10 things to see absolutely in the surroundings of Siena
Tuscany is not only Florence, Siena, Pisa or… wine (did anyone say wine?), But also dozens and dozens of small hilltop villages located near the main cities. The province of Siena is a wonderland with wonderful countryside and many great places to visit. Its gentle and sinuous hills are dotted with medieval villages, castles, country churches and farms that sprout among cypresses, olive trees and vineyards.
In this guide, we will take a trip between Val d’Elsa, Chianti, Crete Senesi and Val d’Orcia, in search of the most picturesque village, the most majestic abbey, the most beautiful castle and the most romantic spas because in the province of Siena nothing is missing!
Here is the list of the most beautiful places to see near Siena:
- San Gimignano
- San Quirico d’Orcia
- Abbey of San Galgano
- Castello di Brolio
- Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore
- Bagno Vignoni
Hamlets near Siena: San Gimignano
San Gimignano is one of the best preserved medieval towns in all of Tuscany. The distinctive feature of this city are the towers and tower-houses which, in the period of maximum splendor, were 72! Today we can still admire 14, but San Gimignano is not only towers but also museums, churches, monuments and much more. Walking through its streets and squares, you will be surprised and struck by its beauty and by the views it will give you. The points of interest are so many; among these are the Cathedral, Piazza delle Cisterna, the Civic Museum, the Church of Sant’Agostino and the Rocca di Montestaffoli, just to name a few.
Montepulciano is definitely one of my favourite hamlets in Tuscany. This is a land of wine, you should taste the “Vino Nobile si Montepulciano”, and also a land of art and traditions. The best part of this town is the main plaza located in the top area of the city centre. This is one of the best plazas in Tuscany with many beautiful buildings as the Duomo and the Palazzo Comunale. Not far from the city center you definitely need to visit also the Chiesa di San Biagio, you’ll be not disappointed!
Pienza in Val d’Orcia
It’s time to move into the splendid Val d’Orcia, one of the best countryside of Tuscany. Maybe you saw these hills in the movie “Gladiator” directed by Ridley Scott. Well, between these hills there are some beautiful hamlets you’ll love. Today I want to mention two of these places, the first one is Pienza. Pienza is a renaissance masterpiece created by the pope Pius II during the 15th century. All the best here is in the plaza dedicated to the pope where is located a wonderful cathedral and some pleasant palaces.
Hamlets around Siena: San Quirico d’Orcia
San Quirico d’Orcia is the second hamlet in Val d’Orcia I want to talk about. A beatiful little town with some medieval churches and an amazing italian garden called “Horti Leonini”. Close to San Quirico d’Orcia, you can visit the Cappella della Madonna di Vitaleta, a small lonely chapel in the countryside much loved by photographers and travellers.
Buonconvento in the Crete Senesi
Maybe you heard about the travel of the former US President Barak Obama in Tuscany last year, well he went also to Buonconvento. Very good idea indeed! Buonconvento is a real gem, a medieval hamlet made of bricks full of art and good food.
Here you can visit a very interesting museum of Sacred Art, the Museo d’Arte Sacra della Val d’Arbia, where are exposed many important artworks as the Duccio di Buoninsegna‘s Madonna col Bambino.
The Abbey of San Galgano near Siena
The magnificent Abbey of San Galgano could not be missing from this article. A true masterpiece of Gothic architecture, the abbey is one of the most evocative and romantic places in the entire Sienese countryside. Orphaned of its roof, the abbey seems to have come out of a gothic novel and by visiting it you too will be transported by the imagination.
Also nearby is… the sword in the stone! No, it is not that of King Arthur, but that of San Galgano, a noble knight who after his conversion retired here to lead the life of a hermit. And the sword? According to tradition, it was stuck in the rock by the saint so that it turned into a cross. A symbol of the renunciation of violence that had characterized his life until then, in favor of religious faith.
Chiusi is an extraordinary city with a truly exceptional historical, artistic and architectural heritage. A powerful Etruscan city, Chiusi was part of the dodecapolis, a league made up of the 12 most important city-states of Etruria. By visiting Chiusi you can immerse yourself in the history and culture of this ancient and mysterious civilization. If you want to get to know the Etruscans better you have to visit the National Archaeological Museum, the Labyrinth of Porsenna, the Underground City and the Necropolis of Poggio Renzo with the Tomb of the Pilgrim, that of the Lion and the Tomb of the Monkey.
The Castello di Brolio in the Sienese Chianti
Surrounded by the fantastic hills of Chianti, among endless expanses of vineyards, the Castello di Brolio is one of the best known monuments in the whole area.The Castello di Brolio is perfect for combining a cultural visit and a wine tasting, as its cellars are among the most renowned in all of Chianti.
Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore
Imposing and grandiose, the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore is one of the main things to see in the Crete Senesi. Founded in 1313 by San Bernardo Tolomei, the abbey is a vast monastic complex consisting of many rooms, one more beautiful than the other. The heart of the abbey is the Great Cloister, where you can admire a cycle of frescoes whose beauty is difficult to describe. Also worth visiting is the church where you can admire an extraordinary inlaid wooden choir and the library which gives access to the old pharmacy and a small museum.
Bagno Vignoni, the thermal baths around Siena
The surroundings of Siena are full of thermal springs. The common feature of these spas is that they are all very beautiful. Bagno Vignoni is a small spa town located in the heart of the Val d’Orcia, just south of San Quirico. The village is all gathered around its central square which is not a normal square but a large pool fed by the water of the thermal spring. The atmosphere you breathe in Bagno Vignoni is unique and romantic, especially on winter nights when a steam rises from the thermal bath and envelops the swimming pool and the surrounding buildings.