And then there is the Tuscany beyond Florence. That of Chianti, Siena, the towers of San Gimignano, the masterpiece cities like Pienza, Arezzo with its pictorial jewels of Piero della Francesca and the Arno that “for half Tuscany branchs off”, as wrote the great poet Dante.
The Val d’Orcia looks like a petrified sea with the hills that run like waves and cypress trees that act as a backdrop to the badlands clay-colored mother of pearl. And in this sea stand out pearls as Pienza, the ideal town of Pope Piccolomini renovated to the planning principles of the Renaissance, now a UNESCO World Heritage of Humanity.
And as San Quirico d’Orcia, a fortified village ornamented by Horti Leonini, an Italian garden built by Diomede Leoni at the end of ‘500 where you can lose yourself among the meadows marked by box hedges and ancient trees. Source of inspiration for poets, writers, painters and photographers are the Crete Senesi to the south of Siena, where the land is colored brown, ocher, purple and gold. North of Siena, however, stand the towers of San Gimignano, the skyscrapers of the Middle Ages, the richness achieved by the Tuscan center by saffron trade. To visit the Romanesque Collegiate Church, one of the more frescoed churches of Italy.
Not far Certaldo, the town of Giovanni Boccaccio, and Volterra, the village of alabaster, the town ever inhabited since the Etruscan era that has preserved its medieval character within the walls, in particular in the Piazza dei Priori, where overlook the Praetorian Palace and the Palazzo dei Priori. Witness the spectacle of flag bearers in costume with this background, instantly catapult you back in time.
Heading towards Siena meets Monteriggioni, a village completely surrounded by high walls with fourteen fortified towers, built in 1203 by the Sienese as an outpost against Florence. Now Siena is near. Piazza del Campo is its heart with the scenic and majestic façade of the Palazzo Publico. After the walk on the main street, the sight not to be missed is the colossal cathedral dedicated to the Assumption. Three magnificent portals introduce within this cathedral characterized by alternating black and white bands and in front of which you feel small little.
Before continuing on to Arezzo, the obligatory stop is the Chianti, which takes its name from the Etruscan word “clante” ie water, and is world famous for its wine, especially a melange of grapes and a special wine-making method exclusive title of Chianti Classico. But the Chianti is not only a great wine, but also a wonderful land characterized by a dense weave of oak, chestnut and conifers interrupted by broad tongues of vineyards and olive groves.
(Photo in the text are by Michele Natale; for cover photo and the gallery thanks to Domenico Zagaria)