Abbadia San Salvatore

Abbey of Sant'Antimo

Albarese

Acquapendente


anghiari

Archipelago Toscano


Arcidosso


Arezzo


Asciano


Badia di Coltibuono


Bagno Vignoni

Barberino Val d'Elsa

Beaches

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Bomarzo

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Val d'Elsa


Val di Merse


Val d'Orcia


Valle d'Ombrone


Vetulonia


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Walking in Tuscany
             
 

 

Walking in Tuscany | Val d'Orcia [2]

 

Walking trails in Tuscany Surroundings
       
   
   
   
     

The Castle of Vivo d'Orcia lies in the widespread Orcia valley in southern Tuscany, 35 km north of Podere Santa Pia. The area surrounding Montalcino has been famed for centuries by artists and poets for its beautiful yet peaceful landscapes, comprising of soft rolling valleys and lightly peppered with olive groves and vineyards of superior quality.
Vivo d'Orcia is a splendid outlying district of Castiglion d'Orcia, set in a valley outside time. At the foot of the castle, the river Vivo runs whose sources rise in the locality of Ermicciolo. Starting in the middle ages flour-mills, paper-mills and ironworks were built along the torrent and, in the 1920’s, one of the first hydroelectric power stations. Traces of these old buildings, covered with climbing plants, may still be seen here in one of the area’s most beautiful and evocative landscapes.
On the occasion of the Water Festival, held in Ermicciolo every 22nd March, you can visit the source of the Vivo which gushes out of the rocks.
The walk from Ermicciolo to Eremo, along the river, is absolutely one of the finest in the Amiata area: you can stop at the little waterfalls and the dam in the middle of the woods, or the caves where partisans hid during the last war, or the archaeological sites that have brought to light finds dating to Mesolithic and Etruscan civilisations. You may even see one of the rare green woodpeckers whose sound is sometimes heard echoing among the centuries-old trees. The Vivo Valley is one of the few places on earth where you may be convinced that you’re still living in the middle ages.

Vivo d'Orcia preserves a marvelous hermitage, the Palazzo Cervini and the Romanesque Chapel dell'Ermicciolo. A short way from the centre is the Eremo del Vivo (or County), a palazzo of late Renaissance form designed by Antonio da Sangallo the younger. From the sources of the Vivo reservoir, which supplies Siena and Val di Chiana, an ascent road among beech and chestnut trees leads to the little church of Ermicciolo and the characteristic drying rooms or, as some experts put it, the first inhabited nucleus of Vivo d'Orcia.

The Castle of Vivo d'Orcia lies in the widespread Orcia valley in southern Tuscany, 35 kmnorth of Podere Santa Pia.
The Castello del Vivo boasts a long and fascinating history. In 1002 a hermitage was founded on this spot by camaldolese monks close to the source of the Vivo river, a vital site as it also supplies the city of Siena with water. The monastery and the surrounding land were sold in 1534 to Cardinal Marcello Cervini, later Pope Marcello II, who adapted the Castello del Vivo with the help of the architect Antonio da Sangallo, renowned for the palazzi he built in Siena and Rome. Since then the property has been in the family.
An old stone bridge covered in moss with the name Ponte degli Innamorati (lovers' bridge) marks the entrance to this romantic property. To the right is the castle, which is still lived in by the by members of the family (the picture below shows the view onto the castle). To the left is an arched stone doorway leading down to the hamlet which in the past housed the peasants and their families.

The name Vivo (meaning 'Alive') was adopted because of the lively, powerful industrial heart and from the wild and crashing river Vivo that ran through the village's six water-mills, once used for iron-works, olive crushing and fine paper production. The purity, power and potential of the river's water, pouring from the family's vast natural volcanic spring on Monte Amiata had long been harnessed by the Vatican who, via Pope Marcello II established a gigantic Papal Castle, using a rather illuminated architectural principal for its time, which aimed to make the Vatican's buildings more humble and more accessible to the local community Renaissance Palace (Palazzo), all designed by the famous 16th century architect of the Vatican Antonio da Sangallo for the Pope's living quarters.
A Romanesque chapel and an extensive hermitage (Eremo) were also constructed to accommodate for a fascinating group of humble monks, known as the Camaldolesi, who first inhabited the caves that now form the foundations of the castle in 1,004 ad (500 years previously). Along with this impressive estate the church established one of the largest and finest industrial centres of the 16th century, way surpassing anything built up until that time.

