10 things not to miss between Amiata and Val d'Orcia - small tourist guide
Val d'Orcia, Amiata and Maremma .. green lines that stretch to infinity, the roar of the thermal waterfalls and the avenues bordered by cypresses that touch medieval villages and Renaissance treasures. Recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the Val d'Orcia is ready to let itself be visited among the silent frames of an ancient historic residence: the charming Borgo Tepolini bed and breakfast. We are in the green heart of the provinces between Grosseto and Siena, at the foot of Mount Amiata in the hills of the Val d'Orcia with centuries-old olive groves and farmhouses that enchant you as you pass. Starting from Borgo Tepolini B&B it is easy to reach the main towns of the Val d'Orcia Grossetana and Senese and on the western side of Monte Amiata such as Arcidosso, Santa Fiora, San Quirico d'Orcia, Radicofani and Bagno Vignoni, a renowned spa in Tuscany. Also nearby are the cities of art such as Siena, Montepulciano and Pienza. And here are the 10 fundamental steps to be able to appreciate the beauty of the places !! A few days to spend between the cities of art and the natural beauty of the Val d'Orcia ... Let's go !!
..... we start with the Val d'Orcia side
Village famous worldwide for Brunello, Montalcino from the top of a hill dominates the valleys of the Asso, Ombrone and Arbia . Famous above all as the home of this precious wine, Montalcino is however a town with an intact medieval village , pleasant to walk around, where you can make 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 located only 9 km from the town of Montalcino. According to 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. You can attend the services sung in Gregorian. Magnificent view of the Val d'Orcia
Timetables 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 swimming pool of Bagno Vignoni, against the backdrop of the Val d'Orcia, is one of the most beautiful panoramas in 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 thermal baths, like that of Bagni San Filippo, is in all probability Etruscan;
The main square consists of an immense pool of warm and vaporous waters, which in winter especially create a magical suggestion, immersed in the Leonardo landscape surrounding the town. The water replaced the typical pavement of the Italian square. Around the basin, a Renaissance palace attributed to Bernardo Rossellino, the creator of Pienza another of the pearls of the Val d'Orcia, flows out of the waters like a vision, while the medieval loggia and the chapel that is inserted are dedicated to Saint Catherine of Siena, who frequented these places. The sulphate-bicarbonate-calcium-magnesium, carbon-gaseous waters gush out from various sources at a temperature of 42 ° C and are particularly suitable for diseases of the osteoarticular and rheumatic systems, the respiratory system and the upper respiratory tract, replacement, of skin diseases and the female genital system, even if currently the available treatments are aimed only at the therapy of the musculoskeletal system.
A few kilometers away are the Baths of Bagni di San Filippo.
From the center of the village along the white road on the left you will reach the " Fosso Bianco ", a stream immersed in the woods, where several hot springs flow into a succession of "pools" in the manner of natural pools. Along the way, to be crossed on foot, it is possible to admire the particular limestone formations that for 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 , have different hydrological characteristics used for therapeutic purposes. The Baths have been frequented by illustrious people over the centuries, in particular by the 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, immersed in a landscape made of hills, olive groves, vineyards and oak woods . The historic center is characteristic for its cobbled streets and stone fountains. In the Middle Ages, the location was on the route of the Via Francigena , testified by the presence of the Scala Hospital, a place where pilgrims were offered hospitality. The remains of the Cassero tower and the Horti Leonini , a typical sixteenth-century garden which is accessed from an entrance between the walls and the square, are also worth a visit. San Quirico also has some important churches from the historical-artistic point of view: in addition to the aforementioned Collegiate Church of San Quirico (more precisely the Collegiate Church of Saints Quirico and Giulitta) and the Romanesque Church of San Biagio in Vignoni, the Church of San Giovanni should be mentioned Battista in Bagno Vignoni, the Church and the Chapel of the Madonna di Vitaleta, symbolic image of the Val d'Orcia and the Church of Santa Maria Assunta and the Oratorio della Misericordia. In the Vignoni hamlet there is an ancient castle, the Vignoni Castle in Val d'Orcia, almost uninhabited, former residence of the Salimbeni in the XII century, and later of the Amerighi from the XIV century. The site has a beautiful panorama around the Val d'Orcia. It has a severed medieval tower, a restored Romanesque church (inside there was a crucifix by Giambologna, now kept in the museum of Montalcino, and a baptismal font of the fifteenth century, now at the Collegiate Church of San Quirico) and, next to the church, the real estate structure (rebuilt in the early nineties) of the fifteenth-century Palazzo degli Amerighi, in which the conspiracy against the Spanish oppressors of Siena was ordered (1555-1559).
