TOU RUOTTOUR UOT

of

CENTRAL
ITALY

TUSCANY

Designed by GZ

Compiled by Giorgio Zanetti (Links checked Feb, 2010)

*** PART 2 - SOUTHERN TUSCANY & SIENA ***
PHOTO ALBUM by Giorgio Zanetti OLD WATER COLOURS & PRINTS
ABBADIA SAN SALVATORE PARCO DELLA MAREMMA VAL D'ORCIA S. FIORA PIENZA S. GIMIGNANO VOLTERRA SIENA
PART 1: NORTHERN LAZIO * * * PART 3: UMBRIA * * * PART 4: ABRUZZO
* * * PART 5: LAZIO - CASTELLI ROMANI

HOME PAGE

INTRODUCTION:

Described in the following pages is a tour of Central Italy that my family and I undertook in the summer of 1989.
We arrived at Fiumicino airport, near Rome, on June 17 and departed from the same airport on July 16. After picking up a pre-booked rental car at the airport, we followed a broadly pre-outlined itinerary and, as we progressed on our journey, decided when and where to go next .

We will be visiting about two dozen locations during this tour and I will be adding them at different stages.

The towns with a

coral background

are towns where we stayed one or more nights.


FIND THESE PLACES with:

GOOGLE

MICHELIN

WHERE

DESCRIPTION

ABBADIA SAN SALVATORE

(825 m. asl)

Tourist Office: Via Mentana 97
Phone:0577-779013

We stayed at: HOTEL ADRIANA

See list of accommodation in Abbadia S. Salvatore

From Bolsena we take highway no. 2 north bound and after 50 Km. arrive in Abbadia San Salvatore. This small town, an ancient seat of a powerful abbey (X c.) , is situated on the east slope of the extinct volcano Amiata (1,738 m. asl). The area is rich in deposits of mercury mined since the Etruscan times.

. THINGS TO SEE IN ABBADIA S. SALVATORE

* Of considerable interest is the abbey, once the richest abbey in Tuscany, founded as a Benedectine monastery in 743 by Rachis from Lombardy.
The two-towered fašade (the right hand one only half) belongs to the Romanesque style (1036 A.D.)
The single-aisle interior is in the shape of a Latin cross with raised presbitery, has a XII c. wooden cross and XV c. choir stalls with inlaid work.
Perhaps the oldest part of the church (VIII c. pre-Romanesque) is the crypt which has a nave, twelve aisles and 36 columns variously decorated.

* Also worth seeing is the Borgo a castle built in trachyte in the center of the medieval town.

. HIKING ON MONTE AMIATA

There are many hiking possibilities on Monte Amiata; during our visit we did a short one to the top of Monte Amiata.

* The following trail varies between 1,050 meters and 1,250 meters above sea level.
* The total distance is 28 Km. divided in three sections.
* Section 1: Laghetto Verde - Fonte delle Monache; 6.1 Km., 3 hrs.
* Section 2: Fonte delle Monache - Madonna del Camicione; 10.1 Km, 4:50 hrs.
* Section 3: Madonna del Camicione - Laghetto Verde; 14.1 Km. , 6:45 hrs.

TOWNS LIST

PARCO NATURALE DELLA MAREMMA

"Parco dell 'Uccellina"

Grosseto by Bill Thayer

The park, established by the region of Tuscany in 1975, is situated on the coast where the beautiful Monti dell' Uccellina are bordering the Tyrrhenean sea.

The park is about 93 Km. from Abbadia San Salvatore.

During the summer period (15 June - 30 September) the visits to the park are only permitted with a guide (fire safety regulations) and there is a maximum daily number of visitors allowed in. Spring is perhaps the best time of the year to visit this beautiful park in order to admire the flowers and appreciate the various fresh scents of the wild mediterrenian flora.

The park is strictly regulated and access by the sea is forbidden.
Before you go, check for the latest information and tours timetable (see links below). When we went, not knowing anything about these strict rules, had to wait a few hours in order to at least go on the late afternoon tour; we spent the free time at the nice beach not far from Albarese, and it was time well spent.