Comprising of 6 large water mills, several huge and elaborate marble tanks, for cleaning and preparing the paper pulp, the estate soon lived up to its name Vivo by becoming the only industrial centre in the whole region, vital for crushing olives, smelting iron tools and producing one of the finest quality writing papers in Europe of its day. A paper, so fine that it was widely distributed throughout the Vatican for recording church data in Rome.

Vivo d'Orcia is a splendid outlying district of Castiglion d'Orcia, set in a valley outside time. At the foot of the castle, the river Vivo runs whose sources rise in the locality of Ermicciolo. Starting in the middle ages flour-mills, paper-mills and ironworks were built along the torrent and, in the 1920’s, one of the first hydroelectric power stations. Traces of these old buildings, covered with climbing plants, may still be seen here in one of the area’s most beautiful and evocative landscapes.
On the occasion of the Water Festival, held in Ermicciolo every 22nd March, you can visit the source of the Vivo which gushes out of the rocks.
The walk from Ermicciolo to Eremo, along the river, is absolutely one of the finest in the Amiata area: you can stop at the little waterfalls and the dam in the middle of the woods, or the caves where partisans hid during the last war, or the archaeological sites that have brought to light finds dating to Mesolithic and Etruscan civilisations. You may even see one of the rare green woodpeckers whose sound is sometimes heard echoing among the centuries-old trees. The Vivo Valley is one of the few places on earth where you may be convinced that you’re still living in the middle ages.

 


View from Montalcino on Val d'Orcia


Palazzo Cervini

Walking in Tuscany | Vivo d'Orcia - Vivo d'Orcia

 
This is not a particularly difficult itinerary, ideal even during the summer months, it almost completely unfolds among woodlands.

Departure and arrival: Vivo d'Orcia
Length: ca. 5 km
Road surface: footpath and cart road
Height difference: ca. 200 m
Duration: 2 hours
 
   
 

From Vivo d'Orcia we start downhill toward the white-fir forest of Vivo d'Orcia, one of the last remaining in Tuscany of this kind.
Follow the indication Contea del Vivo/Eremo and take the Via Amiata becomes Via dell'Eremo. At the end of the road we cross the bridge over the Vivo stream passing under a stone arch that leads to the Borgo dell'Eremo.

Very few houses are clustered around the XVI century Palazzo Cervini and the church of San Marcello. We proceed going back to the stone arch without crossing the stream, turning left on a footpath that starts at a gate and some stone steps that climb up to the fir-woods. We carry on for about 10 minutes up to a junction where we turn right along a path that leads to the asphalted road (Vivo-Seggiano). Here turning left we carry on downhill for about 200 m to another junction where the right turn will lead us steeply uphill to the equipped area of Lo Scudellino. Carrying on the footpath, lined by a wooden fence up to some boulders and a little bridge that crosses over the Mulino stream, we reach some picnic tables in a chestnut-woods. Climbing up among the huge chestnut trees the footpath becomes wider and leads us to a T-junction at which we turn right and cross a wooden bridge to reach a dirt road next to Sasso della Lupareccia. Here, making a right turn we arrive, uphill, at the Ermicciolo. The dirt road leads, with no problems, to the asphalted road that we take uphill and on the left, up to a second dirt road that will take us to the equipped area of the Ermicciolo. Following the main road we get to a stone aqueduct and through a flight of stairs, on the right, hidden among chestnut trees, we reach an attractive little Romanesque church (Chiesa dell'Ermicciolo) with both the façade and the apse decorated with small columns, and today private chapel of the Cervini family. Two drying kilns are at a stone's throw away from here. Leaving the little church behind, we proceed on the footpath that going through the woods, will lead us, in few minutes, to a dirt road in the proximity of a hairpin. We carry on the right, down to the asphalted road. From here it is either possible to go back to Vivo d'Orcia on the asphalted road for about 1 km or by the dirt road on our right, previously covered, that goes up to the junction with the asphalted road which, turning right, will lead us to the centre of Vivo d'Orcia.



