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 SURROUNDINGS

» THE VAL D'ORCIA


PIENZA The town stands on the top of a hill which overlooks the splendid Val d'Orcia. Enea Silvio Piccolomini was born here in 1405 and when he became pope Pius II in 1458 he decided to transform his modest village into the perfect town, an admirable example of the humanistic period, and entrusted the design to Bernardo Rossellino. Piazza Pio II is intact, incorporanting the most rigorous of Renaissance perspective, and containing the cathedral and Palazzo Piccolomini. The town's main axis is corso Rossellino, lined with houses built by the nobility in the 14th century. Pienza is a mainly agricultural centre, particularly famous for its pecorino cheese. The traditional cheese show, "fiera del cacio" takes place on the first Sunday in September. The flower show "Pienza e i fiori" takes place in mid May. Also to be visited is Monticchiello, made famous by its "Teatro povero", a new play anacted each summer by the local inhabitants. The traditional cheese show, "fiera del cacio" takes place on the first Sunday in September. The flower show "Pienza e i fiori" takes place in mid May. Also to be visited is Monticchiello, made famous by its "Teatro povero", a new play anacted each summer by the local inhabitants.
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SAN QUIRICO (Bagno Vignoni) Originally an Etruscan town, it acquired importance thanks to the neighbouring Via Franchigena. Federico Barbarossa, in 1154, received the ambassador of Pope Adrian IV here and this event is recalled in the "Festa del Barbarossa", 3° Sunday of June. In 1167 it was seat of the Imperial Vicar. The Florence of Cosimo I de' Medici purchased it in 1559. The Collegiata of SS. Quirico and Giuditta is in the Romanesque style: it has three portals and one whit faces southern is attributed toGiovanni Pisano. Inside is found the polyptych of Sano di Pietro and a Chorus from 1432-1502. Palazzo Chigi is from the XVII century. The "Horti Leonini"(16 th century) are one of the first examplesof of Italia Garden style: from August to October there is an exhibition of sculpture "Forms in green". The Romanesque parish church of S. Maria Assunta was, perhaps, constructed on the remains of a pre- Cristian temple. The inside of the church of S. Francesco holds two wooden polychrome statues and a Robbia's Madonna. The area of Bagno Vignoni was known about from roman times through the benefits of the waters from its spring which gush forth at temperatures of more 50°C. and are gathered in the big basin which lies at the centre of the town and gives it its evocative appearance. There is a small sanctuary dedicated to S. Caterina from Siena situated at the side of the basin. The castle of Vignoni looks down upon the town and can be roached either by S. Quirico or by Bagno Vignoni: a natural walk which can be made on foot.
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MONTALCINO Without doubt, Montalcino lives a life of many souls. Montalcino as the birthplace of Brunello wine, whic someone once defined as the best and most renowned wine in Italy. From the height of its 564 m. the ancient town dominates the surrounding countryside, clinging to the slopes of a hill crowned by the imposing 14th-century fortress. In the labyrinth of little streets, amongst artisans'shops, small cafès and places selling typical local produce ( besides the wine, their honey and locally-made biscuits called "dead bones" are also well-known) the sights worth seeing are the fine Town Hall, the Bishp's Palace ( housing the United Civic, Diocesan and Archaeological Museums, with works by important 13th-16th century Sienese artists, such as Bartolo di Fredi, Il Sodoma, Bartolomeo Neroni), the antique Crucifix of Saint Antimus dating back to the mid-12th century, and the churches of Saint Augustine, Saint Giles and Saint Francis, all built between the 13th and 14th centuries, as well as the Sanctuary of our Lady of Succour. But it is just a little way out of town, near Castelnuovo dell'Abate in the Starcia valley that thhe heart of Montalcino spirituality is to be found:the Romanesque abbey of St.Antimus, a striking little temple enveloped in an almost magical atmosphere, founded by Charlemagne in 781. Finally, there are several castles on Montalcino land: the one worthy of mention is Poggio alle Mura, which has Longobard origins.
