The hill top town of Siena located in Tuscany and listed by UNESCO as World Heritage Site is one of the most charming places to visit in Italy. Sienna is world famous for the Palio, the stunning Torre del Mangia and the outstanding Duomo but when in Siena visitors should not miss the opportunity to visit the Crete Senesi, where Tuscany reveals its truest and most beautiful identity.
The Crete Senesi, the clay hills of Siena, offer a remarkable landscape of rolling hills that adopts the form of the senses and communicates with the force of emotions. This is an interesting journey through one of the most celebrated landscapes in the whole Italy. The Crete are a sea of greyish waves not softened by woods or trees to be found just outside Siena when driving towards the south. Here, along the via Cassia, overlapping the ancient via Francigena, we find the 14th c. walls of Buonconvento known for an interesting Sacred Art museum and a museum dedicated to sharecropping . From here we climb to the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Major dramatically set at the edge of a steep slope of clay. This is one of the most visited monuments in Tuscany thanks to its religious and artistic heritage. The frescoes in the kiosk, the inlaid choir or the library are not to be missed. San Giovanni d’Asso is the capital of Tuscan truffles. The village castle is now the first museum in Italy dedicated to these noble and expensive bulbs. Asciano is the most important town in the Crete area with its interesting Romanesque church and Archaeological and Art museum.
Siena is separated from the Crete by a few miles and hundreds of curves, now and then its turreted profile appears on the horizon.
The crete of Siena is a portrait that varies from red to purple in fall, becomes gray as the sky in winter, evolves to brilliant green in spring, and finally shows a dazzling yellow in summer when the wheat is already high, this is a borderland where the colors of the Crete meets with the green shoulders of Chianti offering incomparable views in this sea of land of endless wheat fields dotted with hamlets, farms, vineyards, churches and winding roads.
The appearance of the clay hills changes with the season and sunlight but the most fascinating phenomenon here is that it is enough just to walk the same street in the different directions to discover a whole different world.
All the streets of these hills provide excellent spots to take pictures, to observe, to wonder, to meditate, to paint, and to fall in love!
What to See
ASCIANO – The 14th Century Abbey of Monteoliveto Maggiore the most important monastery in the Siena area, the 11th Century Saint Agata’s Basilica, the Gothic church of San Bernardino home to the Etruscan Museum and the late Gothic Church of Saint Francis, Piazza del Grano with its 15th Century travertine fountain by Paolo Ghini.
Weekly Market on Saturday | Asciano Crete Market – Second Sunday of every month
RAPOLANO TERME – Porta dei Tintori, Piazza del Castellare, the Romanesque Church dedicated to Saint Bartolomeo, the breathtaking view over Siena’ s tower. Weekly Market on Friday
SERRE DI RAPOLANO – The gorgeous historical center, the outstanding medieval architectural complex of Palazzo della Grangia, and its surrounding gems such as the villages of Armaiolo and Poggio Santa Cecilia, and the 12th Century Castle of Madanella.
Best Restaurants Around the Clay Hills of Siena
Da Mario | Buonconvento | Euro 25
Da Roberto Taverna in Montini | San Giovanni d’Asso | E.30
Il Conte Matto | Trequanda | Euro 35
Modanella | Modanella | Euro 35
La Pievina | 9 Via Lauretana Asciano | Euro 50
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Ciao from Rome:-)
Since 1997 Nancy Aiello Tours, based in Rome, specializes in Private Guided Vatican and Rome Tour, Siena and Tuscany wine tasting tours, and Italy Tours for the value conscious travelers and family visiting Italy with children.
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