Discover Monte San Savino, the homeland of the porchetta
Monte San Savino is a town in the province of Arezzo located on the western side of the Val di Chiana. It is a small and charming hilltop village which enjoys a beautiful position in a landscape characterized by a rich presence of olive trees. Home of the famous sculptor and architect Andrea Sansovino, Monte San Savino is appreciated for the beauty of its historic center and for its remarkable culinary tradition. The city is in fact famous for its porchetta, a real queen of the table in these parts.
Archaeological findings tell us that Monte San Savino has very ancient origins. The first to settle here were the Etruscans in the 4th century BC, then the Romans arrived and occupied what is called the Area Alta. Between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, Monte San Savino was repeatedly involved in the wars between the Guelphs and Ghibellines. On the basis of the alternating fortunes of the two factions, the village found itself under the control of one and the other, passing from time to time to the various regional powers of the area, namely Arezzo, Florence, Perugia and Siena.
The Renaissance coincided with the heyday of the center. Starting from the 15th century, Monte San Savino enjoyed relative tranquility and saw the powerful Ciocchi-Di Monte family assert itself. In this period the village was enriched with beautiful architecture and saw the birth of some of its most illustrious children, including several artists such as the aforementioned Andrea Sansovino.
Things to do in Monte San Savino
The historic center of Monte San Savino is full of monuments and buildings from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The main ones are the Cassero, the church of Santa Chiara, the Palazzo di Monte with the hanging gardens and the cistern, the Logge dei Mercanti, the Palazzo Pretorio, the Pieve and the church of Sant’Agostino.
The visit to Monte San Savino is a “linear” visit, in fact the town is centered on a main street, Corso Sangallo, along which we find all the main reasons of interest for the visit.
The tour can only start by crossing one of the gates that open into the city walls. The two main ones, which give access to Corso Sangallo, are Porta Fiorentina (to the north) and Porta Romana (to the south). We will start from the north door in front of which we find parking and also a bus stop.
- Museo del Cassero
- Chiesa di Santa Chiara
- Palazzo di Monte
- Logge dei Mercanti
- Palazzo Pretorio
- Chiesa di Sant’Agostino
Museo del Cassero
The Cassero is located in Piazza Gamurrini, not far from the Porta Fiorentina. The castle of Monte San Savino was built by the Sienese between 1382 and 1384. Of the keep, now incorporated among other buildings, you can only admire the facade with the beautiful Gothic portal and the coat of arms with the Florentine lily. The well-preserved interior houses the Museo del Cassero di Monte San Savino. The museum is dedicated to the ancient ceramic artisan tradition of the village and exhibits various artifacts produced in various eras starting from the Middle Ages and up to the present day. Inside the museum there is also a beautiful fourteenth-century wooden crucifix from the Sienese school and the finds from the excavations of the Cassero.
For information on opening hours, I refer you to the Monteservizi website.
Chiesa di Santa Chiara
Also in Piazza Gamurrini, on the left looking at the Cassero, the Church of Santa Chiara is also worth a visit. Built around the mid-seventeenth century, the church has a very simple facade with an elegant entrance portal. Inside there are some truly remarkable works. On the side walls we have two terracotta altarpieces, San Lorenzo between Rocco and Sebastiano (on the right) and Madonna in Glory with Child and Saints (on the left) by Andrea Sansovino. On the right we also find a Nativity of the Della Robbia school and the statue with Sant’Antonio abate is also due to the same school. Finally, the canvas of the main altar, which depicts The Presentation in the Temple between Saints Nicola, Savino and Chiara, is by Salvi Castellucci.
At the end of the square, I also point out the Palazzo Galletti, which is considered the first Renaissance building of Monte San Savino.
Palazzo di Monte
The magnificent Palazzo di Monte (now the town hall) was built between 1515 and 1517. Behind the construction of the palace is one of the prominent figures in the history of the city, the powerful Cardinal Antonio del Monte. In fact, it was he who commissioned the great Florentine architect Antonio da Sangallo the Elder to build a large building right in the center of the village.
The building has two floors with a beautiful facade covered in ashlar stone on the ground floor while the first floor is characterized by large windows with triangular and curved pediments. In the center of the complex there is a beautiful courtyard around which runs an arched loggia.