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CASTIGLION D'ORCIA Posto sulla sommità di una dorsale a breve distanza dalla Cassia, Castiglion d'Orcia è un centro prevalentemente agricolo ed artigianale. Raccolto ai piedi della possente rocca degli Aldobrandeschi, il paese offre angoli pittoreschi come la piazza dedicata al Vecchietta (qui nato nel 1412). Poco fuori è Rocca d'Orcia, piccolo borgo medievale costruito sulle pendici di un grande scoglio di calcare che emerge dalle argille della Val d'Orcia sulla cui sommità sorge l'oggi restaurata Rocca a Tintinnano. A sud del comune si trovano i Bagni di San Filippo, località termale le cui acque alcalino-sulfuree sgorgano a 52° da suggestive rocce di travertino. A circa 870 m.s.l.m. si trova la frazione di Vivo d'Orcia dal torrente copioso e perenne di acque che, scaturendo poco sopra, la attraversano. Altra frazione il piccolo paese di Campiglia d'Orcia posto su un promontorio calcareo. Il paese conserva i resti dell'antica rocca medievale appartenuta ai Visconti di Campiglia.
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RADICOFANI The town dominates the Val d'Orcia from a top an isolated rock, from which rise the ruins of an ancient castle. It was an important location along the border of the Roman state. The fortifications which Cosimo I ordered on account of the explosion of a powder magazine in 1735 have since been destroyed. Radicofani remains famous for the deeds of the bandit Ghino di Tacco who lived here for many years. Works in terracotta by Luca della Robbia are kept within the church of S. Pietro. The church of S. Agata in the gothic-Sienese style. The evocative Edificio della Posta from l6th century with its facade and double “loggia” is found on Via Francigena. Many illustrious men have stayed here, among them Chateaubriand, Dickens and Montaigne, this last being particularyly passionate about the Italian cousin and appreciative of the use of olive oil in the preparation of certain dishes. In his writing recalled the cordiality and hospitality of the Tuscans.
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» LA VAL DI CHIANA

San BiagioMONTEPULCIANO This is the largest Comune in the Sienese Valdichiana and contains six other villages: Abbadia di Montepulciano, Acquaviva, Gracciano, Montepulciano Stazione, S.Albino and Valiano. The poet Agnolo Ambrogini (known as "il Poliziano" from the Latin "mons Politianus") was born here. The town is said to have been founded by the Etruscan king Porsenna and exhibits impressive architecture, mainly but not only Renaissance. Michelozzo, Baldassarre Peruzzi and Vignola all worked here, as did Antonio da Sangallo il Vecchio who designed the temple of San Biagio. Apart from the wonders of the historical centre of Montepulciano the tourist would do well to visit the spa centre at S.Albino. The local economy is based on agriculture and the town is famous for its Vino Nobile. In th summer the town hosts the "Cantiere Internazionale d'arte" and in the mid-Augut holidays the "Bruscello", a traditional show spoken in rhyme, is performed on the Cathedral steps. On August 29 a wine barrel race, the "Bravìo", is run between the different contrade, or districts, of the town and there is a procession in 13th-century dress.
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CHIANCIANO This spa town, which specialises in the treatment of liver disorders, is among the most famous in Italy. The special properties of the waters of Chianciano is not far from the spa centre with its hotels, shops, treatment centres and elegant parks where the therapeutic waters emerge: "acqua Sillene" is used for balnotherapy and mud-bath treatment; acqua Sant'Elena" used for the treatment of the kidneys and urinary disorders. Both the climate and the unspoilt green areas are excellentr, holidays here are fulfilling and pleasant and dedicated to health and fitness. More than 2 million people visit Chianciano every year. Cultural attractions include the Museo Etrusco, soon to be opened, and the Museo della Collegiata. Also to be seen are the collegiate church of S.Giovanni Battista, built in 1229 and restored in 1809, the church of the Compagnia (1517), the Torre dell'Orologio with Medici crest and the church of Madonna della Rosa (1585) designed by B. Lanci.
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MONTEFOLLONICO Montefollonico (576m above sea level) is a small medieval village whose raison d'être is found in the past rivalries between the republics of Siena and Florence; in fact the village was born as a Sienese fortress, against the "Florentine" Montepulciano. The first evidence of the area being inhabited dates as far back the Neanderthal man (approx. 60,000 years ago) with the Lithic tools found in the area of "Il Tondo" (now the public garden). In the following centuries we have accounts of a territorial dispute in the year 715 for the ownership of the church Pieve di San Valentino. The history of the village as such began in the XIIIth century with the foundation of the church Pieve di S. Leonardo by the Cistercian monks from the monastery nearby, who by dedicating themselves to fulling wool gave the village its name Mons a Fullonica. After various events Montefollonico was incorporated into the Tuscan Grand Duchy in 1555.
