Valdichiana Senese

Val di Chiana Senese is a territory with blurred borders, but also with a very definite identity, which is practically unique. If you visit it, you will come in touch with its peculiarities, ​​ranging from history, which takes on the legacy and mystery of Etruscan civilization, up to the well-being of thermal waters; from the pleasure of the great wines, up to the many local delicatessen; from elegant architectures, up to inimitable natural landscape. Everything is filled with a total harmony of living, what is the characteristic feature of this territory.

The major centers that form the Val di Chiana Senese are actually ten: Cetona, Chianciano Terme, Chiusi, Montepulciano, Pienza, San Casciano dei Bagni, Sarteano, Sinalunga, Torrita di Siena, and Trequanda. All are connected along a winding line of about 40 kilometers, which borders to the north on the Crete Senesi, to the east on Lake Trasimeno, to the south on the valleys climbing from Rome and the nearby Umbria, and to the west on Val d’Orcia. Each entry door is an exact representation of how the locals have respected the landscape.

Discover the territory of Valdichiana Senese

A medieval village nestled in the countryside and the woods, at the foot of the homonymous mountain. Cetona is a landscape, a history, a way to live according to nature; it is a ring of houses that surrounds the hill to culminate on the top with the ancient fortress, which dates back to the tenth century. The inhabited center welcomes visitors with a large, bright square; exploring its tidy lanes, you will enter the heart of the town. Here, in addition to historical buildings and the Church of the Holy Trinity, there is the Museum of Prehistory of Monte Cetona, with a rich display of finds that bear witness to the ancient past of these places. Not far from Cetona, in the thick of a forest, there is a system of caves available for visits that turned out to be a human settlement dating back to some 40,000 years ago. And just above there is the Archeodromo [Archaeological Path], where a prehistoric village was faithfully rebuilt: here, children and teenagers can enjoy plenty of didactic activities. Once you sit at the table, you will find other treasures no less precious, such as extra virgin olive oil, cold cuts, and wine.

 

Chianciano Terme is … spas, of course, since its reputation in this area is so affirmed it overcomes the national boundaries. Such reputation, based on centuries of experience, has grown up and developed hand in hand with scientific research, which has given an even greater value and relevance to spa treatments. There are so many springs that flow here, and Acqua Santa [Holy Water]of Chianciano Terme has always been famous for its beneficial and depurative properties. Many excavations, some even in recent times, bear witness to how the culture of healthy waters was already practiced in this territory by the Etruscans and the Romans. The most modern declination of this culture is today in the Sensory Spas, based on the criteria of naturopathy, and in the innovative “Theia” Pools, which are supplied by a spring well known and used by the Etruscans. The historical center of Chianciano Terme is tidy and welcoming, with small handicraft shops and tasting points for the best local specialties. Just outside the walls, the Archaeological Civic Museum will be a pleasant surprise: not by accident, it is now considered as a reference point by scholars and enthusiasts all over the world.

It is a city whose Etruscan origins are still so clear that it can be considered a key point for the study of Italian history. These places were home to King Porsenna, and subsequently to the Roman and Longobard civilizations. At the same time, in Chiusi you will find living witnesses of the early Christian age, such as the only catacombs that are still available for visits today. Thousands of finds, which bear witness to the richness of the various eras, are still visible inside the Etruscan National Archaeological Museum, one of the most important world-renowned sites for visiting the Etruscan Tombs. Should you have the desire to venture into a digression in the underground environments, the Porsenna Labyrinth and the Cathedral Museum are available for suggestive underground excursions up to an Etruscan-Roman tank, and then up to the bell tower. Throughout the tunnels of the Civic Museum “La Città Sotterranea” [Underground City], you will find a remarkable collection of Etruscan cinerary urns and tiles with inscriptions, as well as an underground pond dating back to the Etruscan era, with a depth of about 30 meters. Outside the walls, the discovery of Etruscan civilization will continue with the visit to the richly painted tombs. At a short distance, the Lake Chiusi is a protected natural area, a site of community relevance and a special protection area, and also an ideal place to enjoy nature on a mountain bike, on foot, on horseback or by boat . From Chiusi Stazione, the Sentiero della Bonifica [Path of Reclamation] will lead you to Arezzo along a mainly flat road of 65 kms.