 


Borgo dell'Eremo
and Chiesa di San Marcello

 

Vivo d'Orcia | Eremo in estate [Copyright All rights reserved by Bruno Brunelli]

 

 
Castelnuovo dell'Abate - Vivo d'Orcia

   
This spectacular itinerary descends from the Abbazia di Sant'Antimo, surrounded by silence and Brunello vineyards, then climbs up the pristine slopes of Monte Amiata, an ancient extinct volcano. The trip ends up in Vivo d'Orcia, one of the most well-conserved and verdant localities in Tuscany, charged with energy from the volcano.

Departure at Abbazia di Sant'Antimo in Castelnuovo dell'Abate - Municipality of Montalcino
Arrival at Vivo d'Orcia- Municipality of Castiglione d'Orcia
Distance about 20 km |Duration: 3 and a half - 4 hours

   
 
The itinerary travels over some of the higher peaks in Terre di Siena. From the vineyards that run seamlessly down the slopes of Montalcino we walk downhill toward the Asso and Orcia waterways, to then climb up the shady green slopes of Monte Amiata, a venerable extinct volcano. This brief journey is also a voyage into spirituality that departs from the impressive Abbazia di Sant'Antimo, a paragon of stability amidst the rolling hills of Terre di Siena. It concludes in the intimate isolation of Vivo d'Orcia, adorned with ancient springs and the remains of a ruined Camaldolese hermitage. In the 12th century St. Romualdo had chosen to build his hermitage in Vivo, which he described as ' Wild and magnificent - a little highland at the point where the beech forests and chestnut forests meet, with a few level metres near a winding ravine, where two gushing springs of icy water thunder forth'.
From the Abbazia di Sant'Antimo we proceed toward the hamlet of Bassomondi, then continue on the road for Casalta until we reach the farm of the same name. We cross the Siena-Monte Antico railroad tracks by passing over a tunnel, and then take on two crossings: the first over the Asso stream, which is deeper than it looks; the second over the Orcia river, which we cross opposite Podere Scarceta, where we then arrive by riding up a series of paths. The climb up toward the Strada Provinciale del Monte Amiata is cadenced by the Montelaccio, Finocchieto and Capanna farm-houses we pass along the way. The itinerary continues on this asphalted road as far as Madonna delle Querce, and then turns right along the aqueduct that supplies Siena with pure water from Monte Amiata. The final stretch leads to one of the most memorable spots on the mountain - the hermitage in Vivo d'Orcia. In addition to the Camaldolese hermitage itself, Vivo surprises visitors with its impressive fortified Renaissance palazzo attributed to Antonio Sangallo il Giovane. This is an enchanting place, with a double row of farmhouses and the remains of ruined artisan workshops along the river. Just opposite the palazzo, the Chiesa di San Pietro displays a façade in trachyte stone bearing the crest of the Cervini di Montepulciano family, the powerful local nobility.

 

 

Castelnuovo dell'Abate


Abbazia di Sant'Antimo

   


Tuscany | The Val d'Orcia

www.prolocovivo.org


 

Dalla val d'Orcia alle pendici del Monte Amiata

I grandi sentieri della provincia di Siena

Attraverso i paesaggi della Val d'Orcia fino ai boschi dell'Amiata

 
   
   
 
Enlarge map Val d'Orcia
   
   


The abbey of Sant’Antimo


The Abbey of Sant'Antimo

In addition to its sleepy medieval streets and sun-soaked vineyards, Montalcino presents other sights such as the Piazza del Popolo (People’s Square) and the Palazzo dei Priori (old Town Hall), as well as the medieval churches of San Francesco, San Egidio and San Agostino. The city’s fortezza (fortress) is almost perfectly preserved. The Cathedral (of San Salvatore) and the Diocesano Museum are full of sacred works of art by 11th to 16th century painters, and contain other medieval objects and archeological artifacts from San Antimo Abbey (which is located 10 km from Montalcino).

