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Horti Leonini di San Quirico


Horti Leonini di San Quirico


'The Horti Leonini is a small and very original universe that abounds in literary, artistic and scientific contents, which enclose invisible correlations between microcosm and macrocosm. It was realised by Diomede Leoni, right-hand man of the Medici family, who in 1535 received from Francesco I a piece of land amidst the bastions of San Quirico.

Designed around 1581 by its owner and named after him, the garden is a fascinating example of a classic Italian garden, joined to a wooded area. The particular conformation of the land led Leoni to divide it into two parts. The lower area is rhombus-shaped and contains an Italian garden with a hexagonal shape, conceived as a transfiguration of the circumference. The beds are bordered by a double box hedge and separated by a series of lanes that converge towards the centre where, in 1688, a statue of Grand Duke Cosimo III de’ Medici was placed. The centre lane of the Italian garden leads to a stairway that connects it to the upper area consisting of a wood of centuries-old holm-oaks around a grassy meadow, and traversed by winding paths. The Horti Leonini Garden is embellished by statues with symbolic connotations and inscriptions celebrating Diomede Leoni.

Property of the Commune of San Quirico d’Orcia since 1975, Horti Leonini has been subjected to conservation directed by the Supervisory Service for the Environmental and Architectural Heritage of the Provinces of Siena and Grosseto.'[1]

The statue that dominates the heart of the lower garden is not original to the 16th Century design. It was placed there in the 1950s for its protection after the Palazzo Chigi had been damaged during the Second World War.

The statue depicts the Grand Duke Cosimo III de'Medici (1642-1723). The statue was made as a way to thank the Grand Duke for giving the title of Marchese of San Quirico to Cardinal Flavio Chigi in 1677. This portrait was originally set in the ballroom of the Palazzo Chigi.[2]

The Horti Leonini garden ends at the Giardino delle Rose, a rose garden outside the church of Santa Maria Assunta.

The Giardino delle Rose, a rose garden

San Quirico d'Orcia is a charming, walled town on the northern edge of the Val d'Orcia. San Quirico d'Orcia is Etruscan in origin, and cinerary urns and other funeral objects and vessels found here are now kept in the Etruscan archeological museum in Siena. With its typical Medieval houses, Via Poliziano leads to Porta dei Cappuccini, a massive crenellated tower.

Among the most important monuments are to be mentioned the beautiful Collegiate church of Saints Quirico and Giulitta, built over the ruins of the church of Osenna dating back to the eighth century, with a magnificent Romanesque portal with zoomorphic sculptures and a lintel with the fight between monsters. On the right side there is another Lombardic portal supported by caryatids from the school of Giovanni Pisano.

On the back of the collegiate there is Palazzo Chigi, built by Carlo Fontana for the Cardinal Flavio Chigi. Walking down the via Francigena, today called Via Dante Alighieri, you arrive in Piazza della Liberta’ with the church of San Francesco, bearing a Madonna painted by Della Robbia.
On the square there is the Porta Nuova, opening to the Horti Leonini, an Italian style garden built by Diomede Leoni in 1540.
Continuing you come to the church of Santa Maria Assunta, in Romanesque style with Lombardic influences, with another interesting portal built with material coming from the Abbey of Sant’Antimo. Nearby are the Giardino delle Rose (rose garden) and the centuries-old Scala hospital.

Of the defensive structures there are remains of most of the 15th century walls, with just some portions missing. 14 towers and turrets are still visible, some of which are incorporated in other buildings. The Porta Nuova gate is still there, amended several times over the centuries and the original Porta dei Cappucini gate with a central six-sided shelves crowned by small stones that support the arch. Finally in the Horti Leonini garden there are the remains of the city gate tower that was partially destroyed during the German retreat in 1944.


Collegiata dei Santi Quirico e Giulitta, portal


[1] Source: Institute and Museum of the History of Science, Florence, Italy |
[2] Source: Diomede Leoni and His Horti Leonini |

Located on the outskirts of Castiglioncello Bandini, Podere Santa Pia is one of the best places to slow travel in southern Tuscany. offers the quiet tranquility of a private retreat, with numerous attractions, beautiful nature reserves and unspoilt beautiful beaches within easy reach.
Explore the medieval hillside villages of Sovicille, Civitella Paganico and Monticiano on your way to Siena, watch the Ponte della Pia near the Eremo di Rosia and marvel at settlements that date back to Etruscan times, try some Vino Nobile wines in Montepulciano, cities where the refined beauty of the squares and churches blends perfectly with the ancient traditions of its red wines.