In the territory of this municipality there is a unique collection of “beauty”. Unique is the hilltop position of the town of Montepulciano, a point of contact between Val di Chiana and Val d’Orcia. Extraordinary is its architectural and cultural heritage, with remote Etruscan and Roman times, a Medieval development, and the ultimate Renaissance consecration: in the Museo Civico – Pinacoteca “Crociani”, along with archaeological finds, collects over two hundred authentic masterpieces, including a portrait recently attributed to Caravaggio . Exceptional is the scenery, carefully handed on from generations, as well as the quality of the environment, which includes the natural wealth of the Montepulciano Lake Reserve and the spring waters of the Terme di Montepulciano, in the Sant’Albino area, whose therapeutic efficacy, scientifically proven, has led to the creation of a center for diagnosis, prevention and care, as well as a modern spa center. Original and unique is the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, the first Italian wine to have been awarded with the Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin, a precious red wine of great personality that enhances a wine-and food heritage deeply rooted and respectful of the seasonality of the individual elements. Last but not least, wide is the tourist offer, which considers visitors as guests, according to the best Tuscan tradition, enabling you to enjoy so much beauty without any stress, nor pressure.

Among the hills that draw the unique landscape of Val d’Orcia, there is Pienza: a recognized World Heritage Site under UNESCO protection, and the “Ideal City of the Renaissance.” Quoted by Boccaccio in one of his short stories with the original name of Corsignano, Pienza owes its renovation works to the most famous one of its inhabitants: Enea Silvio Piccolomini, who became Pope Pius II in 1458. The Pope commissioned the works to create a city that was “on a human scale”, to Bernardo Rossellino, one of the most famous architects of his time. A play of perspectives mislead those who start off on the main course into thinking that they are walking on a long road; actually, this small jewel-city stretches for less than 400 meters in length, from the beginning to the end. The main monuments, including the Assumption Cathedral, Palazzo Piccolomini, the Town Hall and the Well, are located on the main square. Strolling around in the smaller streets of Pienza, such as Via della Fortuna, Via dell’Amore, Via del Bacio, and Via del Castello, means getting lost in the beauty of this town, where works of human genius live in harmony with those of nature. You cannot get away from Pienza without tasting its most typical product, i.e. Pecorino cheese, with its unmistakable taste.

You will get to this small village you get along the winding streets that, like that coming from Sarteano, allow you to enjoy a spectacular sight over the whole Val di Chiana. San Casciano dei Bagni will suddenly appear, with its fairy-tale appearance given by the Tower of the Castle and the whole of its historic center, which recalls a fresco by Giotto. Nature is the mistress of this context, which is made of thick forests, with an infinite maze of paths to explore on mountain bike, on foot or on horseback; wild animals live undisturbed here, and not uncommon are the encounters with hawks, buzzards, wild boars, fallow deer and roe deer. Anyway, San Casciano dei Bagni owes its reputation and perhaps its very birth, which can be traced back to ancient times, to the rich presence of thermal waters: there are 42 springs, which rise to the average temperature of 104 F. Besides, the total water flow, estimated at about 5 million and a half liters a day, places San Casciano dei Bagni at the third place in Europe for thermal waters flow. Such waters also supply the famous spas, which, according to a prestigious American magazine, are “the most beautiful ones in the world”.

