Valdichiana Senese is a marvellous area south east of Siena. Rich in thermal springs, luxuriant nature, genuine food and lovely villages. Valdichiana Living kindly invited me to attend a tour of the area and therefore I collected a few ideas about what to do in Valdichiana Senese. And I’m sure you will find them interesting.
What to do in Valdichiana Senese
1 Thermal baths in Chianciano Terme
The Etruscan burg dates back to the 5th century BC. Close to the springs, there was once a temple dedicated to the god of Good Health, fittingly. Nowadays the area is still very popular for its water, renowned for its liver cleansing properties. We visited the Sensory Spa at Acqua Santa (Holy Water) establishment. There you can choose among 5 different wellness packages: cleansing, energising, restoring, relaxing plus a taste room. I wish I were there right now!
2 Attend the Donkeys Palio in Torrita di Siena
The name refers to the torri, towers, that once adorned the village medieval walls. At the time, Torrita was an important bulwark of Siena against Montepulciano. The Palio dei Somari takes place every year on the Sunday that follows Saint Joseph, March 19. It was instituted in 1966 to celebrate San Giuseppe, saint patron of woodworkers, being the woodwork the main activity of the burg. The donkey is a symbol for the humble and tireless worker. On the day of the palio, after the mass and the exhibition of flag wavers, a parade rejoices the town streets. The clou of the day is of course the donkey race and the obtainment of the palio. 8 contrade join the competition. I had the chance to attend the exhibition and the parade and it was awesome. I rellay like this kind of events.
Other interesting events in the area are: Bravio delle botti in Montepulciano (end of August), Fiera del Cacio in Pienza (beginning of September), Palio di San Cassiano in San Casciano dei Bagni (mid August), Festa dell’Uva in Chiusi (last week of September).
3 Fiorentina tasting at a Chianina cows breeding farm
Chianina is one of the oldest and biggest Italian breeds of cattle. We visited the Azienda Agricola Trequanda. The cows, completely white and quite bigger than the ones I saw on other occasions, are in fact the biggest in the world. Their meat is very renowned. The popular Bistecca alla Fiorentina is produced precisely from this meat. One of the reasons for the quality is that cows and young cattle graze freely during the warm season. I tasted the tartare at the agriturismo and it was divine.
Other than Chianina meat, you have to taste Pecorino cheese in different versions, cold cuts and bruschetta with extra virgin olive oil and/or tomatoes.
4 Learn more about the Etruscan mystery in Chiusi
Chiusi is a small town, full of Etruscan testimonies. One of the most famous relics is the so called Labyrinth of king Porsenna, actually a rainwater recovery system. It’s a series of tunnels, which largely run under the Cathedral. It is in fact accessible with the visit of the Cathedral Museum.
According to a legend, somewhere under the village lies the tomb of king Porsenna. A sarcophagus guarded in a golden chariot, drawn by twelve golden horses and watched over by a golden hen and 5.000 thousand golden chicks. Still no trace of it though.
Very important is also the National Archaeological Etruscan Museum, where you can admire many precious relics and also visit a couple of tombs. We visited the Civic museum and the underground tunnels, displaying the biggest Italian collection of Etruscan funerary relics. Very impressive!
5 Visit to a monumental wine cellar with tasting of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG
The vino nobile di Montepulciano is one of the most ancient red wines in Italy, firstly quoted in a 789 AD document. It must undergo a maturation period of at last 2 years. This precious ruby red nectar is only produced in the hilly areas between 250 and 600 meters above the sea level of the municipality of Montepulciano.
I was impressed by the visit to Cantina de’ Ricci. A few steps away from the Piazza Grande, you enter a huge portal. At first, enjoy the view from the terrace overlooking the surrounding hills. Amazing.
Then, enter the door. You start going down and down a quite steep staircase. And you end up in the cellar. A cave, where also dinosaur and Etruscan relics were found, nestled in the rock, surround the precious, giant barrels. Just to give you an idea of the size, look at the picture of me with the barrel. I’m 1.75 m tall. Ath the end of the tour, you end up at the tasting room. From there you go out in a rear street.
Soon after, we decided to visit another wine cellar, Cantina Contucci, on the other side of the piazza Grande. The cellar is less impressive, but we met the real attraction of the place, il signor Adamo. He is the old owner. Kind with everyone, he has a thing for women. In fact he caressed and paid a compliment to each one of the ladies of my group, saying: Bella, bellissima. After recalling his trip to Padua, he asked me if I was married and then he wanted at least to give me a kiss on the cheek. Other than mr Adamo, another amazing feature of this place is a sign on the wall commemorating 1.000 years of activity (1008 – 2008).
6 Have a wine/oil/cheese tasting at the Enoliteca del Consorzio del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
On top of the town of Montepulciano, inside the Fortress, there’s the most charming café, just past the interior courtyard. The room behind the entrance counter has transparent floor tiles: through them, you can therefore take a peek to the Etruscan excavations while tasting Montepulciano wines, cheeses and extra virgin olive oil. Very suggestive.
If weather permits, you can also sit on the outside terrace, overlooking the gorgeous landscape around Montepulciano. I think it is really worth a stop. (Open from Monday to Sunday 11 am – 7 pm).
7 Hop on the electric power mini-bus in Montepulciano
Provided with audio guide in 8 languages (Italian, English, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Portuguese), it hosts up to 16 people and leads you from the main piazza on top of Montepulciano back to the same spot after a tour of the town. It’s an hop-on/off kind of tour. If you want to reach some panoramic points, hear the story of the city and reach the little detached San Biagio church, you can definitely try it. More info at www.montepulcianocitytour.it
8 Sleep in a former Abbey
Abbazia di Spineto dates back to the 11th century. After a restoration in 1989, it has become a place for vacations and events. Close to the burg of Sarteano, it is surrounded by 800 hectares of land (including a natural lake), it offers charming rooms in the main building, but you can also rent one of the casali (farmhouses). For the record, each has its pool. The Abbey also hosts weddings and ceremonies. You have to know that this is not a super luxury accommodation. The place is kept so that the original, peaceful, out of the world atmosphere is kept alive. A place where to rest, be in contact with nature, away from the stress of the city. About that, we had the chance to spot some roe deers and a fox. Lovely encounters.
9 Book one of the original experiences of Valdichiana Living
Valdichiana Living staff organize a lot of different and interesting activities.
- Wine and Taste: dinner in the vineyards, tour of the cellars, Pienza pecorino tour, gourmet tour
- Art and History: movies set tour, crafts shops tour, photo safari, vespa tours
- Sport and Nature: archery in the woods, horseback riding, bike tours
- SPA and Wellness: SPA and romantic dinner, Dolce vita tour: sensory SPA and vintage car tour, Water and wine tour.
Other than these ideas about what to do in Valdichiana Senese, there are many more tours and experiences on their website. See all the different options at valdichianaliving.it/tours
This post is the result of a collaboration between me and Valdichiana Living. Opinions are entirely my own.