Valdichiana Senese is the South East part of the Siena province. It includes 9 municipalities which had the will and the foresight of uniting themselves to promote their wonderful but, in some cases, less known territory. You will probably notice the presence of Pienza, part of the adjacent Val d’Orcia. Let’s say that it is a “friendly neighbour”, willing to be part of this positive union.
I was invited to spend some days in the area by Valdichiana Living, a company that, together with the association Strada del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano e dei Sapori della Valdichiana Senese, aims to promote the area. If you intend to visit Valdichiana Senese, I warmly suggest you to take a look at their website valdichianaliving.it. There, you will find everything you wish to know: tours, vacation ideas, accommodations, events. I particularly love the wide range of possibilities: Wine and Taste, Art and History, Sport and Nature, Spa and Wellness. I will write about this aspect in another post (coming asap).
For the time being I’m going to present the 9 villages of Valdichiana Senese, plus Pienza, in alphabetical order. For the record, two of them, Cetona and San Casciano dei Bagni are among the Borghi più belli d’Italia (most beautiful villages). While Cetona, San Casciano, Montepulciano, Pienza, Sarteani and Trequanda are awarded with the Orange Flag of the Italian Touring Club, for their excellency in tourism, hospitality and environment.
Villages to visit in Valdichiana Senese
The medieval Rocca dominates the burg from the top of the hill. You will be impressed by the huge Renaissance piazza, quite big for a small village. Overlooking the square, the shops have lovely pale blue wooden doors. The prettiest? The one of the ceramics workshop. Some slithering alleys will lead you to enjoy beautiful views of the surrounding luxuriant valley. During the 1960s, Cetona became a highly popular set among celebrities. Among them, fashion designer Valentino owns a wonderful villa here. If you want to learn more, go to my throwback post about Cetona.
2 Chianciano Terme
Mostly known for the curative properties of its thermal springs, already appreciated by the Romans, it consists of two separate parts: the modern one, Chianciano Terme, where the big hotels and the thermal structures are located, and the ancient burg, Chianciano, perched on a hill and made of narrow alleys. The waters are renowned for their depurative properties. In town there are several thermal establishments. The most famous are the Terme Sensoriali, in the Acqua Santa park, and the Theia pool, also suitable for families with children. We visite the first one. If you go and, like me, have problem of anxiety or something, please try the Inner Silence Room. You basically sit inside a egg-shaped armchair, where you feel like inside the mathernal womb. I only tried it for a minute and I didn’t want to leave.
Chiusi is mostly famous for the important Etruscan museums and findings. We visited the Civic Museum. The best part were the underground tunnels. You can take a peek to the ancient water cisterns but most of walk along 140 metres of galleries, displaying a huge collection of funerary epigraphes (300 urns and 200 tomb covers). We also visited a wonderful B&B at tea time to take a break and have merenda. It was so pretty (and the food so good) that probably I will write a post about it.
Also of Etruscan origin, Montepulciano is a lovely village perched on a hill, renowned most of all for its quality wines. Many movies were shot here. Among the others: The English Patient, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, Nostalghia. On the main piazza, piazza Grande, atop of the hill, the Palazzo Comunale and the Cathedral. Be sure to get into the small alley at the right of the Palazzo Comunale: it leads to a panoramic terrace with a view to die for.
In order to reach piazza Grande, you walk along a quaint street lined with elegant palazzi and shops of all kinds: local specialities, souvenirs, cafés and of course wine. Plus bags. I couldn’t help but buy one. Red, soft leather bag. A sure highlight is the visit to one of the historical underground wine cellars. The most famous are just next to the piazza: Cantina de’ Ricci and Cantina Contucci.
I also had the occasion to enter the Fortress and its peculiar café. Really worth a visit, but I will tell you more in the next post, dedicated to the activities in the Valdichiana area.
A lovely burg, Unesco heritage, and one of the most beloved by tourists and by directors. Here were in fact were shot scenes for: Romeo and Juliet by Zeffirelli, The English patient, The Gladiator, Under the Tuscan sun, Medici masters of Florence. Its highlights: streets with the most romantic names (kiss, love, fortune), a belvedere with a unique view, a small piazza surrounded by masterpieces of the Renaissance architecture and of course the famous pecorino cheese. You can read more on my post about Pienza.
6 San Casciano dei Bagni
San Casciano dei bagni is a little hamlet, known for its 42 thermal springs. One of the main attractions in fact is the modern and huge Fonteverde Spa Center, a little detached from the medieval burg. Stone houses and narrow alleys, it’s ideal for a quiet walk. You can read more in my post dedicated to San Casciano dei Bagni. We had a copious dinner at the Tenuta Macetona. I will simply say that I ate all the vegetables, and I almost never do that, ask my husband. 😀 I really wish I could go back with more calm!
Also perched on a hill, with a beautiful castle on top, narrow alleys and stone houses, Sarteano was not part of our tour. But I visited it in another occasion and I warmly suggest a detour. You will find all the info on my post about Sarteano.
We just stopped briefly in Sinalunga. Inside the tiny but lovely Ciro Pinsuti theatre, we attended to the presentation of the Valdichiana Senese touristic project. We then stopped for a gelato in the piazza.
9 Torrita di Siena
Torrita di Siena welcomed us during the celebrations for the Palio dei Somari, Donkeys palio. We had the chance to admire part of the show from the balcony of the Town Hall. The mayor also gave us some gifts: a bottle of craft beer, two local salami, a lovely ceramics bell (I’m using it to call my husband… as if we had a huge estate ha ha) and the drape of the town, with the 8 contrade. We then moved to Porta Gavina, where we admired the parade. Such amazing costumes! I found Torrita a lovely town, with enchanting corners. I’d love to come back!
We did not made it to Trequanda, but I will surely visit it another time. I had the chance to see it passing by and it seemed fascinating. It is known for the production of terracotta, extra virgin olive oil, bread and Chianina cattle. We in fact stopped for lunch at the agriturismo Trequanda, not far from the village. The tartare was probably the best I have ever tasted. I would gladly go back to try other local specialities!
Valdichiana Senese: How to arrive
Soon I will publish the post about things to do in this area. In the meantime I attach the map, so that you can see the position of the burgs I described.
I think a car is the easiest way to visit the area and be independent to move around. But this time I took the train and I arrived at the station of Chiusi-Chianciano. For further info, better to look at the official site page of Valdichiana Living: How to reach our region.