5 - Pienza: the pearl of the Val d'Orcia
The history of Pienza, unlike that of the neighboring municipalities, is not characterized by long periods of medieval events and wars. In fact, the city was nothing more than a small village in 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 Pope to Mantua led him to cross the place of birth and the degradation 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 the light a harmonious town with typically fifteenth-century shapes. The premature death of Pope Pius II also closed the history of the municipality which has remained almost unchanged since then.
Due to the beauty of its Renaissance historical center, in 1996 Pienza became part of the natural, artistic and cultural heritages of UNESCO, followed in 2004 by the same valley area where it stands: the Val d'Orcia.
Much of the important historical and artistic heritage of Pienza is concentrated in the suggestive square dedicated to Pope Pius II, a personality who has given so much to the town: the Renaissance Cathedral is isolated and clearly visible, in front of the Town Hall and next to Palazzo Borgia and Palazzo Piccolomini. The hermitage is made up of rooms excavated in the sandstone by hermit monks, and is located near Pienza in the Val d'Orcia.
info and news: http://www.prolocopienza.it
6 - Montepulciano: the home of the Nobleman
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 core 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 Palazzi Nobili-Tarugi and Contucci. The Duomo stands on the site of the ancient Romanesque parish church of Santa Maria.
Opposite the smaller side of the Palazzo Nobili-Tarugi we find the exceptional beauty of the Pozzo dei Grifi and dei Leoni, built in 1520 by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger.
The city is linked to the production of the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, one of the oldest and most prestigious wines in Italy. Walking through the center of the town 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, Torre di Pulcinella, Casa di Poliziano, Church of S. Agnese, Church of S. Biagio
.... and now let's move on to a visit to the area of Amiata and the Val d'Orcia from Grosseto
7 - Daniel Spoerri's garden and artistic park
Daniel Spoerri's garden is located near Borgo Tepolini about 2 km away. away, in the municipality of Seggiano, in the Val d'Orcia of Grosseto.
It is a large sculpture park started in 1991, and still developing today.
The sculptural path develops on an estate of more than 16 hectares made up of various landscape profiles, within which the works integrate or contrast, now they hide there, now they stand there, however in dialogue with the space.
Alongside the artistic path, a botanical one can also be found, recalled by the numerous white cards on the path where the names of the plants are indicated and some information or curious notes on them are reported.
The typical plants of this habitat: chestnut woods, cultivations of olive trees, of a particular autochthonous species, the Seggianese olive tree, the broom and fragrant plants are linked to the interventions and the two intertwining paths invite to combine different perceptions of this alchemical and magical place: “the path is important, which is measured in steps, the smells you breathe, the noises you hear, the water you come across (there are two springs in the giandino); and the differences in level of the terrain, the fields and meadows that alternate with the forest and the bush ... "wrote Spoerri. The garden has seen not only the quantity of the works develop, rapidly increased, but has also had a change in its appearance: at the beginning it only housed Spoerri's sculptures then, since 1996, it has become the path of a life, in which there he came across the interventions of many other authors, his friends and fellow students, until reaching 2000 when the garden opened to interventions by Italian artists such as Mainolfi and Barni.
In ten years of activity, 90 works by 40 different artists have been installed, which can be freely discovered along the paths that cross approx. 16 hectares of woods, meadows and land. For a complete visit it takes about 2-3 hours, helped by a map that allows you to orient yourself 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 has decided to extend the opening hours and to reactivate the small refreshment point with a new opening. Visitors to the Garden will also find 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 has ancient origins, also proven by numerous finds (from the Paleolithic and Neolithic ages) found in the excavations of fossil flour widely present in the area.
The municipality was named for the first time by sources with the ancient name of "Casale Plana" within some documents of the abbey of Monte Amiata dated 890.