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SINALUNGA Until 1864 the town was known as Asinalunga (long donkey) as is almost certainly of Etruscan origin. Traditionally an agricultural centre, the town today also has some industry: brickworks, pottery, furniture manifacture, light engineering and glass. The comune includes the villages of Rigaiolo, Scrofiano, Bettolle, Farnetella, Guazzino, and Rigomagno. Its numerous remains and finds also make it attractive to tourists. In the oldest part of the town we can still see the line of the medieval walls, of which some towers still remain. In the collegiate church there is a "deposition" by Girolamo del Pacchia and paintings by Benvenuto di Giovanni and Sodoma. Famous people born here include Giuseppe Stocchi, great writer, historian and man of letters, the zoologist Ezio Marchi (1869-1908), the musician Ciro Pinsuti (1828-1888), pupil of Rossini, author of the novel "Il mercante di Venezia". In 1867, in palazzo Agnolucci, Giuseppe Garibaldi was arrested by the army to prevent him from marching on Rome.
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TORRITA Located in the centre of the Valdichiana, Torrita has transformed its traditional agricultural economy into on of light industry and crafts. The earliest historical records date back to 1037. The town subsequently became a fortress defending the Republic of Siena along its southern borders. Remains of the original walls include nine foundations and three doors. The churches of S.Flora and S.Lucilla contain frescos and other valuable artistic works from the Sienese school. Here was born the famous highwayman Ghino di Tacco dei Monaceschi Pecorai and the Franciscan monk Iacopo da Torrita the restorer of mosaics. The donkey race "Palio dei Somari", takes place in March. Apart from the town itself, composed of the historical centre and a newer development, do not miss visiting Montefollonico, a village built around a former medieval castle and having remained largely intact. The walks here are particularly enjoable.
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CORTONA One of the twelve cities of the Etruscan League-substantial fragments of its primitive cyclopean defences can still be seen, incorporated in the medieval walls. Apart from a few fine Renaissance palaces, the prevailing character of Cortona's architecture is medieval, conferring on the steep narrow streets a strong sense of atmosphere. The city is commandingly situated (altitude 600 metres) and there are magnificent panoramas to every point of the compass, embracing the whole of the Val di Chiana. Prominent among many art works of various periods in the Museo dell'Accademia Etrusca are the Etruscan Chandelier known as the "lamp of Cortona", one of the most celebrated bronzes of antiquity, and the "Polyhymnia Muse", an encaustic painting of the Roman era, of Remarkable beauty. The Museo Diocesano displays works by Luca Signorelli, distinguished Renaissance painter and native of Cortona, and a much-admired "Annunciation" by Beato Angelico.
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CETONA On the eastern slopes of the mountain bearing the same name, Cetona has retained its medieval structure, whith roads, alleys and stairways all leading to the fortress which dominates it. The local economy is mainly agricultural, but tourism as also been actively developed. Many famous people from the words of economics, theatre, fashion and culture live here in their renovated country homes and villas. Whitin only 5 km of the town can be found one of the oldest settlements in central Italy, dating back 40.000 years, and today known as the Parco archeologico naturalistico di Belverde. There are 25 prehistoric caves and the largest of these Saint Francis prayed. The Museo Civico contains remains from the bronze age collected from the area around the caves. In the next village, piazze, the romanic Collegiate church contains frescos by Pinturicchio.
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CHIUSI In Etruscan times, on the southern edge of the Valdichiana, stood the town of Chamars, powerful enough, in that period, to defeat Rome. In the historical centre, with its medieval architecture as well as styles of the granduchy, remains of the Roman structure can still be seen which were built on top of yhe pre-existing etruscan town. The Museo archeologico nazionale contains excellent Etruscan finds and Greek ceramics from the contryside around Chiusi; the funeral urns and sarcophagi are particularly interesting. It is possible to visit the catacombs and Etruscan necropolises; the tomba del Leone (6th century b.C.) and the tomba della Pellegrina (5th century b.C.) are open. Definitely worth visiting are the Museo della Cattedrale and the "labirinto di Porsenna", underground water passages built by the Etruscan and including a large cistern which leads to the romanic cathedral bell tower. There are four neighbouring localities: Macciano, Montallese, Montevenere and Querce al Pino. Festivals: The festival of Santa Mustiola with its palio delle Torri and the September wine festival.