Take water with you for there is none available in the park! We did the "Trails of the towers" in late afternoon, but it was still very hot!!

. TRAILS IN THE MAREMMA PARK

The following paid walks are done with a guide.

1) Trail of San Rabano (A 1): the bus, with a capacity of 45 people, leaves Albarese at 7:35 (only one tour a day) and takes you to the beginning of the trail at Patrini; if there are more visitors each group will leave at 25 minutes interval to a maximum of 140 visitors. Distance and time on the trail: 6.5 Km, 5 hrs; this is a demanding trail with lots of ups and downs but you will be rewarded by great vistas and by the magnificent ruins of the abbey of San Rabano built in the XI century.

2) Trail of the Towers (A 2): same rules apply here with the bus and number of visitors, but for this one the bus leaves Albarese at 8:35 and again in the afternoon at 16:35. Distance and time on the trail: 5.5 Km., 3 hrs. This is a relatively easier hike with beautiful vistas; from this trail you will be able to see almost all of the seven medieval towers that were built in order to keep a watchful eye for the approaching marauding Saracens, and have the opportunity to linger on the solitary and stunnig beach.

TOWNS LIST
VAL D' ORCIA The following one day tour took us through lovely places.

. THINGS TO SEE IN CASTIGLIONE D'ORCIA

The lofty Castiglione d' Orcia (Italian link) (540 m. asl) is 23 Km. north of Abbadia S. Salvatore.

* The town's fortifications are still in excellent condition and so is the medieval urban fabric (XV c. houses).

* A chapel in the parish church has a Madonna and Child painted by P. Lorenzetti.

* Piazza Vecchietta with its XVII c. cistern and unusual paving of bricks and river pebbles.

* Aldobrandeschi Castle.

. THINGS TO SEE IN S. QUIRICO D'ORCIA

The walled town of S. Quirico d'Orcia (409 m. asl) 7 Km. north of Castiglione d'Orcia, it was originally settled by the Etruscan.

* The handsome Collegiate church was built in travertine in the late XII c. The portals are the most impressive part of the church: the oldest is on the west front; the one on the right transept bears the date 1298, and the specially fine third one, on the right aisle, is supported by two giants.

* 6 Km. to the south west of S. Quirico d'Orcia we find the picturesque medieval village of Rocca d'Orcia with a ruined tower.

VAL D'ORCIA by GLOBOPIX

TOWNS LIST
S. FIORA

(687 m. asl)

This sunny medieval town, surrounded by woods of old chestnut trees, stands picturesquely on high craggy rocks overlooking the Val Fiora 18 Km. south west of Abbadia S. Salvatore.

. THINGS TO SEE IN S. FIORA

* The Romanesque church of Santa Fiora, with an elegant Renaissance portal, displays very fine terra-cottas by Andrea della Robbia (XV and XVI c.)

"PICCOLO MONDO - GRANDE MONDO" fatto singolare accaduto a S. Fiora durante la nostra visita.

* In the church of S. Agostino there is a XV c. Madonna and Child (school of Jacopo della Quercia) and a XV-XVI c. wooden crucifix.

* The Palazzo Cesarini-Sforza (XVII c.), a battlemented clock tower and the medieval castle hamlet.

* In the lower town there is the Peschiera an attractive little lake fed by the spring waters of the river Fiora, surrounded by a garden which was created in the XVIII c.

TOWNS LIST
PIENZA

(491 m. asl)

When we left Abbadia S. Salvatore, on our way to S. Gimignano our next stop over, we had to go and visit the small but picturesque Pienza, about 40 Km. north of Abbadia S. Salvatore.
Originally known as Corsignano it was subsequently named the "Town of Pius" or Pienza after Pope Pius II (Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini) who was born here in 1405, and adorned the town with very handsome buildings. All of these buildings were built in the astonishingly short period of three years and were designed chiefly by Bernardo Rossellino, the most famous Florentine architect of the period.