The Abbey of Sant'Antimo, in a picture-perfect setting, just about 26 km north of Podere Santa Pia, and 10 km south of Montalcino, dates from the 12th century. It's one of the finest Romanesque religious buildings in Italy. Nearby the town of Sant'Angelo in Colle, an enchanting well-preserved village on the top of a hill contained in its circle of walls. From the Abbey of Sant'Antimo, a footpath (6 km) leads to Sant’Angelo in Colle.
There is a hiking trial from the church which takes you up into the woods towards Montalcino. The trail is well marked - it goes to your right from the main pathway to the church, just before you turn left to go to the church.
[read more]

The façade, which remains incomplete, houses a portal, probably one of a pair planned originally, surmounted by a lintel datable to the first half the 12th century, together with capitals, friezes and ferrules. The element that confers a French imprint on this church more than any other is the basilical ground plan, an ambulatory with radial chapels, unique in Tuscany and among the few present in Italy.
A study of Sant’Antimo was made by the art historian Raspi-Serra, and completed in the 1960’s. It brought us to conclude that the portal on the left side of the church of Santa Maria in San Quirico d’Orcia (approximately 20 km from Saint’Antimo), is none other than one of the two portals intended for the abbey. Perhaps the monastery, at that time, already in a state of decline, decided to give over the second portal to this other church.

The entrance has a high arch, and bas-relief decorations. Particularly interesting is the small doorway to the left; this dates back to the 9th century. Also on this side is the Bell Tower, with single-light and double-light windows. One of the bells dates back to 1219. The pre-Romanesque primitive chapel is visible on the right. The interior has three naves separated by high columns, alternated with pilasters in clusters in the lower part and twin lancet galleries above. The capitals in marble from the nearby Castelnuovo quarry are decorated with floral, human and geometric figures. The apse has radial chapels joined by an ambulatory, as in French Cathedrals.

The church is guarded at the entry by two stylised lions, probably destined for the external portal, datable to the 12th century and attributed to the Master of Cabestany, as is the splendid capital with the scenes of Daniel in the lions." The refined geometrical and leaf motifs, precise in outline and cleanly carved, indicate an origin in Auvergne.

To the right of the larger church, set at the beginning of the ambulatory, there is a Carolingian chapel of the 8th or 9th century, a small building with a single rectangular aisle and a semicircular apse. Outside on the left, the imposing bell tower rise to around 30 m, divided into four orders, decorated in Lombard style with a with a hint of Pisan taste in the columns at the angles of the base. The bell tower houses two bells, one of which is engraved with Abbot Ugo's name (1216-1222) and the date 1219.


 

The church is guarded at the entry by two stylised lions, probably destined for the external portal, datable to the 12 C and attributed to the Master of Cabestany, as is the splendid capital with the scenes of Daniel in the lionsden." The refined geometrical and leaf motifs, precise in outline and cleanly carved, indicate an origin in Auvergne.

 

The Abbey of Sant'Antimo was constructed on the site of a Roman villa. In the 4th and 5th centuries the village of Castelnuovo dell'Abate,
on the hills nearby, was an important inhabited centre, endowed with a parish.
Pieces recycled from the villa were reused in the church and are still visible in the tower.


The Val d'Orcia between Pienza and Monte Amiata, view to the west from La Foce. The territory of the Val d'Orcia is made up, mainly of a hilly landscape with gently rolling hills and valleys typical of the Sienese Crete and a rich variety of vegetation.
     
 
   



Hidden secrets in Tuscany Tuscan farmhouses | Podere Santa Pia


         
Rocca di Tentennano
Podere Santa Pia
 
Podere Santa Pia
 
Madonna di Vitaleta Chapel, San Quirico d'Orcia





Pienza
Montalcino
Pieve di Santa Maria dello Spino


The landscape ot the Val d'Orcia as it unfolds nowadays was created by wealthy Siennese merchants in the 14th and 15th centuries. The farms cultivate mainly grains, vines and olives. Rows of cypresses are also a distinctive sight. The beauty of the area inspired Renaissance painters and early travellers on Via Francigena.

