is important the path, which is measured in steps, the smells that you breathe, the noises that you hear, the water in which you come across (there are two sources to the giandino); and the unevenness of the terrain, the fields and the meadows that alternate with the forest and the bush ... "wrote Spoerri. The garden has seen not only the quantity of the works developed, but it has also changed in its appearance: at the beginning it only housed the sculptures of Spoerri then, from 1996, it became the path of a life, in which there he comes across the interventions of many other authors, his friends and companions of experiences, until reaching the year 2000 when the garden opened to interventions by Italian artists such as Mainolfi and Barni.
In ten years of activity 90 works of 40 different artists have been installed, which can be freely discovered along the paths that cross 16 acres of woods, meadows and land. For a comprehensive visit it takes about 2- 3 hours, helped by a map that allows you to navigate and receive essential information on the works you meet and on the botanical path that supports the artistic one.
Ten years after its birth, the "Il Giardino di Daniel Spoerri" Foundation decided to extend the opening hours and reactivate the small refreshment area with a new opening. The visitor will also find at the Garden the opportunity to have lunch (simple cuisine, with Tuscan dishes).
For info visit the website: http://www.danielspoerri.org
8 - Castel del Piano, the Palio delle Contrade and Monte Amiata
Castel del Piano is found to have very ancient origins, also proven by numerous finds (of Paleolithic and Neolithic age) found in the excavation of fossil flour widely present in the territory.
The town was named for the first time by the sources with the ancient name of "Casale Plana" inside some documents of the abbey of Monte Amiata dated 890.
In the years from 1175 to 1331 it was a possession of the Aldobrandeschi accounts of Santa Fiora.
After the fall of the Republic of Siena, it became part of the possessions of Cosimo de 'Medici. The municipal territory develops between the Val d'Orcia and the slopes of the Amiata
The Palio and the legend of the SS. Maria delle Grazie:
Also in the Castel del Piano, as well as in Siena, and like in other towns of the lower Tuscany, the Palio delle contrade is run.
The first horse race is dated 9 September 1402, when the municipality was in full Senese government (the Republic of Siena had conquered the country in 1331).
The Palio is held every year on September 8th, nativity of the Virgin Mary and feast of Maria Santissima delle Grazie (patron saint of the village) to whom the Career is entitled and which is portrayed in all the "Cenci" that are offered to the victorious contrada The choice of running careers on September 8 comes from the institution, which took place in 1431, the religious festival linked to the SS. Madonna delle Grazie (fifteenth-century icon attributed to Sano di Pietro, currently preserved in the church of the same name).
After a visit to the cathedral and to the historic center, a trip to the Vetta del Monte Amiata (1738 m.) Is just a few kilometers away from Castel del Piano.
An extinct volcano covered with pines, chestnut and beech trees. An ancient sacred mother who for centuries spreads all over the territory beneficial influences. It is said that Brunello di Montalcino would not be so good if Monte Amiata were not to air-condition its grapes. The air would certainly not be so crystalline, without the green belt that surrounds the Amiata. The waters would not be so fresh, the game so abundant, the mushrooms so renowned for their quality. The Albegna, Fiora and Paglia rivers are born directly from Amiata. The river Orcia finds its way on the north side of the mountain and gives its name to the marvelous Val d'Orcia.
In winter it is possible to ski and refresh in the various shelters on the summit. In other seasons you can enjoy a magnificent 360 degree view of the valleys below and the Val d'Orcia.
At the top you can also admire the monumental cross that was made of wrought iron from the Sienese workshops of Luciano Zalaffi between 1900 and 1910. It is 22 meters high and its construction was decided following the indications of Leo XIII that, in order to celebrate the Holy Year of 1900, he suggested raising monuments that would celebrate redemption in the Italian mountains
9 - Santa Fiora - among "The most beautiful villages in Italy"
The hegemony of the Aldobrandeschi on the territories of Monte Amiata especially on the territory of Abbadia San Salvatore, will make Santa Fiora one of the most important centers of the lower Tuscany, with the role of capital of the homonymous county since the X century. Santa Fiora deserves a special mention for the folk traditions and for the environmental features that it still preserves. The sources of the river Fiora fed, before they were destined to a network of aqueducts directed to the whole of southern Tuscany, a fish pond inserted in a highly evocative tree-lined park, which completed the vast garden of the Sforza-Cesarini, lords of Santa Fiora all 'after the fall of the Aldobrandeschi. Today the so-called Peschiera is still existing and is used, as well as for the breeding of trout and carp, also as a tourist route.
The historic center of Santa Fiora is of great interest. At its top there is a square overlooking the Town Hall, in addition to what remains of the medieval fortifications, a square that is considered the good living room of the whole Amiata territory. Recently a museum of mines has been set up, which although it is not extensive and documented as that of Abbadia, marks a significant evocation of the mining era lived intensely in the territory of Santa Fiora and Castellazzara (mercury mines of Siele and Morone).
From the square, along Via Carolina, we reach the Church of Pieve (of the Saints Flora and Lucilla, patron of the village), where is the work of art, perhaps the most relevant of the entire Amiata territory. This is the collection of valuable ceramics by Andrea della Robbia (1435-1525), authentic gems of Tuscan art, both for technical execution, of which the perfect preservation over the centuries is proof, as well as for artistic sensitivity. Among these we point out the Madonna della Cintola, the Baptism and the Last Supper, as well as a triptych with the Coronation in the center and the saints Francesco and Girolamo in the side panels.
10 - Abbadia San Salvatore - The Abbey and the Mining Museum
History has reserved for this place phases of temporal prestige in which the Monastery, first Benedictine then Cistercian, has exercised a prominent power in large territories on the eastern and western sides of the Amiata. The abbey had alternate luck, also due to frequent clashes with both the powerful house of the Aldobrandeschi, and with the Orsini and generally with the allies of the emperors, especially when these maintained conflicting relations with the Papacy of Rome; it was finally suppressed in 1782.
The famous Codex Amiatinus, dating back to the 7th century, is currently preserved in the Laurentian Library of Florence.
The Abbey Museum is located in the rooms bordering those of the monastery and is connected by an iron staircase. Inside there are unique pieces that testify to the heritage of the monastery itself. Among the most important pieces there is an 8th-century reliquary box, the bust-shaped San Marco Papa reliquary of Angnolo Romanelli (1381), an 8th-9th century chasuble and a 15th century Sienese majolica floor from the Church of the Madonna del Castagno  .
The cinnabar mine, which has now been closed, has run galleries for 35 kilometers that extend for 400 meters in depth. In the clock tower it is possible to visit the mining museum together with a gallery with a path of about 300 meters where the workplaces are reproduced  .
Abbadia San Salvatore, recalls the bygone era of mercury production, coming from its base mineral (the cinnabar) that was extracted in a mine neighboring the same country, but also in other sites of the Amiata. Today mercury, no longer produced for over thirty years, remains a preserved memory in an interesting museum obtained from the old mine, an area redeveloped for craft purposes. The Museum has been operating for some years and offers an interesting history of the extraction, thanks to the valuable contribution of former miners as guides. ( not to be missed )
info and parties: http://www.cittadellefiaccole.it