Surrounding area

Greve in Chianti

Greve in Chianti added the words “in Chianti” in 1972 after becoming part of the subzone of Chianti Classico. It is an Italian city in the province of Florence in Tuscany with a population of 13,954 [3]. It is located on the via Chiantigiana, the road which connects Florence with Siena, passing through the striking Chianti countryside.
From Medieval times the history of Greve is linked to its main square, which has always served as a marketplace. The village was a simple dependent of the castle of Montefioralle but thanks to its position, the spot where the roads to the Valdarno, the Val di Greve and the road which led from Florence across the Chianti hills to Siena meet, it was able to become the main marketplace of the area. The square is in the shape of an elongated triangle and is surrounded for the most part by porticoes. In the center of the square is a statue of Giovanni da Verrazzano. One of the corners of the square is occupied by the parochial church dedicated to the Holy Cross (Santa Croce – 19th century.
From a historical-administrative point of view, before becoming part of the Province of Florence, Greve was part of the vicarage of San Giovanni Valdarno, even though it was on the border of the vicarage of Certaldo (of which the Province of Chianti belonged, currently all part of the Province of Siena).
Among the sites to visit in Greve in Chianti are the Castles of Uzzano, Canonica, Mugnana and Verrazzano, as well as the village of Montefioralle and S. Lucia a Barbiano with its castle which was a fortress during the city struggles between Florence and Siena. An excellent panorama can be seen from nearby Convertoie .
 

Montalcino

Montalcino is a city in the Province of Siena known for its production of Brunello wine. It is located in the territory northwest of Monte Amiata, at the edge of the val d'Orcia, on the municipality border with the Province of Grosseto.
The hill on which Montalcino is located was probably inhabited as far back as Etruscan times, but the first houses date back to the 10th century. During this period the population increased considerably when the people of Roselle moved to the city. The original settlement of homes was then extended over the centuries until the 14th century, when it reached its present size.
In medieval times the main source of income was the tannery and in Montalcino there were numerous factories for leather tanning which were famous for their quality products. Later, as in many towns in the Province of Siena, Montalcino suffered a dire economic and demographic crisis as well.
As was the case with many Tuscan medieval villages, Montalcino enjoyed long periods of peace which allowed its people to prosper. However, this peace and prosperity was interrupted by a series of extremely violent events.
During the Late Middle Ages the village was still an independent town of considerable importance, thanks to its location on the old Via Francigena, the main road connecting France with Rome. But over time Montalcino fell under the influence of powerful Siena.
As a satellite town of Siena, during the Battaglia di Montaperti in 1260, Montalcino was heavily involved in the conflicts in which also Siena was involved, particularly those with the city of Florence during the 14th and 15th centuries. Commonplace in many other cities of Central Europe and Northern Italy, the city was also involved in the internal conflicts between the Ghibellini (supporters of the Holy Roman Empire) and the Guelfi (supporters of the Papacy). Factions of the two sides controlled the city in various moments at the end of the Middle Ages.
After the fall of Siena in 1555 the noblemen of Siena sought refuge in the city for 4 years with the hopes of one day returning to Siena, leading to the founding of the Repubblica di Siena "refuge" in Montalcino. But in the end Montalcino became part of the Granducato di Toscana as well until 1861, when the Unification of Italy took place.
The situation radically changed during the second half of the 20th century. In Montalcino’s case it was lucky to be located in the middle of one of the most important areas for grape cultivation. In fact the territory is renowned for the presence of Sangiovese vineyards which produce the famous Brunello di Montalcino wine and which also are used in the production of two DOC wines: Rosso di Montalcino and S.Antimo.
 

Monteriggioni

The heart of Monteriggioni is a small walled village. The diameter of the castle measures 172 meters, surrounded by a massive oval-shaped city wall a full two meters thick. The wall is interspersed by 15 towers and two doors, and encircles a hill called Monte Ala. Today the towers rise 6.5 meters above the surrounding walls and are 4x6 meters thick. Only 11 towers are visible; the others were reduced to wall level (or “pruned”). The 11 that were raised were restored, so to speak, in the 1920s, in occasion of the 600th anniversary of Dante’s death in 1921, so as to render them visible from the main road of the time, the Cassia. Atop the surrounding walls was a walkway which ran the entire perimeter. In 2005 some parts of the walkway, from which it is possible to enjoy a unique and evocative view, were rebuilt.
The Porta Franca or Romea (the door facing Siena) is at the base of a great tower whereas the door that faces Florence, the Porta di Sotto is an opening in the surrounding walls and is next to one of the towers of the walled perimeter.
The Porta Franca or Romea, which was originally fitted with a heavy gate which was lowered in case of danger, leads to Piazza Roma, the heart of the village. The piazza was originally “a sterro”, in other words it lacked pavement, but it was paved in the 1970s with stones hewn from the quarries of Rosia (called Pietra da Torre). Still today the square is surrounded by flower gardens as well as vegetable gardens, very important for the city's survival, also in the event of a siege.
Facing the square is the Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta.
 