We found Pienza to be a very pleasant and clean little town. The sweet scent of the linden trees in bloom welcomed us as we arrived. And I still remember having a very pleasant conversation with a young shoemaker, just outside his little shop, when his mother called him for lunch.

. THINGS TO SEE IN PIENZA

* The cathedral of S. Maria Assunta, built in 1459-1462, with its Renaissance fašade of travertine articulated by two orders of pilasters standing on tall pedestals, with columns on the side. The interior, full of light, has a nave and two aisles all of the same height (hall style).

* The Palazzo Piccolomini, just beside the cathedral and to the right, is a two storied building built in 1460-2 on an almost square ground plan. This palazzo is Rossellino masterpiece and it was probably model on the Palazzo Rucellai in Florence, which was designed by Alberti, Rossellino's teacher. The building exhibits the rustica style in combinations with pilasters, and a handsome court surrounded by beautiful arcades with Corinthian capitals.

* The Palazzo Vescovile, to the left of the cathedral, is the bishop's palace built by Rodrigo Borgia, the future Pope Alexander VI and the father of Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia.

* The Palazzo Comunale, opposite the cathedral, built of travertine in 1463, has an open colonnaded loggia on the ground floor with above double windows with round arches and a tower crowned with double battlements. This building was restored in about th turn of the 1900.

* The museo Diocesano, was closed when we were there, is situated behind the Palazzo Vescovile and it was founded in 1901. It includes paintings of the Sienese school, 16th c. Flemish tapestries along with Etruscan and Roman finds from the immediate vicinity.

PIENZA by GLOBOPIX

From Pienza we backtrack onto SS2 and then proceed northbound towards Buonconvento where we make another detour to go and see the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore, 34 Km. from Pienza.

The brick-red abbey was founded in 1320 by Bernardo Tolomei of Siena.

. THINGS TO SEE IN
ABBAZZIA di MONTE OLIVETO MAGGIORE

* On both sides of the battlements of the gate-tower there are glazed terracottas groups by A. della Robbia (1393).

* The red-brick complex of buildings (14-18 c.), located in the middle of a large park on a chalk-soil slope, makes a great impression. A route leads down to the domed church (1400-17) where the Gothic portal and the Romanesque-Gothic campanile date from the first phase of construction. The reading desk and the choir stalls are the work of Fra Giovanni da Verona (1503-05).

The frescos of Christ bearing the Cross and the Scourging of Christ in the passage leading to the church are by G. Bazzi, known as the Sodoma (1477-1549). he also painted 27 of the 36 well-known frescos of scenes from the life of St. Benedict in the large cloister. The other frescos were painted by L. Signorelli in 1497-8.

In the pharmacy there is a collection of vessels from the 15-17 c.

ABBAZIA MONTE OLIVETO MAGGIORE - by GLOBOPIX

TOWNS LIST
SAN GIMIGNANO

(332 m. asl)

We stayed at: CONVENTO di SANT'AGOSTINO

We had an excellent dinner at: "DA PODE"restaurant just 2 Km. south east of San Gimignano.
Try the excellent local white wine Vernaccia di San Gimignano.

After leaving the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore we headed towards San Gimignano (76 Km. away), bypassing Siena, which we will visit later.

We arrived in San Gimignano in the afternoon and took a chance by seeking accommodation at the Convent of S. Agostino as suggested by the guide LET'S GO ITALY, 1989. Notwithstanding the presence of a large group of students from Germany staying at the convent, we were lucky enough to find two separate spartan but confortable small rooms (cell?): one for me and the other with two beds for my wife and daughter; theirs had a great view overlooking the hills. They had roomy common shower with lots of hot water.

The view approaching this gem of a town is rather spectacular. It stands on a ridge which emphasizes the profile of all its 15 medieval towers still standing with the whole surrounded by ramparts; that is the reason why it is often refer to as the "town of beautiful towers". Originally there were 72!

The 1909 Baedeker's Central Italy suggests that "Perhaps no other town in Tuscany presents so faithful a picture of Dante's time".

