Abbadia San Salvatore

Abbey of Sant'Antimo

Albarese

Acquapendente


anghiari

Archipelago Toscano


Arcidosso


Arezzo


Asciano


Badia di Coltibuono


Bagni San Filippo

Bagno Vignoni

Barberino Val d'Elsa

Beaches

Bolsena Lake


Bomarzo

Brunello di Montalcino

Buenconvento

Campagnatico


Capalbio


Castel del Piano


Castelfiorentino

Castell'Azarra

Castellina in Chianti


Castelmuzio


Castelnuovo Bererdenga


Castiglioncello Bandini


Castiglione della Pescaia


Castiglione d'Orcia


Castiglion Fiorentino


Celleno


Certaldo


Chinaciano Terme


Chianti


Chiusi


Cinigiano


Città di Castello

CivitÀ di Bagnoregio


Colle Val d'Elsa


Cortona


Crete Senesi


Diaccia Botrona

Isola d'Elba

Firenze


Follonica


Gaiole in Chianti


Gavorrano

Gerfalco


Greve in Chianti


Grosseto


Lago Trasimeno


La Foce


Manciano


Maremma


Massa Marittima


Montagnola Senese


Montalcino


Monte Amiata


Monte Argentario

montecalvello

Montefalco


Montemassi


Montemerano


Monte Oliveto Maggiore


Montepulciano


Monteriggioni


Monticchiello


Monticiano


Orbetello


Orvieto


Paganico


Parco Naturale della Maremma


Perugia


Piancastagnaio


Pienza


Pisa


Pitigliano

Prato

Radda in Chianti


Roccalbegna


Roccastrada


San Bruzio


San Casciano dei Bagni


San Galgano


San Gimignano


San Giovanni d'Asso


San Quirico d'Orcia


Sansepolcro


Santa Fiora


Sant'Antimo


Sarteano


Saturnia


Scansano


Scarlino


Seggiano


Siena


Sinalunga


Sorano


Sovana


Sovicille

Talamone

Tarquinia


Tavernelle Val di Pesa


Torrita di Siena


Trequanda


Tuscania


Umbria


Val d'Elsa


Val di Merse


Val d'Orcia


Valle d'Ombrone


Vetulonia


Viterbo

Volterra




 
Walking in Tuscany
             
 
album Surroundings
       
   

Val di Merse


   
   

Val di Merse is one of the regions of the province of Siena, in Tuscany. It is located on the border with the Upper Maremma and it is renowned for its unspoilt nature. The territory comprises the area between the rivers Farma and Merse and it is covered in woods which hide medieval hamlets and castles. It is an area rich in waters known for their healing powers, such as the hot springs of Bagni di Petriolo.
Val di Merse is renowned for its nature and for the Abbey of San Galgano with its world-famous sword in the stone. The area has several beautiful villages, such as Monticiano, Chiusdino, Murlo and Sovicille.

Chiusdino
is also on a hilltop overlooking both the valley of the river Merse and the Metalliferous Hills of the Maremma, home to the town of Massa Marittima. The village has the structure of a fortified castle and dates back to the 9th century. In Chiusdino you can visit the Church of San Martino, the Prepositura di San Michele next to the house where Saint Galgano was born and the church of the Compagnia di San Galgano where there is a beautiful bas-relief depicting the saint cutting the stone with his sword. Near Chiusdino the ancient castle of the Della Gherardesca Counts, the 11th century hamlet of Frosini, is well worth a visit and so are Luriano , Castelletto and the Montalcinello castle.

Murlo is a very old “castle-village”. The castle was built in the 12th century and it underwent remarkable changes in the 16th century after the end of the power of the Republic of Siena. Buildings of note include the Bishop’s Palace, which houses the Archeological Museum, the cathedral and the old prison.
It is located on a high hill which overlooks the wooded valley of the river Crevole. This part of the Val di Merse is on the border with the Val d’Arbia in the Crete Senesi area. From the village, visitors can enjoy the view over the valley of the river Ombrone up to the hill of Montalcino. Murlo is of Etruscan origin and remains of the Etruscan settlements were found at Poggio Civitate and Poggio Aguzzo.

Vescovado has the peculiarity of having been created by the fusion of the villages of Andica and Tinoni, still separated at the beginning of the 19th century. In the village church visitors can see a painting of the Madonna by Benvenuto di Giovanni (15th century).

