Surrounding area

Abbazia di San Galgano

TheAbbazia di San Galgano is a Cistercian abbey located approximately thirty kilometers from Siena, within the city limits of Chiusdino. It is comprised of the hermitage (called Rotonda di Montesiepi) and the large abbey, which now, in complete ruins with only the walls remaining, is a tourist site.
The lack of a roof in this abbey is shared by those in Melrose and Kelso in Scotland, in Cashel, Ireland, and Eldena, Germany. The floor, replaced by packed earth, in the springtime is transformed into a blanket of grass.
The church has a Latin cross layout 69 meters long by 21 meters wide and also features a spacious transept. The interior is divided lengthwise into three aisles of 16 bays of cross-shaped pillars.
Only towards the end of the 1800s was restoration considered. Following a survey of the architectural structures, the entire building became the focus of a massive historical study which was accompanied by a photographic campaign carried out by Fratelli Alinari of Florence. In 1926 a conservative restoration began, which was carried out without resorting to arbitrary reconstructions or additions: it was decided to simply reinforce that which remained of the monastery.
The church perfectly adheres to the canons of Cistercian abbeys. These canons were established by the rule of Saint Bernard and they provided for precise regulations as far as location, floor plan and building distribution were concerned. The abbeys were to be built along the most important roadways (in this case the via Maremmana) in order to render communications with the Mother House easier. Furthermore they were generally located near rivers (here it is the Merse) in order to take advantage of hydraulic power. Lastly, they were to be built in wooded or swampy areas in order to reclaim these lands and then utilize them for cultivating. From an architectural point of view the buildings were to be portrayed as considerably plain and formal.
 

Castello di Montarrenti

The Castello di Montarrenti is located within the city limits of Sovicille in the Province of Siena. It can be reached from Siena by following the SS73 Senese Aretina. It is right past the town of Rosia and right before the fork with SS 541 Traversa Maremmana, which leads to Colle Val d'Elsa.
The origins of the castle (Monte Arrenti or Monte Liurenti or perhaps Monte Lirrenti) are said to date back to the 8th century when, at the base of the small hill where it is located, there was possibly a small village which then became a manorial center The Castle was supposedly near a silver mine and from other documents links between the Frosini family, from the family of the Gherardesca counts, and the Montarrenti family, perhaps of Lombardian origin, linked to the Aldobrandeschi family, were discovered. On October 5, 1217 the consuls of Montarrenti made a vow of loyalty to the City of Siena.
Between 1217 and 1271, the castle, the church of Santa Maria and the village below, surrounded by an outer wall at the base of the hill, must have had a considerable number of inhabitants if one considers that the City of Siena, which dominated the area, had deployed a magistrate, later replaced by a minor official who answered directly to the government of Siena. Sometime later, perhaps also caused by the closing of the mines, the village was slowly abandoned.
All that is left of the castle today are two towers with Gothic or arched windows and loopholes which were perhaps originally crenellated but which now have classic hut-shaped roofs. Remains of the outer walls are visible in the area below. Sculpted above the main entrance door to the tall tower is a crest.
The Province of Siena recently restored the castle structure.
Part of the structure was renovated to house the main location of the province's astronomy observatory, managed by the Unione Astrofili Senesi, as well as the office of the Siena branch of the C.A.I. (Italian Alpine Club).
 

