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Riding amid parishes, villas and castles

A route to explore the territory west of the city of the Palio, on the edge of the Montagnola Senese

We start from Porta Tufi and descend to the valley floor, to Via Massetana Romana (a busy road: be careful), which we will have to follow for a couple of kilometers out of town.

At the crossroads on Strada di Pescaia, we turn right along Strada di Montalbuccio and begin to climb for about two kilometers, with the unforgettable profile of Siena to accompany our efforts. When we come to a crossroads with a small church in the center, we follow the signs for Belcaro, a castle set in a dominant position and surrounded by massive walls. The manor was founded at the end of the 11th century by the Marescotti family from Siena, and in 1376 it was involved and destroyed in one of the many armed clashes. Later, the new owners donated it to St. Catherine of Siena, who turned it into a convent.

We now begin to descend as far as Provincial Road 73, in the locality of Fornace; we continue on the right for a couple of kilometers and shortly after Costalpino, at the Volte Alte sign (where you’ll find a drinking fountain), we go left. The road, slightly downhill, passes Volte Alte and Villa Chigi Farnese, then rejoins Provincial Road 73. The splendid 16th-century villa is surrounded by a large garden and, because of its monumental form, is a typical example of a suburban villa intended for resting.

Once we arrive at the small village of Volte Basse, we continue toward Rosia for a couple of kilometers of plain, still along the Provincial Road; after passing a short climb, we turn right and follow the signs for Sovicille, in whose territory there are numerous historical-architectural testimonies of interest.

Two more kilometers or so and we are faced with a junction in the road: to visit Sovicille, we have to make a one-kilometer detour, then return along the same road. Just beyond the village we can instead admire the splendid Pieve di San Giovanni Battista (Parish church of St. John the Baptist) in Ponte allo Spino, documented since 1189. The recent discovery in the church courtyard of Roman mosaics dating back to the 1st century A.D. makes it likely that one of the earliest baptismal fonts in the area around Siena was built here.

We still continue on the plain for about a kilometer, then take the first road on the right, signposted Caldana: along the road we will find a fountain. From here, an interesting loop-shaped route with almost no traffic will take us to discover in quick succession the Romanesque parish church of San Giusto a Balli, the castle of Poggiarello and finally the Villa and Palazzaccio of Toiano.

The Villa di Toiano is nestled in the Tuscan countryside, just a few kilometers from Siena; it features flowered terraces that offer breathtaking views of a valley rich in greenery and history. Not far away, the "Palazzaccio di Toiano," is a clearly medieval structure, once the castle of the village of the same name built in a strategic position.

Back on the provincial road, we take a left-hand turn toward Siena, paying attention to the traffic we will encounter until we turn left onto Strada di Certano. After about two hundred meters we turn right onto the Strada di Fornicchiaia until we return near the Belcaro Castle, from which we take a right onto Strada degli Agostoli, now on the edge of Siena.

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