Hidden secrets in Tuscany | Holiday house Podere Santa Pia

Podere Santa Pia
Podere Santa Pia, view from the garden
on the valley below

Castel Porrona, a charming medieval village dating back to the 11th century, between Cinigiano and Castiglioncello Bandini and Podere Santa Pia

L'Orto de'Pecci

The wide and enchanting landscape of the Val d'Orcia area became one of the Unesco World Heritage sites in March 2005. Here is the original justification reported in the Unesco web site: 'The Val d'Orcia is an exceptional reflection of the way landscape was re-designed in Renaissance times to reflect the ideals of good governance and to create aesthetically pleasing pictures. Painters from the Siennese School, which flourished during the Renaissance, celebrated landscape of the Val d'Orcia. Images of the Val d'Orcia, particularly depictions of landscapes in which people are shown living in harmony with nature, are now considered strongly representative of the Renaissance and have profoundly influenced the development of landscape thinking.

Montalcino is located to the west of Pienza, close to the Crete Senesi in Val d'Orcia. The hill upon which Montalcino sits has been settled probably since Etruscan times. Its first mention in historical documents in 814 AD suggests there was a church here in the 9th century, most likely built by monks who were associated with the nearby Abbey of Sant'Antimo. The town takes its name from a variety of oak tree that once covered the terrain. The very high site of the town offers stunning views over the Asso, Ombrone and Arbia valleys of Tuscany, dotted with silvery olive orchards, vineyards, fields and villages. During the late Middle Ages it was an independent commune with considerable importance owing to its location on the old Via Francigena, the main road between France and Rome, but increasingly Montalcino came under the sway of the larger and more aggressive city of Siena.
The main piazza, the Piazza del Popolo, is downhill from the fortress and Duomo on the via Matteotti. The principal building on the piazza is the town hall, once the Palazzo dei Priori (built late 13th, early 14th century) but now the Palazzo Comunale. The palace is adorned with the coats of arms of the Podesta who once ruled the city. A very high medieval tower is incorporated into the palazzo. Close by is a Renaissance structure with six round arches, called La Loggia, which was started at the very end of the 14th century and finished in the early 15th, but which has undergone much restoration work over the subsequent centuries.
Montalcino is divided, like most medieval Tuscan cities, into quarters called contrade. The thirteenth-century church of San Francesco in the Castlevecchio contrada has undergone several renovations. Some of the interior frescoes were done by Vincenzo Tamagni in the early sixteenth century.

Montepulciano, is built along a narrow limestone ridge and, at 605 m (1950 ft) above sea level, between Val D'Orcia and Val di Chiana. The town is encircled by walls and fortifications designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Elder in 1511 for Cosimo I. Inside the walls the streets are crammed with Renaissance-style palazzi and churches most of which are located along the main street, called the Cordo that climbs up into the main square, Piazza Grande, which crowns the summit of the hill. The Corso is about 2 km long and offers a long procession of facades, almost an "exhibition" of high level architectural design.
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.

The gardens and estate of La Foce constitute one of the most important and best kept early twentieth-century gardens in Italy. Amid 3,500 acres of farmland in the countryside near Pienza, with sweeping views of the Tuscan landscape, La Foce was the childhood dream garden of the late writer Marchesa Iris Origo. Passionate about the order and symmetry of Florentine gardens, Origo and her husband, Antonio, purchased the dilapidated villa in 1924, soliciting the help of English architect and family friend Cecil Pinsent to reawaken the natural magic of the property. Pinsent designed the structure of simple, elegant, box-edged beds and green enclosures that give shape to the Origos' shrubs, perennials, and vines, and created a garden of soaring cypress walks, native cyclamen, lawns, and wildflower meadows. It is, by all accounts, a remarkable achievement.
Situated in the Val d'Orcia, a wide valley in southeastern Tuscany that seems to exist on a larger, wilder scale than the rest of the Tuscan landscape, it is run by Benedetta and Donata Origo, and is open to the public one day a week.

owes its beauty and fame to Enea Silvio Piccolomini born in Corsignano on 18 October 1405 and elevated to Pope in 1458 taking the name Pius II. During the course of his Papacy, he changed the ancient Castello di Corsignano (first mentioned in 828) into a Papal residence in the Renaissance style, planned and constructed under the supervision of Bernardo Gambarelli called il Rossellino, a student of Leon Battista Alberti, and renamed it Pienza ("Pius").
Pienza is a rare example of Renaissance town design. Often described as the "ideal city" or the "utopian city", it represents one of the best planned of Renaissance towns. Pienza's location in the centre of the Val d'Orcia, a wonderful and untouched valley, helps the town to embody the fundamental principle that humanistic architecture attempted to encorporate - the balanced relationship between Man and Nature.

San Giovanni d'Asso
San Quirico d'Orcia