Sovicille is approximately 10 km (6 miles) west of Siena on the old via Maremmana, the road which linked Siena with the coast of the Maremma. This area has been inhabited since the Stone Age and archaeologists have found remains of prehistoric, Etruscan and Roman settlements. Sovicille and its surrounding area are rich in historic-artistic treasures: abbeys and Romanesque parish churches such as those of San Giusto a Balli, Pernina, Molli, Ponte allo Spino, San Lorenzo a Sovicille and Torri where visitors can admire the beautiful polychromatic cloister in the Abbey of Santa Mustiola (13th century). There are also some remarkable villas such as Villa Cetinale (17th century, designed by Carlo Fontana),Villa Celsa with its beautiful gardens and Villa Linari (18th century).

   
   
     
     
Monticiano is a very old village which dates back to the 12th century. Originally a castle property of the Bishop of Volterra, it later came under the domination of Siena. The remains of the castle are still visible and the little streets of the village are very picturesque. The village has two churches, the Romanesque church of Sant'Agostino of the late 13th century, with baroque interiors, and the older parish, the church of San Giusto and San Clemente, of the 12th century, with a neat stone façade.

The village is located in a beautiful area, in the heart of a valley between the river Merse and the river Farma, approximately 30km from Siena, 100km from Florence and 150km from Pisa. It has less than 1500 inhabitants and all the essential services are available in town (pharmacy, clinics, post office, banks, shops, restaurants and bars). The village will soon have a public swimming pool right by Casa Gigliola: it is scheduled to open at the beginning of 2007. It has children's playgrounds, horseback riding facilities and walking trails.

The village and its surroundings, despite being very conveniently located at a crossroad between the Maremma and Siena, are still an off-the-beaten path destination. For this reason, they make for a perfect location to discover authentic Tuscany far from the crowds.

The oldest part of the village is located on a hilltop, within the remains of the ancient walls. From the top of the hill the view over the valley of the river Merse is breathtaking. The atmosphere among the walls of the village is definitely medieval: stone houses, small parish churches, narrow streets. The origins of the village are celebrated every year in October, when the Palio dei Ciuchi, a donkey race in medieval costumes, brings the past back to life.

Going back in time is very easy in this part of Tuscany: the Abbey of San Galgano with the legendary sword in the stone, the near village of San Lorenzo a Merse with its ancient castle and its Romanesque church, the hamlet of Castello di Tocchi, the ruins of the Castellaccio, of Monte Quoio and Renna make this journey in time very easy.

 

Monticiano
Monticiano


Petriolo Terme


Thermal baths of Petriolo

 

San Galgano Abbey is made up of two major attractions: the gothic roofless cathedral of San Galgano and the unusually shaped monastery of Montesiepi, and ancient hermitage, which hosts the tomb of San Galgano and the sword in the stone.[1]
Saint Galgano Abbey was Tuscany's first pure Gothic church. It was built in the 13th century when the old chapel and monastery became too small for the pilgrims who visited the tomb of the saint from Siena. The abbey is built according to the typical Cistercian plan based on a Latin cross with three aisles, rich in carved capitals and rose windows, with a cloister, halls, and – atypically – a bell tower.
Over the centuries the rivalries between Siena and Florence condemned the abbey to a slow but irreversible decline, and at the end of the 18th century the bell tower collapsed destroying a great part of the roof of the church. The abbey was abandoned and the bricks and stones were used by the builders of the area to build houses and other small churches. Thanks to several restorations the cathedral is now one of the most beautiful and fascinating ruins in Tuscany, and it is well worth a visit.
Many legends have been created to account for the absence of the roof. One of the most popular among the poor farmers of the Val di Merse was that Napoleon had stolen the supposedly golden roof of the cathedral.
San Galgano Abbey is easily reached from Monticiano with a short 5 minutes drive, or via the walking trail which has been recently created.
 


