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San Giovanni Terme Rapolano

Etruscan thermal baths in Siena

A tour of art and wellbeing in the Siena Crete

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Two days touring the thermal baths of the Etruscans in the Sienese Crete and Val di Chiana: an itinerary that teaches both health and culture in a territory rich in art to discover.

Departure: Siena

Day 1 – Departure: 9:00am. Leaving Siena, you can make your way across the Crete Senesi hills until you reach Asciano. On your way you’ll see the characteristic geological formations of this area: the Calanchi and the Biancane, the former referring to the deep trenches in the earth caused by torrents of water, and the latter being soft, light-coloured reliefs which assume a rounded-off shape because of atmospheric agents. It is here that the precious and aromatic Crete Senesi truffle is collected.

9.45: Once in Asciano, visit the Church of Sant’Agata. Dating back to the 11th century, the church is home to two Renaissance masterpieces: A Madonna and Child by Signorelli and a Pietà by Sodoma, two of the artists currently on display at exhibitions in London.

Your tour of the town will proceed with a visit to the late gothic Church of Sant’Agostino, where a polyptych, the Assumption of the Virgin by Francesco di Giovanni, once hung but is now on display in London.

Before continuing to the your first well-being stop, enjoy glimpse of piazza del Grano and its travertine fountain by Paolo Ghini, a testimony to the art and style of 15th century sculpture.

12:00: Once out of Asciano head north until you near Rapolano Terme. Here the hot waters and steam that flow from the ground have proven healing powers well known for centuries, so much so that the town of Rapolano Terme hosted a wounded and weary Giuseppe Garibaldi as he sought to heal after the battles of Aspromonte. You can enjoy a day in the thermal baths in one of the two networks of baths that flow in Rapolano Terme: the Querciolaia and Terme S. Giovanni. The town, aside from being well known for its healing waters and for having been one of the major travertine extraction sites of Italy, is also an interesting village to visit. A worthy stop is the Museum of Peasant Life in the Grange of Serre (Grancia di Serre). (Duration of visit including thermal bath stops: 4 hours)

After your regenerating stop in Rapolano Terme you can continue towards Val di Chiana. First, however, we suggest you take time to visit nearby Serre di Rapolano, characterized primarily by the elegant structure of its fortified Grange, which faces the breathtaking panorama of the southern Sienese countryside. Fifteenth century Renaissance frescoes line the walls of the city center’s Capella di Piazza, the most stunning of which is Andrea di Niccolò’s Madonna and Child on the sidelong wall of the church. (Duration of visit: half hour)

Day 2 – Departure 9:00am. From the Crete Senesi you can make your way to the Val di Chiana in no time using first the Siena-Bettolle pass then highway A1. Every civilization that reigned over this hillside made full use of the many healing waters that flow from deep beneath the ground here: from the Etruscans to the Romans, from the medieval to the Renaissance, and even in the present as the modern scientific community draws on the ancient practices of this region to influence modern medicine.

9:45: Your first stop could be the thermal baths of renaissance Montepulciano, in the locality of Sant’Albino. This is an undeniably a worthy stop, as the waters of Montepulciano were studied for the first time during the 16th century by Andrea Bacci for his work entitled De Thermis. Here the water comes from two sources, each about 132 metres deep, and flows thanks to a complex mechanism of wells and tubes that are able to rise to the surface without losing their therapeutic qualities. These are sulphurous waters with a temperature of about 20°C.

Montepulciano lies but a few kilometres from this thermal station. Before climbing up to the town center take a moment to visit the renaissance Church of San Biagio. Designed by Antonio da Sangallo il Vecchio, it is a must-see stop for those interested in taking in the wealth of Sienese renaissance art. With its white marble and Greek cross adhered to a decidedly Christian edifice, the church represents one of the most amazing architectural masterpieces of its time. Once in town, you’ll be able to admire a historical center rich with 15th and 16th century facades, testament to the wealth and prestige of this town during the Renaissance, when it attracted among the most important Italian architects. Angelo Poliziano, refined renaissance poet that remains one of the most noted in Italian history, was born in Montepulciano.

2:30: Round out your itinerary with a final stop in the capital of thermal waters: Chianchiano Terme. The town is well known for its hospitality and ability to welcome visitors and tourists from the world over. Here you can allow yourself luxurious treatments or extraordinarily effective healing treatments for the liver or kidneys. Enjoy hours of true well-being, far from the stresses of every day life as you wander through the thermal parks and indulge in mud baths and thermal dips, drink the healing waters and visit the beautiful historic center of Chianciano. Chianciano boasts numerous artistic testimonies to the late Renaissance, like the Churches of the Company and Madonna of the Rose. (Duration of visit: 1 hour).

Near Chianciano, and near highway A1 that can lead you back north, is Chiusi, whose cathedral is home to a beautiful tablet by Girolamo di Benvenuto depicting an enthroned Madonna and Child, and to a painting of the Adoration of the Child by Bernardino Fungai, both masterpieces of the late 15th century. (Duration of visit: 1 hour).