The Terre di Siena are rolling lands that surround the city famous for its horse race, the Palio. This countryside has been enchanting travellers with its beauty since time immemorial, greeting them with the charm of the past, wooded and clay valleys, vineyards and gently sloping hills lined with olive trees, as well as a food and wine culture that is more contemporary than ever.
Exploring them from north to south, visitors first encounter the verdant scenery of Chianti, where vineyards alternate with river valleys dotted with fortresses, castles and churches. The hilltop towns of Castelnuovo Berardenga, Castellina, Gaiole and Radda in Chianti stand guard over countryside that has been managed wisely for centuries. Near Castelnuovo Berardenga, explore historic gardens like Arceno, Pontignano, Villa la Pagliaia, Catignano, Geggiano and Sestano.
The Val d’Elsa has been a land of passage since antiquity thanks to the Via Francigena and countless roads leading to the coast. Here, trade routes and spiritual paths interweave, nearly all of which lead to Rome. This is the land of San Gimignano, a town of towers, and Monteriggioni, famous for its perfectly preserved walls.
The Val di Merse resonates with travellers due to the beauty of its woodland, streams and myriad nature trails, which weave around the churches and castle towns of Chiusdino, Monticiano, Murlo and Sovicille. The higher part of the river Merse forms part of the Alta Merse Nature Reserve, while the Farma, flowing down to the valley floor into the Merse and Ombrone, meets the hot waters of the Terme di Petriolo, once frequented by Pope Pius XII. Chosen by hermits and believers for its quietude, the valley is home to countless monasteries and abbeys, including San Galgano.
South of Siena, visitors encounter the Crete Senesi, crevices carved by water eroding the clay and sand sediments a million years ago. The lunar-like landscape is scattered with medieval towns: Asciano, Buonconvento, Monteroni d’Arbia, Rapolano Terme and San Giovanni d’Asso.
The nearby Val d’Orcia offers a variety of sloping scenery thanks to cypress-topped hills. The river Orcia feeds striking landscapes, with wooded precipices that drop down to the river. Along the medieval Via Cassia stand Radicofani, Castiglione and San Quirico d’Orcia, while Pienza and Montepulciano lie toward the Val di Chiana. This is also the land of Brunello di Montalcino, the pinnacle of Italian winemaking, alternating with the hot springs of Bagno Vignoni and Bagni San Filippo, which have handed out their healthy benefits for millennia.
Then there are the wines of Montepulciano, cured meats of Sinalunga and healing waters of Chianciano Terme and San Casciano dei Bagni, all of which are found in the Val di Chiana, a valley of taste and wellness. The spirit of the good life is alive and well around Monte Cetona, where remains of an ancient human presence in the valley have been unearthed: Grotta Lattaia, home to centuries-old water worshipping, and the grotta di San Francesco, in which hearths have been found as well as pots containing charcoal remains of legumes and cereals.
Further south, Monte Amiata dominates the Val d'Orcia, the Chiusi and Chianciano hills, and the great expanse of the Maremma Grossetana. It is the perfect hangout for skiers and walkers thanks to its countless trails, pistes and forests. The small town of Piancastagnaio takes its name from the age-old chestnut trees.