Siena and Val d’Orcia
Siena and Val d’Orcia
When deciding where to stay in Tuscany, travellers find themselves in a maze… so much to see, so many renowned destinations. Well, among all Tuscan holidays, Siena holidays, are memorable offering sun-kissed days and enlightening lifestyle experiences; and, the Siena villas we can provide are among the most evocative and beautiful throughout Italy! Encased in a landscape of silky rolling hills, vineyards and olive groves, Siena rises atop three hills, connected by a network of charming winding alleys and steps, and is one of the most enchanting and celebrated Italian cities. The whole hillside boasts a variety of genuinely Tuscan villas, countryside estates and rustic farmhouses, picture-perfect holiday homes suitable for all requirements! According to ancient legends Siena was founded by Senio and Ascanio, sons of Remus founder of Rome with his brother Romolus. Though the city boasts many statues of the she-wolf feeding the twins, this is but a myth, and historians assure that the city originated from an Etruscan settlement, then Roman military outpost, and later flourished thanks to trade.
The city became important, and renowned, in the 12th century, when an independent “commune” government, which slowly started including common people, replaced the aristocratic rule. During the Middle Ages, Siena, faithful to the Ghibelline cause, and neighbouring Guelph Florence fought incessantly due to boundary issues. During the 13th and 14th century Siena became one of Italy’s most important banking centres; its power, size and wealth grew noticeably as did its magnificent artistic production with remarkable artists such as Guido da Siena, Duccio di Buoninsegna and Ambrogio Lorenzetti. It was at this time that most of the striking Sienese-Gothic architecture – for example the Duomo, the Palazzo Comunale, and the marvelous shell-shaped Piazza del Campo – that characterizes the city still today, was built. A vacation in a rental villa or farmhouse in Siena and surroundings offers visitors a splendid opportunity for a voyage into the past! Simply exploring the narrow, picturesque streets, and viewing the imposing Gothic buildings which add charm and majesty, is a memorable experience. During a Siena holiday countless gorgeous churches, museums, stunning landmarks and sites are at just a brief pleasant drive or walk from your villa’s front door! Admire Piazza del Campo, one of the world’s most fascinating squares, world-renowned for the annual Palio horse race. The square’s main landmarks are the stately 13-14th century Palazzo Comunale, which hosts the Museo Civico, crammed with masterpieces and the Fonte Gaia fountain, right in the center. And, view the gorgeous brick Torre del Mangia, tall yet delicate in design, rises right next to the Palazzo Comunale, symbolizing the palace’s power and offers breathtaking views onto the city rooftops and surrounding landscape. The Duomo (Cathedral) and the Church of Sant’Agostino well deserve a visit. The Cathedral’s red, white and green marble façade, and its inlaid marble floor are awe striking, as is the exquisite pulpit by Giovanni Pisano. Adjacent to the Duomo rises the Libreria Piccolomini, an artistic jewel: built to house the books of Pius II it is fully decorated by the great Pinturicchio’s vivid frescoes. The Church of Sant’Agostino, built in the 13th century, also boasts a rich rococo interior and frescoes by Perugino and Sodoma. A Tuscan summer holiday in a rental home near Siena will certainly include the annual Palio horse race, probably one of the world’s most exciting and heartfelt festivals! The race is an extremely popular event which all Sienese participate in wholly. The city is divided into 17 districts (“contrade”), each of which competes hoping to win the sacred banner or “palio” ; a real Sienese’s devotion to his/her contrada is total, and for the whole year Siena’s citizens prepare for the upcoming Palio. On the day all horses and jockeys are blessed in their dedicated contrada church and escorted to the square by their fans; a fascinating, hour-long historic parade in costume precedes the race itself, which is quite brief, and scenes of immense desperation and unbridled elation follow on into the night… Val d’Orcia is a dreamlike region, blessed with breathtaking beauty and countless, sublime, attractions. There are innumerable enticing things to do in Tuscany, in Val d’Orcia many of these are at their best! Wish to relax at an ancient, historic Tuscan spa? To go wine tasting in