Abbey of San Galgano

 

     
 
   


Percorsi in Val di Merse

1. Sentiero Iesa-Tocchi
2. Sentiero Iesa-Terme di Petriolo
3. Sentiero della Gola del Merse
4. Sentiero di San Galgano
5. Sentiero della Pietra
6. Sentiero Scalvaia-Valle del Farma
7. Sentiero Monticiano-Camerata
8. Antica Strada Maremmana

 


Located on the outskirts of Castiglioncello Bandini, Podere Santa Pia offers the quiet tranquility of a private retreat, with numerous attractions and gorgeous small hillside villages, beautiful beaches only a short drive away.
Explore the medieval hillside villages on your way to Colle Val d'Elsa and Volterra, marvel at settlements that date back to Etruscan times, try some Vernaccia di San Gimignano wines in San Gimignano, where the refined beauty of the squares and churches blends perfectly with the ancient traditions of its white wines.

Hidden secrets in Tuscany | Holiday home Podere Santa Pia

 

Tuscan Maremma

Podere Santa Pia is a peaceful retreat, perfect for relaxing with a magnificent panoramic view of the Mediterranean Sea

 

[1] The legend of Saint Galgano

Galgano Guidotti was a dissolute knight who lived in Chiusdino in the second half of the 12th century. The Archangel Michael appeared to him one day, convinced him to repent and showed him the way to salvation. Sir Galgano announced his intention to become a hermit and live in a cave, but his friends and family made fun of him. His mother Dionisia convinced him to wear his noble robes and go to Civitella Marittima to see his fiancée Polissena Brizzi for the last time but along the way Sir Galgano's horse reared and the knight fell. He suddenly felt some force helping him to get back on his feet. The knight heard a seraphic voice which he was unable to resist and this led him to Monte Siepi, a rugged hill near Chiusdino. There he had the vision of a round temple and of Jesus and the Holy Virgin Mary with the Apostles.

The voice guided Sir Galgano to the top of the hill and invited him to give up his sinful life but the knight was hesitant and wittily replied that, even if he thought he should indeed change his life, changing would be as hard as splitting rocks with his sword and in saying this, he drew his weapon and thrust at a stone, fully expecting the blade to snap. To his great surprise, the sword cut the stone and entered into the rock to the hilt.

Sir Galgano did not leave the hill ever again. He lived in poverty, with wild animals as his only companions. The legend says that the Devil sent an evil man in a monk's disguise to murder Galgano but the wolves that lived with him tore the man to pieces, leaving only his hands.
The Hermitage of Montesiepi

The sword in the stone and the hands of the evil man can still be seen in the church of the monastery of Montesiepi, built at the end of the 12th century as a mausoleum for the saint. Saint Galgano is buried in the church. The church has a very peculiar shape, it is built as a rotunda and historians hypothesize that it was inspired by Castel Sant'Angelo, the Pantheon in Rome or even an Etruscan tomb as the many ones visible in Volterra, the town that once controlled this area. The church was enlarged in the 14th century with the construction of a chapel with frescoes by the Sienese painter Ambrogio Lorenzetti.
San Galgano and King Arthur

Over the centuries the sword in the stone and its legend have fascinated pilgrims and visitors from around the world. The many resemblances to the tales of the Arthurian cycle has probably not gone unnoticed.

Many scholars have pointed out the striking resemblance of the name of the saint, Galgano, with that of one of the knights of the Round Table, Sir Galwyn, who, by the way, was of Roman origin. Other scholars have insisted on the resemblance to the youngest of King Arthur's knights: Sir Gawain.

Of course, the sword in the stone is associated with Excalibur and a recent book by the writer Mario Moiraghi, The Enigma of San Galgano, proposes an interesting explanation for all these coincidences. The author claims that the story of the sword in the stone originated in Tuscany, in Italy and not in the Celtic fringes of Britain or in France as many believe and that it was added to the legend of King Arthur later on. Moiraghi supports his hypothesis with scientific tests which date the sword embedded in the rock in an abbey in Tuscany to the year 1180, years before the first attested literary reference to the sword in the Arthurian Cycle. The author also stresses how the inquiry which led to the canonisation of Sir Galgano contains a series of facts identical to the legend of Sir Percival, the finder of the Holy Grail.

If these hypotheses are true, then the legend of Excalibur could have originated in Tuscany, and have been exported to France by the Cistercian monks, whose responsibility in the diffusion of King Arthur's legends is widely acknowledged. Moreover the Abbey and the chapel dedicated to Saint Galgano and King Arthur's tomb in Glastonbury date back to the same period and this offers yet another link between this magic place in Tuscany and the most legendary of all kings.