Guide to: Crete Senesi and Val d'Orcia
Absolutely recommended is a small hike in the “Crete Senesi” which owe their name to a mixture of clay, rock salt and gypsum in the soil (which indicate that up to about 2.5 million years ago - in the Pleistocene - this territory was covered by sea).
Often the breathtaking landscape of the "Crete Senesi" is described as "Lunar" for the high prevalence of colors such as gray - blue. The "Crete Senesi" are located south of Siena and include the municipalities of Asciano, Buonconvento, Monteroni d'Arbia, Rapolano Terme (where there are two very beautiful spas and a beautiful “Parco Avventura” for seniors and youngs), San Giovanni d'Asso and Trequanda. Starting from Bucine, towards Siena up to "Colonna del Grillo" from there turn left towards Rapolano Terme Asciano, San Giovanni d'Asso.
2 km on the right (half way) it is a must visit Monte Oliveto with its magnificent and monumental “Abbazia Territoriale di Monte Oliveto Maggiore”, founded in 1313 by San Bernardo Tolomei. The large outbuildings landholdings to Abbey contributed to giving Monte Oliveto a very important role in the organization of the agricultural land of the Crete. From San Giovanni d'Asso (land of truffles), continue for Torrenieri and then for Montalcino.
Montalcino, the territory of one of the most famous Tuscan wines: “Il Brunello”, it’s a stunning ninth-century little town with “Palazzo del Duomo” which original structure was built in the eleventh century. From Montalcino is interesting to go 12 km toward Grosseto to Sant'Angelo Scalo, where on the right you will find the way to reach the “Fattoria Villa Banfi” that resides in an ancient castle and its Wine Shop is one of the most beautiful of Italy.
Coming back from “Villa Banfi” it’s possible to head to Bagno Vignoni, ancient papal summer residence where there are two spas of sulphurous water constantly at 34° degrees. It’s interesting to visit the spas especially in spring and autumn when generally the pools are not useable.
Of great beauty and not to be missed are the “Abbazia di Sant’Antimo” (built from 352 - year of the death of Sant'Antimo from Arezzo - and then expanded over time up to the present form in the twelfth century. A masterly example of "Romanesque style"), inside this Abbey is still possible to hear Gregorian chants by French monks and the “Castello di Bibbiano” IX century. Going back proceed to Sinalunga, whose old town is pretty and take the Siena - Bettolle towards Siena and if the time available is sufficient up to Buonconvento. The hamlet is small but really nice. It dates back to 1313 and represents the center of the "Crete" for importance and beauty. Numerous churches can be visited: "Chiesa dei Santi Pietro e Paolo" (X century), "Oratorio dell'Arciconfraternita della Misericordia" (XV century), "Chiesa di San Bartolomeo" (XIII century), "Chiesa di San Lorenzo a Percenna" (Dating from before the tenth century and built over the ruins of a Pagan temple), "Pieve di Sant'Innocenza a Piana" (X century), and "Cappella di Sant'Antonio" (XVII century).
Keep going until Montepulciano, known to the world for the production of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG. This little town is rich in history and art. Born in the Etruscan period has since developed over the centuries and still retains an unique charm. Also visit the "Terme di Montepulciano" known for their healing properties. After Sant'Antimo it’s recommend a visit to Pienza (City of Utopia), a medieval village of rare beauty, whose square at dusk presents a breathtaking spectacle, enough to be likened to a “Living Room”. Pienza is also included in “Città decorate al Valor Militare per la Guerra di Liberazione”, and awarded with “Medaglia d'Argento al Valor Militare” for the sacrifice of its population and for its activities in the partisan struggle during the Second War World. To return to Bucine reach Bettolle and take the freeway Siena - Bettolle (SS 75) towards Siena and turn right at Colonna Del Grillo.