Tradition is an essential part of everyday life in Sarteano. It lives in the way of life of its inhabitants; it lives in a craftsmanship that perpetuates the ancient knowledge; it lives in the remains, all beautifully preserved; it lives in the austere, but at the same time cozy, profile of its historical center, which wraps the hill up to the massive castle, visible even miles and miles away. And it lives in the famous Giostra del Saracino [Saracen Joust], which has been lasting for centuries without a break, and stands for its longevity among other chivalrous games, perhaps more famous, but certainly less participated by the local people. Sarteano has ancient roots, starting from the Etruscan times: the Necropoli delle Pianacce still gives way to exceptional emotions and discoveries. The Tomba della Quadriga Infernale [Tomb of the Infernal Chariot] has been brought on the front pages of magazines around the world. The Tomb, with the evil scene of the Charun daemon, with its ferocious fangs and its red head of hairs, is available for visits by appointment only; nevertheless, you can admire its perfect reconstruction, made with avant-garde techniques, inside the Civic Museum, along with other finds no less precious. All around, you can enjoy the most beautiful nature of the Tuscan valleys.

Sinalunga is a balcony over Val di Chiana, which seems to stand at its feet. The village, with a historical center grown on a small plateau, has a maze of narrow streets and buildings of artistic and cultural interest, including the beautiful Teatro “Ciro Pinsuti”, which every year displays a rich bill of events with important national companies, the church of Santa Maria delle Nevi and that of Santa Croce, as well as the seventeenth-century Collegiate of San Martino. Of great architectural interest is the Palazzo Pretorio [Praetorian Palace], with its bell tower, which recalls that of the Torre del Mangia [Tower of the Eater] in Siena, and its suggestive prisons. In the bottom part of the town, where once the ancient Cassia Vetus was, life hums with greater speed and different rhythms. Nevertheless, also in the “modern” area of ​​Sinalunga – the hamlet of Pieve – you can find some surprises, including the Pieve of San Pietro ad Mensulas, one of the oldest churches in the area, built on a structure, which is much earlier than its ancient basilica-Romanesque plan. A little curiosity: not far from here, an ancient farm was the birthplace of Ghino di Tacco, not incorrectly defined “the Robin Hood of Tuscany”, who then moved his life and actions to the castle of Radicofani. Along the valley, it is also possible to visit breeding farms of Chianina cows, which are the largest cattle in the world, and therefore called “white giants”. Next to the train station of Sinalunga, you will find an area equipped with an area laid out for campers.

“Torrita” means “fortified”. A combative name, which tells of distant times, sieges, attacks and counter-attacks, and extreme defenses. Torrita di Siena is closed in its walls, well protected and somewhat jealous of life that keeps on flowing, according to rhythms that elsewhere seem to be forgotten, in the interior maze of its streets. You can access the village through four crossing points: Porta Gavina, Porta a Sole, Porta a Pago and Porta Nova. Once inside, you can easily stroll around its lanes, which will lead you anyway to the most elegant area of the town: Piazza Matteotti, where you can admire the 13th-century Town Hall, and the Church dedicated to saints Flora and Lucilla, which contains “The Blood of the Redeemer”, a marble bas-relief attributed to Donatello. Many are the art shops where you can buy unusual souvenirs, which bear witness to the local heritage of skillfulness, demonstrating how subtle and indefinable may be the borderline between art and craft. Other souvenirs you cannot miss are the local cold cuts and cheeses, which reach the highest standards of excellence. Just a few kilometers away, the small medieval center of Montefollonico pursues the ancient and precious tradition of Vin Santo, a niche product for connoisseurs.

Small, cozy, seemingly defenseless: you cannot reach Trequanda by chance. You must go and look for it, in one of the most beautiful corners in the province of Siena. It is located in a hidden place, and perhaps this is his fortune, for which it remained practically intact. Once you arrive in Trequanda, the first place that really stands out is the square, where you will find a perfect reconstruction of the atmosphere of the most typical Tuscan villages, just as you can figure it out. A church, with its unusual black and white “ashlars” façade, with a beautiful fifteenth-century polyptych inside it, and so many small shops, which hold the simple and quiet way of life of its inhabitants. Not far away, the two hamlets of Petroio and Castelmuzio, graceful and tidy, pursue respectively the tradition of artistic terracotta and extra virgin olive oil, no less artistic and precious. The bread here is also at levels of excellence, so that it can be counted among the best local produce, like wine and cheeses. All around, you will be “gently besieged” by the most authentic Tuscan landscape, which seems to have come out as it is from a fresco by Lorenzetti.