In the years from 1175 to 1331 it was a possession of the Aldobrandeschi counts of Santa Fiora.
After the fall of the Republic of Siena, it became part of Cosimo de 'Medici's possessions. 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:
The Palio delle contrade is also run in Castel del Piano, as well as in Siena, and in other towns in the lower Tuscany.
The first horse race is dated 9 September 1402, when the municipality was in full Sienese government (the Republic of Siena had conquered the country in 1331).
The Palio takes place every year on September 8, the nativity of the Virgin Mary and the feast of Maria Santissima delle Grazie (patroness of the town) to whom the Career is entitled and which is portrayed in all the "Cenci" that are offered to the victorious district. The choice to run careers on September 8 derives from the institution, which took place in 1431, of 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 the historic center, an excursion to the summit of Monte Amiata (1738 m.) A few kilometers from Castel del Piano is a must.
An extinct volcano covered with pine, chestnut and beech trees. An ancient sacred mother who for centuries has spread beneficial influences throughout the territory. It is said that Brunello di Montalcino would not be so good if Monte Amiata weren't there to condition its grapes. The air would certainly not be so crystal clear, without the green belt that envelops 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 originate directly from the Amiata. The Orcia river finds its way in the north side of the mountain and gives its name to the wonderful Val d'Orcia.
In winter it is possible to ski and refresh in the various mountain huts. In the other seasons you can enjoy a magnificent 360 degree panorama 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 by 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 who, in order to celebrate the Holy Year of 1900, he suggested raising monuments that celebrated redemption on 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 lower Tuscany, with the role of capital of the homonymous county since the tenth century. Santa Fiora deserves special mention for the popular traditions and for the environmental characteristics that it still preserves. The sources of the Fiora river fed, before they were destined for a network of aqueducts directed to the whole of southern Tuscany, a fishpond inserted in a highly suggestive wooded park, which completed the vast master garden of the Sforza-Cesarini, lords of Santa Fiora all the day after the fall of the Aldobrandeschi. Today the so-called Peschiera is still in existence and is used not only for trout and carp breeding but also as a tourist itinerary.
Of great interest is the historic center of Santa Fiora, which has at its peak a square where the Municipal Palace overlooks, in addition to what remains of the medieval fortifications, a square that is to be considered the good living room of the entire Amiata territory. A mining museum has recently been set up, which although not as 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, you reach the Church of the Pieve (of the Saints Flora and Lucilla, patron saint of the town), where the work of art is found, perhaps the most important in the entire Amiata area. This is the collection of fine ceramics by Andrea della Robbia (1435-1525), authentic gems of Tuscan art, both for technical execution, of which the perfect conservation over the centuries is luminous proof, and for artistic sensitivity. Among them 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 squares.
10 - Abbadia San Salvatore - The Abbey and the Mining Museum
History has reserved to this location phases of temporal prestige in which the Monastery, first Benedictine then Cistercian, has exercised a prominent power in large territories located on the eastern and western sides of the Amiata. The abbey had mixed fortunes, also due to frequent clashes both with the powerful Aldobrandeschi family, and with the Orsini and in general with the allies of the emperors, especially when they maintained conflicting relations with the Papacy of Rome; it was finally suppressed in 1782.
It should be remembered that the famous Codex Amiatinus from the abbey itself dates back to the 7th century and is currently kept in the Laurentian Library in Florence.
The Abbey Museum is located in 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 a VIII century reliquary box, the bust of San Marco Papa, by Angnolo Romanelli (1381), a chasuble from the VIII-IX century and a Sienese majolica floor dated back to the XV century Church of the Madonna del Castagno  .
The cinnabar mine, now closed today, has 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 the production of mercury, coming from its base mineral (cinnabar) which was mined in a mine adjacent to the same country, but also in other sites of the Amiata. Today mercury, no longer produced for over thirty years, remains a memory preserved in an interesting museum obtained from the old mine, a redeveloped area for artisanal use. The Museum, which has been operating for some years, offers an interesting history of extraction, also thanks to the valuable contribution of former miners as guides. ( not to be missed )
info and parties: http://www.cittadellefiaccole.it