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SARTEANO A centre of ancient origins with a rich variety of tourists attractions and a particularly mild and pleasant climate which enhances the variety of springwater related activities. the old town, which dates back to the Neolithic age, is dominated by the Castle. Every year on August 15th the "Giostra del Saracino" is contested, a challenge on horseback between the five contrade or districts of the town and in which participants, using a lance, must catch a ring worn by a Saracen - the eternal enemy. The contest is preceded by the drawing of lots. Traditional dress is a feature of the event. Also worth a visit is Castiglioncello del Trinoro, a typical medieval village with a wonderful view of the valley below. Close to Sarteano, on the hill of Pietraporciana, a protected beech-wood has proved to be of special interest to the Italian botanical society. It is pleasant to eat out here in the picnic area provided.
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CASTIGLIONE DEL LAGO Etruscan times the Castiglione area, ruled by Chiusi, was primarily dedicated to the production of wheat. Around the 7th century A.D. the promontory proved to be a formidable defensive outpost for the Byzantine Duchy of Perugia against the neighbouring Longobard territory of Tuscany. Later Arezzo, Cortona and Perugia fought for the possession of Castiglione, which was finally subjected by Perugia. In the 1617 Castiglione became a duchy until 1648, when the area was taken over by the Apostolic Chamber of the Papal States. Rocca del Leone. This fortress, probably designed by Frate Elia Coppi, was built in 1247. The Pentagonal walls are sectioned off by four square and one triangular towers. Palazzo della Corgna. The 16th-century architect Jacopo Barozzi, called "Il Vignola", built this structure incorporanting the ancient houses of the formerly-powerful Baglioni family and the existing defensive walls. The covered battlements that connect the Palace to the Fortress add to the typically feudal atmosphere of the place. The Niccolò Circignani, called "il Pomarancio", began painting in 1574 in the "Hall of the Feats of Ascanio della Corgna" and continued in the "Hall of the Feats of Ascanio della Corgna" and continued in the "Hall of the Judgements of Paris" and in the "Hall of the Fall of Phaeton". He and Giovanni Antonio Pandolfi painted the "Room of the Aeneid". The bizarre decoration of the "Room of the Metamorphoses" are particularly interesting.
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CITTA' DELLA PIEVE Città della Pieve overlooks the Valdichiana and Lake Trasimeno at the border between Umbria, Tuscany and Lazio. The view extends to Cimino to the south, to the Pratomagno Mountains to the north and to the Apennine Mountains to the east. The most important Italian transportation routes pass through the valley below: the railway line, the express train between Florence and Rome and the freeway, Autostrada del Sole. The city is 43 km from Perugia, 168 km from Rome and 157 km from Florence. The city looks like it was set down on a plateau. Its high position is even more accentuated by the many bell and defense towers that testifiy to Città della Pieve’s importance in the course of history as an ecclesiastical power and as a strategic military post. The rose color of the buildings catches ones eye and is due to the locally produced bricks. The use of these bricks unites Città della Pieve to the neighboring Siena with whom strict cultural, economic and political ties developed. The historical center is still as it was at the time of the beginning of the communal government (first half of the XIII century). The wide curved streets testify to the presence of knights who went to war on their horses while the small, narrow alleyways are indicative of the peasant foot-soldiers which indicate the present of pedestrians (peasant farmers) who used crossbows. In the clashes between the two classes, the knights could escape the arrows of the peasants due to the curved streets, while the peasants sought refuge in the narrow streets where the horses could not enter. Onto this medieval urban plan was later grafted the harmony and elegance of numerous architectural periods with Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo and neo-Classical that show the vitality of the city up to recent times. There are currently about 6,700 inhabitants in the commune.
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 Strada Statale per Pienza, 31 - 53045 Montepulciano - Siena
 Tel. +39 0578 716076
 Fax +39 0578 393141
 email: info@ilgirasole.montepulciano.com