The rear part, which overlooks the splendid hanging gardens of Monte San Savino, is also of great impact. These were made by Nanni di Baccio Bigio commissioned by Giovanni Maria di Monte, nephew of Cardinal Antonio. The gardens are developed on three levels and slope down from the palace to the city walls.
Inside the palace there are several very beautiful rooms, including the Council Chamber where a precious carved door, made by Fra’ Giovanni da Verona, is preserved.
The last thing you need to see here is the Cisternone. As the name implies, it is a large cistern, of about 400 square meters, which is located below the building. It was built between the end of the sixteenth century and the beginning of the seventeenth century to guarantee the irrigation of the hanging gardens.
Logge dei Mercanti
The beautiful Logge dei Mercanti of Monte San Savino are located along the main street, right in front of the Palazzo Comunale. Once they were attributed to Sansovino, but today experts seem to agree that the loggias were built by Nanni di Baccio Bigio, as already indicated by Vasari. The structure dates back to the sixteenth century and consists of a loggia and the building to which it is attached. The loggia has five arches supported by beautiful fluted columns with Corinthian capitals. By observing them carefully you will notice different architectural elements that contribute to creating a very harmonious and elegant whole.
The Pieve Vecchia of Monte San Savino is located a stone’s throw from the Town Hall. Also known as Chiesa della Misericordia, the parish was founded in the 12th century but was completely renovated during the 18th century. The exterior has an irregular exposed wall face that suggests how many interventions have been made over the centuries on the church; the interior, on the other hand, is the result of the final restructuring that led the church to take on Baroque forms.
Palazzo Pretorio amd Torre Civica
Built at the time of the Perugian domination (XIV century), the Palazzo Pretorio has in its tower, the Civic Tower, its most interesting element. The tower, 30 meters high, was part of the defensive system of the city. Today it can be visited and from its top you can enjoy the kind of panorama that you will surely appreciate. In fact, from up there you can enjoy a great view of the historic center of Monte San Savino and the whole surrounding area.
Chiesa di Sant’Agostino
Continuing along the main street, just beyond the Civic Tower, you reach Piazza di Monte where we find the Chiesa di Sant’Agostino. This elegant church was built by the Augustinians in the fourteenth century but the current church is the result of successive extensions that took place during the sixteenth century and in the eighteenth century. Inside there are some interesting frescoes and canvases including an Assumption of the Virgin by Giorgio Vasari (1539).
What to visit near Monte San Savino
Castello di Gargonza
The Castle of Gargonza is located in a fantastic place, on a hill completely immersed in the green of the woods, from which it dominates and controls the whole surrounding area. The castle has been documented since the 13th century. Widely involved in the struggles between Guelphs and Ghibellines, it was besieged several times by the Florentines who, in 1433, after a revolt razed the village to the ground, leaving only the central tower standing. The village was inhabited for a long time but during the twentieth century it went against a progressive depopulation so, in the second half of the century it was subjected to a restoration and converted into a hotel. Inside the village there is also the small Chiesa dei Santi Tiburzio e Susanna. The church has thirteenth-century origins but was rebuilt in the twentieth century. Inside there is a fresco of the Arezzo school, the Virgin between Saints Anthony the Abbot and Bernardo.
Santuario di Santa Maria delle Vertighe
The Sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Vertighe dates back to the mid-fifteenth century. Inside the church you can see several works including the Madonna di Vertighe and four stories of the Virgin, by Margarito and Ristoro d’Arezzo, the diptych San Savino and San Romualdo by Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio and a crucifix made by Lorenzo Monaco.
Other places to see near Monte San Savino
Monte San Savino is located in the Arezzo part of the Val di Chiana, so I can only recommend you to visit the other main centers of this area such as Castiglion Fiorentino, Cortona and Lucignano. If, on the other hand, you are looking for a little relaxation, I can suggest the spas of Chianciano and Rapolano.
How to get to Monte San Savino
Monte San Savino is located at a distance of just 20 kilometers from Arezzo and about 80 from Florence. The city is easy to reach both by car and by public transport because it has its own railway station which is regularly served by regional trains that pass through Arezzo. Alternatively, Monte San Savino is connected with the capital and with the other centers in the area with a bus service. By car, whether you come from the north (Florence, Bologna, Milan) or from the south (Rome), you have to take the A1 motorway to the Monte San Savino exit, from there only a couple of kilometers remain on the SP25.