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Diborrato Waterfalls
Photo ©Piotr Dubiel Photography

Nature and healing waters around Siena

Itineraries to discover the geography of water in this area

Terre di Siena is an area rich of water and its history is marked by many events related to this element: experiencing the discovery of the senese territory through its water can be really interesting. The natural beauties of this territory, with their different colours and characteristics, change their names depending on locations and landscapes. You can see the water gushing then growing more and more, then becoming a river. You can follow the small rivers that flow deep in scented and shadowy woods. It's also the case of small lakes of fresh waters as the Chiaro in Chiusi, so named by Etruscan who said it was "the mirror of the moon". But we're also talking about thermal waters with great therapeutic properties, hot and rich in minerals. Let's take a look!

Chiaro Lake
Chiaro Lake - Credit: Valeri Rossano -

Leaving from the historical center of Chiusi and walking through a luxurious countryside, you will come to the “Chiaro”. The Etruscans referred to the Lake of Chiusi with this name, Il Chiaro, or The Clear. According to legend, the Goddess of the skies would use the lake as her mirror. Of notable archeological-historical interest are the Etruscan tombs of the Scimmia (monkey) and the Pellegrina (pilgrim). Returning to Chiusi you will pass the medieval towers of Beccati Questo (take that!) and Beccati Quello (and that!).

Merse River
Merse River
Merse River - Credit: Terensky

In Val di Merse, nature and history walk together at the same speed. This route, within the splendid framework of the valley of the Merse River, is of artistic and historic interest. Notice the thick woods that cover the hills surrounding the valley. The route passes through Stigliano, which conserves two beautiful towers that once belonged to the Ardengheschi family; the Poggio di Siena Vecchia, which has ancient pre-Etruscan ruins within it and Torri, a small village where it is worthy  of note a visit to the Abbey of Santa Mustiola with its beautiful cloister of black and white marble. An enchanted valley, the small villages, in harmony with the colours of the woods.

Bagno Vignoni
Bagno Vignoni
Bagno Vignoni - Credit: John Weiss

This route departs from near the thermal springs hotel and after a brief walk uphill, arrives at the characteristic medieval “borgo” of Vignoni alto or upper Vignoni. Once you’re up on the crest of the hill the trail will bring you to the Ripa Castle. In the end, after traversing a characteristic Mediterranean wood, the trail returns to Bagno Vignoni. This is the only town which has an ancient thermal pool from the 12th century as its main piazza. 

Castiglion that only God Knows
Castiglion that only God Knows - Credit: Stefano Tolari

From Brenna, following the Merse river, one of the most important waterways in the Province of Siena from a naturalistic point of view, the route will pass in front of an old mill, the Ricausa. From there you can climb to Castiglion Belzetti, better known as "Castiglion that only God Knows". The mansion, recently restored, seems to appear from nowhere, hidden as it is by a luxuriant growth of trees and vegetation that hide it from being seen.

Rapolano Terme
Ombrone River
Ombrone River - Credit: Sailko

From the center of Rapolano, this easy excursion ventures forth into the forested countryside and fertile farmland that surrounds this zone of travertine stone and thermal waters. There is a curious mineral stratification near the thermal spas of San Giovanni which also has a singular geyser. During the second part of the walk the route passes a “pieve” or country chapel, a gracious Romanesque chapel with a view out over the plains of the Ombrone River. Look at the shining travertine stone and the quarries sculpted by years of rain, sun and wind. After the hike you need some rest with a soak in one of the thermal springs.

Elsa River
The Diborrato
The Diborrato - Credit: Robyfra1

The route begins from the ancient thermal springs called the “caldane” and touches upon some of the principle springs of the River Elsa. Along the route it’s possible to see a few sections of the ancient Via Francigena which was an important trade road that connected Rome with northern Europe. Along the course of the river you’ll see an antique mill and the Diborrato waterfalls . The trail along the Elsa will show you the typical river vegetation.

Other places not to miss are the Grotta dell'Orso, the Conchina, the Masso Bianco, the Nicchia and the Spianata dei Falchi, each with its own particularities. This natural richness has been recognized with the institution of a protected area in the River Park of the Upper Val d'Elsa which includes the town of Colle Val d'Elsa and streaches from Ponte Santa Giulia to Ponte di Spugna including the Caldane thermal springs which were known to the Etruscans and Romans.