Visitors canNOT park their car within the town walls (can enter only to unload the suitcases at the hotel), so we parked at the north east parking lot on via Bagnaia, not far from the Convent of S. Agostino.

. THINGS TO SEE IN SAN GIMIGNANO

*In the piazza de Duomo there is the Gothic Palazzo del Popolo which was erected in 1288-1323 on a design by Arnolfo di Cambio. The adjacentTorre Grossa built in 1310, is the tallest of them all (some 53 m.) and the only one that can be ascended, rewarding the adventurous with a grand vista. The Palazzo also houses the Civic Museum which displays amongst others, important works by Filippo Lippi and Benozzo Gozzoli.

* The Cathedral, dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin, was originally built in a Romanesque style with a plain fašade in 1239 rising above a tall external staircase. It contains frescoes of the 14-15 centuries.

* The Palazzo del PodestÓ, opposite the cathedral, with its ochre brick built tower ??? m. high, is also known as Rognosa (the scabby one) and was built in 1239. On the ground floor there is an open loggia with beautiful stone seats for the members of the town council.

* The Piazza della Cisterna is surrounded by palazzi, towers and family houses of the 13-14 centuries, is name after the well with an exagonal base which dates from the 1346. The piazza is particularly fascinating at night.

* The picturesque S. Matteo street with its medieval buildings and towers runs from the cathedral piazza to the Porta (gate) S. Matteo, built in the Sienese style in the 13th century.

* The church of S. Agostino, with its single-aisle, three apses, a slender campanile and an open roof truss, was built in Romanesque-early Gothic style from 1280-98. Benozzo Gozzoli painted many of the frescoes including the famous 17 scenes from the life of St. Augustine.

* Outside the Porta delle Fonti we can admire the large well house, originally the place for public washing; it has ten arches supported by columns and pillars. The round arches are from the 12 c. and the tall pointed arches are from the 14 c.

* The remains (central tower and parts of the walls) of the Rocca, above and to the west of the cathedral, was built in 1353 at the highest point of the town and was razed in 1558 on the orders of Cosimo I. From the tower there is a magnificent view of the town and the Elsa valley.

* San Gimignano was also home of the oldest hospitals in the world. At Una Farmacia Preindustriale in Val d'Elsa (A Pre-Industrial Pharmacy in the Elsa valley), situated in the church of S. Lorenzo in via del Castello below piazza della Cisterna, one can examine the pharmaceutical instruments and medicinal jugs of the Hospital and Pharmacy of Santa Fina (1253).

S. GIMIGNANO by GLOBOPIX

TOWNS LIST
VOLTERRA

(531 m. asl)

From San Gimignano we drove to Volterra, 30 Km. to the west. This Etruscan (Velathri) and medieval town is spectacularly situated on a hilltop; it is also renowned for its alabaster working.

. THINGS TO SEE IN VOLTERRA

* The Cathedral, behind the Palazzo dei Priori, was consecrated in 1120 by Pope Calixtus IIand enlarged in 1254 by Niccol˛ Pisano. It contains some fascinating Romanesque sculptures and paintings by Guglielmo Pisano, in additions to the strange and haunting capitals sculpted by Bonamico Pisano (Ref. 7)

* The octagonal Baptistery, opposite the cathedral, was built in 1283, has a 16th c. dome and inside the fine arch of the high altar by Balsinelli da Settignano (16th c.) and the octagonal font by Andrea Sansovino (1502).

* The Palazzo dei Priori (1208-54) is the oldest building of its kind in Tuscany and stands in one of the most beautiful squares in Italy.

* The Palazzo Pretorio includes several palazzi which were joined together in the 13th c.

* The Fortezza Medicea (Citadel) is an imposing Florentine stronghold, built on the highest hill of Volterra.

* At the Arco Etrusco or Porta dell'Arco are the remains of a gate from the Etruscan city wall (3rd c. B.C.) which include three posts built of ashlars and three well-weathered heads.

* Not to be missed is the famous Museo Etrusco Guarnacci founded in 1761 by Mario Guarnacci, with over 600 cinerary urns; vases with red or black figures; bronze statuettes, many with excessively long figures, including the well known "Ombra della Sera" (the Shadow of Evening) wich is 60 cm. in height.