Pienza

It was in this Tuscan town that Renaissance town-planning concepts were first put into practice after Pope Pius II decided, in 1459, to transform the look of his birthplace. He chose the architect Bernardo Rossellino, who applied the principles of his mentor, Leon Battista Alberti. This new vision of urban space was realized in the superb square known as Piazza Pio II and the buildings around it: the Piccolomini Palace, the Borgia Palace and the cathedral with its pure Renaissance exterior and an interior in the late Gothic style of south German churches.
The historic centre of Pienza represents the first application of the Renaissance humanist concept of urban design, and as such occupies a seminal position in the development of the concept of the planned 'ideal town' that was to play a significant role in subsequent urban development in ltaly and beyond. The application of this principle in Pienza, and in particular in the group of buildings around the central square, resulted in a masterpiece of human creative genius.
The leading humanist Enea Silvio Piccolomini (1405-64), elected to the papal throne in 1458 as Pius II, was born in Corsignano, situated on a hill overlooking the Orcia and Asso valley a short distance south-east of Siena. When he returned there after becoming pope, he was struck by the extreme misery of its inhabitants, which inspired him to endow his birthplace with new buildings, and make it his summer court. His vision derived to a great extent from the German-born philosopher Cardinal Nicolà Cusano. The link with the German Gothic tradition is shown by Pienza Cathedral, which the pope wanted to be in the same style as the late Gothic Hallenkirchen in Germany. To transform Corsignano Pius II called upon Bernardo di Matteo Gamberelli, known as Rossellino, ingegnere di palazzo to Pope Nicholas V in Rome, where he had been influenced by Leon Battista Alberti, the humanist thinker and architect, responsible for the restoration of Rome in 1447-55 and author of De re aedificatoria (1452), the first architectural treatise of the Renaissance.
Rossellino was responsible for the major buildings around the central square, where work began in 1459. He was also responsible for the overall layout of the town, based on the principles of Renaissance town planning enunciated by Alberti. The walled village of Corsignano consisted of a main street joining the two gates, flanked by smaller perpendicular parallel streets. Rossellino largely respected this basic structure when siting his major buildings around the main square. Pius II's project also required the building of large houses for the cardinals in his retinue, and work on these began in 1463. Two structures with a social function, the hospital and the inn in front of the church of St Francis, were also built on his orders.

The ideal centre of Pienza is the Piazza Pio II. Its trapezoid plan is emphasized by the herringbone paving edged with travertine. On the south side of the square is the cathedral (built 1459-62), designed by Rossellino. The influence of Alberti is strong in the composition of the triple facade with its wide arches, corresponding with the three-aisled interior. The interior, divided by tall clustered pilasters from which the arches and cross-vaults spring, was inspired by the Hallenkirchen. The bell tower also blends Gothic and Renaissance forms. On the west side of the Piazza is the Piccolomini Palace, built in 1463 on the site of old houses owned by the family. The front elevations, resting on a travertine plinth, are divided into three bands of sandstone ashlars, interrupted by wide arched windows. Three of the sides are the same and the fourth, with an imposing triple-tiered Ioggia, looks out on a raised garden. The fine interior courtyard is decorated with sgraffito ornamentation on the second and third floors.
The Episcopal Palace is on the opposite side of the piazza. The old Pretorio Palace was purchased in 1463 for Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, who added an extra storey and replaced the Gothic windows. The Town Hall (1462) on the north side of the square is in conventional Tuscan style for buildings with this function, with an open loggia at ground level and a crenellated tower. In contrast with the other buildings around the square, it is in stuccoed tufa and brick, decorated with sgraffito, only the loggia in travertine.
The other major buildings in Pienza line the Corso Rossellino, most built as houses members of the papal court, although some earlier buildings survive. They include the Gothic Church of St Francis and its Convent; the Atrebatense Palace (Gothic structure with Renaissance decoration); the Ammannati Palace, in Renaissance style; the brick Palazzetto; and the Gonzaga Palace, one of the few buildings that retains its garden. Pienza has many Renaissance fountains and wells, the designed by Rossellino.
[from Historic Centre of the City of Pienza | whc.unesco.org]

