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View from Montaione
Photo © Toscana nel cuore
Photo © Toscana nel cuore

Nature and spirituality in Gambassi Terme and Montaione

Thermal waters, woods, a canyon and the Via Francigena in the heart of Tuscany

In the heart of Tuscany between Florence, Siena and Volterra, there's a place far from the common tourist routes where nature and spirituality have always coexisted: we are talking about the territory between Gambassi Terme and Montaione, in the Empolese Valdelsa and Montalbano region.

Characterized by woods, springs and thermal waters, this area is one of the destinations for pilgrims travelling along the Via Francigena, the famous spiritual route linking Rome to Canterbury. 

A place to regenerate body and mind. 

  • 1.
    Nature and magical landscapes
  • 2.
    Along the Via Francigena: Santa Maria a Chianni
  • 3.
    Spirituality: from the Jerusalem of San Vivaldo to the Grottoes of Maurizio
  • 4.
    Thermal waters and geothermal energy: the Salsa di Pillo water and the Bollori spring.

Nature and magical landscapes

Upper Valley of Carfalo
Upper Valley of Carfalo - Credit: ANPIL

Nature is the main attraction of the area between Gambassi Terme and Montaione: here time has shaped the landscape, alternating rolling hills dotted with medieval villages, like Iano and Castelfalfi, to wooded areas and natural canyons, like in the upper valley of the Carfalo and Gambassi’s forests. 

This territory is the perfect destination for those who love hiking in nature and exploring the historic Tuscan villages.

Along the Via Francigena: Santa Maria a Chianni

Santa Maria of Chianni
Santa Maria of Chianni - Credit: Toscana nel cuore

For centuries, Gambassi Terme has been one of the stages of the Via Francigena. Every year, thousands of pilgrims walk the trail from Certaldo to Gambassi, marvelling at the beauty of the Parish Church of Santa Maria of Chianni

This church, mentioned by Sigeric the Serious, Archbishop of Canterbury, is situated at the entrance to the town of Gambassi. With its extraordinary façade, it's considered one of the most important architectural examples of the late Romanesque in Tuscany.

Spirituality: from the Jerusalem of San Vivaldo to the Grottoes of Maurizio

Terrecotta in Jerusalem of San Vivaldo
Terrecotta in Jerusalem of San Vivaldo - Credit: Toscana nel cuore

Spirituality has permeated these sites since the 16th century, when, in the woods outside Montaione, Fra Tommaso da Firenze ordered the construction of the Jerusalem of San Vivaldo. They realized a complex of chapels, decorated with polychrome terracotta representing scenes from the life of Jesus Christ and recreating the topography of Jerusalem. The site soon became a pilgrimage destination for those who could not reach the Holy City and sought a blessing.

Centuries later, at the beginning of the 20th century, a hermit called Maurizio Becherini chose to retire in the woods of Gambassi Terme. During that time, he realized many sculptures in the rock that are today mostly swallowed up by nature, Known as the Grottoes of Maurizio, there's a mystical and charming atmosphere. It's a quiet and spiritual place, requiring visitors to be respectful.

Thermal waters and geothermal energy: the Salsa di Pillo water and the Bollori spring.

thermal bath in Gambassi
thermal bath in Gambassi - Credit: thermal bath Gambassi

Only a few people know that Gambassi Terme’s territory is characterized by the presence of many springs. The most famous one produces the acqua salsa di Pillo (salty-iodine water), used by the local thermal baths since the 19th century for regenerating baths. The acqua salsa di Pillo is classified a spring water due to its high mineralization levels, and owes its healing properties to the geological structure of the spring.

If you are interested in geothermal energy, don't miss the opportunity to explore the Bollori located in the woods along the Casciani stream. The hot springs reach 23° C and their energy powers a small natural geyser. The sound of the bubbling water creates a truly relaxing atmosphere.

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