We are travelling down to the southern area of Tuscany, the Crete Senesi. We will be staying at the Podere Fornaci which is located near the town of Asciano (about 19 km from Siena). It should have a great feel, the ancient house of the agriturismo dates back to 1800.
We will travel a little south west to the Val D'Orcia to say in Radicofani
The Crete Sensi is an area of Tuscany known for its stunning landscape. There is everything from hills with woods to barren clay fields. Crete senesi means, senese clays. The clay has sediments of the ancient Pilocene Sea which covered the areas 5-4 million years ago. The Creti Senesi starts just south of Siena. Around Asciano, where we will be staying in 2017, is the area called the Deserto di Accona, the Accona Desert. This is an arid area, south of Asciano which has dry clay land formations called calanques.
Where the northern part of Tuscany has vineyards that stretch for every, in this area it is fields broken up with rows of cypress trees that line the winding roads that lead up to farm houses. The SS438 that leaves Suiena towards Leonia is a good start for a drive.
Asciano, located in the centre of the Crete Senesi between the river Ombrone and the torrent Copa, about 30 km soureast of Siena. The town has roots back to the Roman times. But, Siena purchased the city in 1285, surrounded the city with walls in 1351, and there are some 14th-century churches with paintings of the same period remaining.
Asciano is the main town in the centre of the Crete area. It has scenic historic centre. With our schedule we are going to miss the Palio dei Ciuchi, a race where the seven contradas of the village compete with donkeys in the old city stadium (second Sunday of September).
There is an 11th-century basilica (Sant'Agata). There is a 13th century campanile.
About 10 km south is the Benedictine monaster of Monte Oliveto Maggiore which was founded in 1320. The cloisters are famous for the series of frescoes that illustrate scenes of the legend of St. Benedict and these date back to 1505.
South east along narrow and meandering roads from Siena and you may find the small Borgo of Torri. Torri is not on the tourist map—which is precisely why you must go of course. Torri is famous for the cloister of the Church of the Holy Trinity, the only (I am told) example of a Romanesque cloister still standing in Tuscany. And it is stunning.
The cloister of Monastero della Santissima Trinita e Santa Mustiola a Torri has very limited hours. A ceramic plaque outside the cloister announces the Orario visite: Monday 9-12 and Friday 9-12. That’s it.
We will be staying at the Agriturismo Podere Fornaci, located near Asciano. It is located near the Monte Sante Maria area. The Podere Fornaci is located on a top of a hill and provides endless views of the valley. Located in the Monte Sante Maria area, visittuscany.com calls this area margical and notes this as an ideal biking area. From the centre of Asciano, take the road towards the cemetery, cross the Garbo Bridge and then head 7 km towards the town of Monte Sante Marie (about 7 km).
The area is a photographers dream. The numerous hills provide views over the valley that stretch for miles. The fields can be lush and green in the spring, or golden browns and grey clay in the fall. We will probably make a return visit to the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore. The Abbey was founded in 1313. The abbey holds 35 frescoes in the Great Cloister depicting the life of St. Benedict..
After a couple of days, and countless camera memory cards, we will head over to the Val D'Orcia area of Tuscany. Oh yes, lots of landscape photography on this trip!
© Glenn & Karen Marcus
my travels in Italy