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Tips for a Multi-sensory Four Seasons Holiday in the Sienese Province

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Pienza - Tuscany - The Good Gourmet

Basing yourself in Siena, you can take daily excursions, less than an hour far.

In San Gimignano: after strolling among the medieval towers, learn the stories of the saints through the vibrant cycles of frescoes painted by competing Sienese and Florentine artists between 14th and 15th century. Saint Sebastian, pierced with arrows, protects from the plague, Saint Fina, local girl, lays on a wooden bench, Saint Geminiano holds the town with the tours. Sip a glass of white Vernaccia wine, one of the oldest high quality Italian wine, and have a dish based on saffron, another local speciality. Don’t leave without trying a gelato. By the way, the tradition attributes to Bernardo Buontalenti, Florentine eclectic artist who lived in XVI century, its invention.

In Chianti: take a day for hiking up and downhill from a castle to a hamlet, on the footsteps of the ancient Etruscan, visiting a cellar and tasting the Dolceforte Renaissance recipe (wild boar meat with fruit and chocolate). If possible, ask for a crystal glass made in Colle Val d’Elsa. A must: a walk on the ramparts of Brolio castle, going after the ghost of count Bettino Ricasoli, inventor of the Chianti wine. Ask the locals about the legend of the Black Rooster.

In Siena: lose yourself along the winding alleyways, like a pilgrim on the Francigena Road, from England to Rome, or Jerusalem. Follow the sound of the drums of the contrade and taste the Ricciarelli, almond cakes, and the panforte. Don’t miss a visit to the art masterpieces of the Cathedral and of the ancient Hospital Santa Maria della Scala. As a craft souvenir, get a ceramic cup, or a little bell, with the colours of the contrade.

The Montagnola wild regions offers surprising itineraries. Rich in mineral resources and quarries of marble, it is distinctive for the red ground. Spread and hidden into the woods, several villas keep a Renaissance Italian garden, and parish churches display enchanting Romanesque details. Not to miss, a stop at the round church of Montesiepi to see the Sword in the Stone, let by St. Galgano, possibly related to the knights of King Arthur, at the end of XII century, and the Cictercian abbey downhill, that lost the ceiling.

In Val d’Orcia: indulge in a photo safari at sunrise or at sunset, around the cinema locations of the Gladiator and The English patient, observing the elongating shadows of the cypress trees and the changing effects of light. Stop in Pienza, sit for some minute on the stone benches of the Ideal Square designed by Pope Pius II Piccolomini in XV century, and admire the beautiful perspective of th endless landscape behind the cathedral. Recommended course: a flan of Pecorino sheep cheese, as soft as the clay hills all around, accompanied by a glass of red wine, a Brunello di Montalcino or a Nobile di Montepulciano, at choice. Visit the workshop of a blacksmith. In summer, you can easily bump into a concert held in an ancient church.

At the very south of the region, on the border with Lazio, visit the Amiata Mountain: regenerate, take a deep breath with a forest bathing in the beech wood, than visit the abbey of San Salvatore and the Mining museum. Try a dish based on chestnut flour and mushroom, and the Ricciolina chocolate cake. End the day laying in the thermal hot springs in the middle of the wood. You can do this even in winter, after a walk in the snow.

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