Ospedale di Santa Maria della Scala

Santa Maria della Scala, built on the via Francigena, is one of the oldest European hospitals and one of the oldest examples of a xenodochio (refuge and hospital to welcome pilgrims and to lend support to the poor and to abandoned children). It ceased to function as a hospital several years ago and underwent renovations for cultural and museum use. In fact since 1993 part of the complex is home to the Museo archeologico nazionale di Siena. The founding of the hospital is owed to the Duomo clergy, even though a medieval Siena tale speaks of a legendary founder by the name of Sorore, a cobbler, who died in the year 898.
The management of the important complex, first by the clergy of the Duomo, then by the hospital monks, slowly passed into layman's hands and then, in the 1400s was passed to the City. Around the year 1300 it gained legal status which was handled by Blessed Agostino Novello. Thanks to the legacies left by the important families of the city and to the substantial alms which filled Santa Maria’s coffers, the hospital immediately acquired a significant measure of the Republic of Siena's economy, in the territory where there were numerous agricultural properties , called grance, which for centuries were a source of economic support for the intense workload of the hospital.
Considered the third "artistic hub" of the city, together with Palazzo Pubblico and the Cathedral, this large complex, located in the heart of Siena, maintains intact the evidence of one thousand years of history, tracing a route which, from Etruscan and Roman times to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, leads to present day.
Among the artistic evidence present here there is a mixture of images of Etruscan civilizations, tired pilgrims, wayfarers and ailing, noblemen, Byzantine Emperors, abandoned children and praying brothers. In the Museum there are monumental spaces, narrow corridors, colorful frescoes depicting life histories, dark crypts, labyrinths of tunnels dug in the tufa rock and large spaces with brick arches.
The Santa Maria della Scala does not lend itself to a global evaluation. Even if some of Italy’s finest artists left precious rarities here, the large building (350,000 cubic meters) is, above all, the summation of the city and its history. It is unique for this reason: it is a receptacle where architecture, works of art and history tell the tale of a “lifetime” that has continued uninterrupted for a thousand years.

Pieve di Ponte allo Spino

The pieve di San Giovanni Battista a Ponte allo Spino is a sacred building found in Ponte allo Spino, in the Sovicille area, in the Province of Siena, in the archdioceses of Siena-Colle di Val d'Elsa-Montalcino.
Supposedly dating back to 1189, this is one of the most interesting Romanesque buildings in the Siena area.
The pieve has three aisles divided by cross-shaped pillars and finished off by apses. The last bay of the center nave bears a taller barrel-vaulted ceiling, which results in the presence of a lantern, decorated externally with blind arches containing diamond-shaped and round terraces.
On the façade, horizontally divided by a cornice, are a portal and a wide lancet window. The capital columns bear various depictions of highest quality. The bell tower is in the Lombardian style and has double and single mullioned window openings.
Inside the church is a painting on wood by Bartolomeo Neroni, better known as “il Riccio” (16th century), depicting the Blessed Mother with the Baby Jesus, angels, saints and a bishop.
 

Ponte della Pia

The Ponte della Pia is a bridge of Roman origin, rebuilt during Medieval times. It is located on the SS 73 Siena-Arezzo road, just past the town of Rosia in the Sovicille area and shortly before the Castello di Montarrenti.
It bears a single arch and its present structure dates back to the beginning of the 13th century. It connects the two banks of the Rosia stream and, in the past, it played an important role along the path of the old Via Massetana which linked Siena to the Maremma area, particularly to the Colline Metallifere and Massa Marittima, for which the road is named.
The structure can only be crossed on foot, partly due to the absence of lateral embankments which were destroyed during World War II by the passage of German armored tanks. On the opposite side of the bridge we find the other side of the gorge where the stream flows. Here is the road called “manliana”, rebuilt during the course of the 15th century, which leads to the Eremo di Santa Lucia in Rosia.
According to tradition its name is derived from Siena noblewoman Pia de' Tolomei, wife of Nello d'Inghiramo, proud proprietor of the Castel di Pietra. Also mentioned by Dante Alighieri in the Divine Comedy, she was unable to bear children with her second husband who, accusing her of betrayal, supposedly killed her by throwing her from the cliff in Maremma where the Castel di Pietra is located. According to tradition, the cliff is called “il Salto della Contessa” (the Leap of the Countess). Legend has it that the ghost of Pia de’ Tolomei appears on the bridge during nights in which there is a full moon, clothed totally in white, and that she crosses it without ever touching the ground.