Pienza

Pienza is a city in the province of Siena with a population of 2,190. It is probably the most well-known and the most artistically important city of the entire Val d'Orcia, the valley where it is located. It is not very far from the via Cassia and from two other important towns in the valley, San Quirico d'Orcia and Castiglione d'Orcia. Its town center was named by UNESCO a world heritage site in 1996.
The history of Pienza, unlike that of nearby towns, is not filled with long periods of medieval conflicts and wars. In fact the city was only a small village known by the name of Corsignano until the year 1462. The event that changed Pienza’s fate occurred in 1405: the birth of Enea Silvio Piccolomini who, at the age of 53, became Pope Pius II. It was during the Pontiff’s trip toward Mantua that he passed through his birthplace. He found it in such disrepair that he decided to build on top of the old village. The project was placed in the hands of architect Bernardo Rossellino. Construction lasted for approximately four years and resulted in a harmonious little city with typical 15th century architecture. The premature death of Pope Pius II also brought the history of the city to an end, and it has remained practically the same ever since.
Pienza is among the cities decorated with a Valor Militare per la Guerra di Liberazione: it received the Medaglia d'Argento al Valor Militare for the sacrifices of its citizens and for its participation in the Partisan struggle during World War II.
Due to the beauty of its Renaissance-era historic center, Pienza became part of UNESCO’s natural, artistic and cultural Heritage Sites in 1996. It was followed in 2004 by the valley where it is located: the Val d'Orcia.
A large part of Pienza's important historic and artistic heritage is concentrated in the charming square dedicate to Pontiff Pius II, a figure who gave a great deal to the little city, by attempting to make it the ideal Renaissance city. His plans, entrusted to Bernardo Rossellino, were only partially completed, but they remain still today one of the most significant examples of rational urban planning during the Italian Renaissance. An isolated and immediate eye catcher is the Renaissance Cathedral, across from the Palazzo Comunale and next to Palazzo Borgia and to Palazzo Piccolomini. Near Pienza is the Romitorio - a group of rooms dug out of sandstone by hermit monks. In one of the grottos there is a curious sculpture of the Blessed Mother with six fingers.
 

San Gimignano

San Gimignano is a fairy tale town in the Province of Siena, characterized by its Vernaccia wine and by its towers. It is situated on a hill overlooking the Val d’Elsa and has a population of 8,790. Site of a small Etruscan village from the Hellenistic period, the city’s history began around the 10th century and took the name of the Holy Bishop of Modena: San Gimignano, who supposedly saved the village from hordes of Barbarians. It grew considerably during the Middle Ages thanks to the via Francigena which passes through it.
San Gimignano is a village that certainly merits more than a short visit. The center is a real, true work of art which keeps the charm of a bygone area intact. The Collegiata di S. Maria Assunta, built in the 12th century, is absolutely beautiful. Inside are frescoes depicting episodes from the Old Testament, painted in the 1300s by Siena artists Barna da Siena, Bartolo di Fredi and Taddeo di Bartolo. There are also frescoes painted by Florentine artists during the 1400s. The chapel is the work of Giuliano and Benedetto da Maiano and bears decorations in terracotta.
The Chiesa di San Agostino was frescoed by Benozzo Gozzoli and also houses a Coronation by Pollaiolo. Also worth visiting are the churches of San Pietro, San Jacopo and San Bartolo. Also of note is the Palazzo del Podesta' which houses a fresco by Sodoma. Le Fonti, a building which was used for the washing of wool, dates back to the 12th century. Also of spectacular beauty is the Piazza della Cisterna, with a striking well at its center. The village is also home to various museums: the Etruscan museum, a museum of sacred art and the civic Pinacoteca. Not far from San Gimignano is the Pieve di Cellole from the 13th century.
The city is one of the finest examples and a genuine model of medieval urban planning in the Region of Tuscany.
 

Sovicille

Sovicille extends along the eastern slopes of the Montagnola Senese.
The name of the town might be derived from combining the Latin term “Sub”, meaning under with the Latin term “Ficinulae”, short for the term “ficum”, which means “ficus”.
The village of Sovicille was founded around the year 1000 on the border between the holdings of the Episcopate of Siena and those of the Diocese of Volterra. From the 11th century it was part of the property of the nearby abbey, Abbazia della Serena.
At the end of the 12th century the Bishops of Siena succeeded in obtaining control over Sovicille which was later annexed to the holdings of the Repubblica di Siena. In 1240 Sovicille was established as a free city with its own statutes. During the course of the 13th century Sovicille began an era of decline due to the heated conflicts among nearby towns for control of the village, which led to the territory being pillaged
Over the course of the 14th century Sovicille withstood numerous sieges by the army of the Repubblica di Firenze which finally succeeded in conquering the village in the mid 16th century.
From 1554 Sovicille became one of the holdings of the Repubblica di Firenze and Cosimo I de’ Medici. During this period, which lasted until the beginning of the 1700s, the village saw considerable economic growth thanks to the Medici incentives for the development of agriculture and of marble and iron extraction. When the last descendant of the Medici line died, the Dukes of Lorena rose to power. They maintained control over Sovicille until the early 1800s, when the territory was invaded by Napoleon Bonaparte's French army.
The French remained settled in Sovicille territory until 1814 when, under the Treaty of Vienna, the city was assigned to the Granducato di Toscana.
In 1861 Sovicille was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy by King Vittorio Emanuele II di Savoia.
Among the most significant monuments in Sovicille are the Pieve di San Lorenzo, the Palazzo Nuti-Palmieri and the Museo Etnografico del Bosco e delle Mezzadria, located in the nearby town of Orgia.
Among the numerous events which take place periodically in Sovicille are the “Festa della Madonna Romitorio”, which is held annually on September 11 in honor of the Blessed Mother.
The religious event includes a procession during which the statue of the Blessed Mother is transported to the Romitorio chapel, where High Mass is held.