Tuscany? Longing for farmhouse holidays or gorgeous family-friendly villas in Cortona? Val d’Orcia has it all, and it’s magical! The area that extends to the south-east of Siena, setting the city’s spectacular background, is the Val d’Orcia a magical, fairytale-like land of unique landscapes. A villa or farmhouse in this region allows families or groups of friends to be fully immersed in unrivalled natural beauty and spellbinding panoramas inspired Medieval and Renaissance artists’masterpieces, and the journeys of many a foreigner, from Grand Tour travelers to writers and poets . Renting your own villa, farmstead or estate in the Val d’Orcia area means waking up to light-drenched gentle hills which melt one into another, walking through ample valleys and admiring a palette of mystifying colors, bright or subtle depending on the season, savoring tranquillity beneath the slender cypresses seem to guard the silent country roads and ancient farmhouses. Val D’Orcia is a treasure chest filled with memorable panoramas, peaceful atmospheres and century-old culture and traditions, all to be discovered on foot, horseback, bike, or leisurely driving along its quiet roads. A holiday home in Val D’Orcia offers visitors the chance to explore and dream away, discovering the rich local heritage, history and lively traditions in mysterious abbeys, majestic castles, charming ancient towns and fortified villages.. Among the most important cultural sites are the valley’s famed art towns, especially Pienza, San Quirico d’Orcia, Montalcino, Montepulciano. Pienza, created by Enea Silvio Piccolomini (Pope Pius II) to be the “ideal” or “utopian” city, is a rare example of an actual Renaissance town. Its exquisite city center boasts marvelous landmarks, such as the main square, the Duomo and Palazzo Piccolomini with its magnificent gardens. San Quirico d’Orcia, with its splendidly preserved walls and turrets, is a superb example of Medieval walled village, and hosts important churches. Montalcino, world-celebrated as birthplace of the prized Brunello wine, rises imposingly atop a hill surmounted by its majestic 13th century fortress, offering gorgeous palaces, precious artwork and fascinating winding alleys full of quaint workshops and gastronomic specialty shops. Montepulciano, surrounded by grand 15th century walls and fortifications built by the great Antonio Sangallo the Elder, is renowned as hometown of the Tuscan “Vino nobile” wine and for its magnificent Renaissance palaces. The area also features innumerable delightful villages characterized by spectacular views, quiet stone-paved squares and picturesque narrow alleys. Visitors accommodated in Val d’Orcia holiday villas have the chance to easily travel to the amazing ancient fortresses in Radicofani and Castiglione D’Orcia and discovering the amazing natural Spa in Bagno Vignoni. Visiting this spellbinding village is a journey back in time: it houses a great walled basin of steaming hot water in the main square, where great men like Lorenzo the Magnificent used to bathe! Families with children delight in Val d’Orcia: its wide variety of family-friendly estates, villas and farmhouses and enticing daily excursions! To the region’s striking, mysterious abbeys, for example, Sant’Antimo and San Galgano, awesome sites with incredible legends. Sant’Antimo, which boasts a lovely Romanic church immersed in the verdant surrounding countryside, is said to have been built on order of Charlemagne himself. Legends say he and his army were travelling back to France when they risked contracting the plague; they were spared and to render his thanks the Emperor set the first stone of the Abbey. San Galgano is a unique destination for all travelers, and a must-see for children. Nestled among the rolling hills between the villages of Monticiano and Chiusdino, lie the wonderful, dream-like ruins of this impressive Abbey, a spectacular place where the “floor” is a meadow of grass, there is no roof at all and, above all there is a real sword in the stone! Finally, another truly interesting site is La Foce Estate, owned by the descendants of Anglo-American writer Iris Origo and vividly described in her famous diary “War in Val D’Orcia”. The estate’s gardens – open to the public on Wednesday afternoons – are exquisite. Designed by Cecil Pinsent in the 1920s the park features a formal Italian garden divided by box hedges with lemon trees. A rose garden, wisteria-covered pergola bordered by lavender hedge, fruit trees and bushes of wild broom, thyme and rosemary, enhance its splendor.