Tuscany | Pienza


Montepulciano

Montepulciano, a medieval and Renaissance hill town, is known world-wide for its fabulous wine. Wine connoisseurs consider its Vino Nobile among Italy's best. However, the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano should not be confused with the varietal wine (Montepulciano grape) of the same name. Montepulciano is also known for its pork, cheese, "pici" pasta (a thick, rough, chewy variant on spaghetti), lentils, and honey.
The name of Montepulciano derives from Latin Mons and Publicianus ("Mount of Publicianus"). According to legend, it was founded by the Etruscan King Porsenna of Chiusi; recent findings prove that a settlement was already in existence in the 4th-3rd centuries BC. In Roman times it was the seat of a garrison guarding the main roads of the area.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, it developed as a religious center under the Lombards. In the 12th century it was repeatedly attacked by the Republic of Siena, which the Poliziani faced with the help of the Perugia and Orvieto, and sometimes Florence, communes. The 14th century was characterized by constant struggles between the local noble families, until the Del Pecora family became rulers of the town. From 1390, Montepulciano was a loyal ally (and later possession) of Florence and, until the mid-16th century, lived a period of splendour with architects such as Antonio da Sangallo the Elder, Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola, Baldassarre Peruzzi, Ippolito Scalza and others, building luxurious residences and other edifices here. In 1559, when Siena was conquered by Florence and Montepulciano lost its strategic role, its importance declined.
After the unification of Italy and the drying of the Val di Chiana, the town remained the most important agricultural centre in the area, while the industrial activities moved mostly next to Chiusi, which was nearer to the railroad being built in that period.

The main street of Montepulciano stretches for 1.5 kilometers from the Porta al Prato to the Piazza Grande at the top of the hill. The city is renowned for its walkable, car-free nature. The main landmarks include:

Main sights are
* The Palazzo Comunale, designed by Michelozzo in the tradition of the Palazzo della Signoria (Palazzo Vecchio) of Florence.
* Palazzo Tarugi, attributed to Antonio da Sangallo the Elder or Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola. It is entirely in travertine, with a portico which was once open to the public.
* The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, or the Duomo of Montepulciano, constructed between 1594 and 1680, includes a masterpiece from the Sienese School, a massive Assumption of the Virgin triptych painted by Taddeo di Bartolo in 1401.
* The church of Santa Maria delle Grazie (late 16th century). It has a simple Mannerist façade with a three-arcade portico. The interior has a single nave, and houses a precious terracotta altar by Andrea della Robbia.
* The Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Biagio is on the road to Chianciano outside the city. It is a typical 16th century Tuscan edifice, designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Elder on a pre-existing Pieve, between 1518 and 1545. It has a circular (central) plan with a large dome over a terrace and a squared tambour. The exterior, with two bell towers, is built in white travertine.

The walls of the city were designed and built under the direction of Grand Duke of Florence Cosimo I de' Medici in 1511 by Antonio da Sangallo the Elder. (Cosimo I was born in 1519 and only became Duke in 1537 so this is not possible)
Also interesting to note while walking though the town is that Montepulciano is standing in for the Volturic Stronghold of Volterra in the film adaptation of the Stephenie Meyer novel New Moon, the second book in the popular Twilight Saga.

Tuscany | Montepulciano

The Pieve di Santa Maria dello Spino, between Monticchiello and Bagno Vignoni, is used on the annual Corpus Domini procession, the Processione del Corpus Domini.
The majority of Tuscan parish churches date back to the period between the 9 C and the 13 C. Some however date back even earlier, like the parish church of Pacina near Castelnuovo Berardenga, which was probably built in the 7 C, if not earlier.
Other Mediaeval parish churches are Pieve di San Cresci - one of five mediaeval parish churches in the comune of Greve in Chianti; La Pieve di Sant'Appiano near San Barberino Val d'Elsa; the Pieve di San Miniato a Rubbiana in San Polo; the Pieve di Spaltenna near Gaiole in Chianti; the Pieve di San Giovanni Battista Parish Church Ponte allo Spino - dedicated to John the Baptist - near Sovicille; the Pieve of San Polo in Rosso in Coltibuono and the Pieve di San Leolino near Panzano in Chianti. The Pieve di Santa Maria alla Sovara near Anghiari is one of an unusually high density of mediaeval parish churches in the vicinity of Anghiari. Among the others are the Pieve di Santa Maria a Corsano, the Pieve di Santa Maria a Micciano and the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Carmine.

Tuscany | Small parish churches or pievi in Tuscany