VOLTERRA by GLOBOPIX

TOWNS LIST
SIENA

(322 m. asl)

San Gimignano was as far north as we went. Now was time to loop back and head south towards Umbria and Abruzzo.
And so we left San Gimignano headed for Siena, 40 Km. south east, and then continue further still.

We stopped in Siena for just over half a day, just enough to visit the main sites. On that particular day it was very crowded all over. After the visit we drove towards Trasimeno lake, 80 Km. east south/east.

Siena, the ancient Saena, is said to have been found by Senus, son of Remus, the brother of Romulus founder of Rome.

Siena was built on three hills linked together in a Y shape and has well preserved its medieval appearance with old squares and narrow, steep streets and alleys.
This list of things to see is but a partial one, for there are many, many things to see in Siena.

. THINGS TO SEE IN SIENA

* Piazza del Campo is a beautiful shell-shape, salmon-colored brick square situated at the centre of Siena where the three hills meet. This square is also simply called il Campo and it is regarded amongst the most beautiful in the world with its fan-like shape form cleverly fitting the natural slope of the ground.

It is surrounded by magnificent palazzi such as the curved Sansedoni, all blending in with their architectural harmony.
The interior is embellished with numerous frescoes of the Sienese school such as Sodoma , Simone Martini and Lorenzetti.

* The Palazzo Pubblico is a huge four-storied building built of brick and travertine in 1289-1305.
Adjacent and on the left corner of the building rises the slender Torre del Mangia (88 m. high), one of the "noblest towers in Italy"; erected in 1338-45 by the brothers Minuccio and Francesco di Rinaldo of Perugia. It was named after the bell-ringer nicknamed "Mangia Guadagni" (squanderer) which used to strike the hours till 1780. We climbed all the way up the steep and narrow staircase (with 412 steps) and once at the top (magnificent view) my daughter had enough energy to continue to the top of the platform underneath the bell just when 12 noon strucked (ouch!!!).

* The Cathedral of S. Maria occupies the highest ground in the town and it is said to stand on the site of a temple of Minerva. The present building, "one of the most brilliant works of Italian art", was begun in 1229; in 1259 it was completed as far as the choir; by 1264 the dome had been added; and about 1317 the choir (which terminates in a straight line) was prolonged to the east over the baptistery of S. Giovanni. Due to structural defects, the city decided in 1322 to erect a magnificent new building and in 1340 Lando di Pietro began construction of a huge nave to which the present church was to be the transept. After the plague of 1348 the ambitious plan was abandoned and the old cathedral was finally completed in 1382; the remains of the original structure are still visible on the east side.
The fašade, completed in 1380, is composed of red, black, and white marble, and, imitating the cathedral of Orvieto, has three gables and in the center a large rose-window.

The interior offers a splendid and unique marble floor worked on by different eminent artists. In the left aisle is the celebrated Libreria Piccolomini housing elaborately illustrated books.

SIENA by GLOBOPIX

TOWNS LIST

SASSO SASSO SASSO

The above data was gleaned from the following sources:

(1) Italy: a Phaidon Cultural Guide; Prentice-Hall, Inc. NJ - 1985
(2) Muirheads's Southern Italy; Blue Guides, Italian Touring Club, Macmillan, London - 1925
(3) Beadeker's Central Italy; Karl Beadeker Pub., Leipzig - 1909
(4) Northen Lazio An Unknown Italy; Wayland Kennet & Elizabeth Young, Butler and Tanner Ltd., London - 1990
(5) A Piedi nel Lazio di Stefano Ardito (vol. 2); Edizioni Iter - 1987
(6) Let's Go - The Budget Guide to Italy; 1989, Harvard Students Agencies Inc., St. Martin's Press N. Y.
(7) Various tourist brochures.

SEND YOUR COMMENTS PLEASE GO TO MY HOME PAGE FOR THE E-MAIL ADDRESS

Copyright © 2000 G. Z.