The second day continues in the nearby Val di Merse, the wildest land in the Siena area. And yet, surrounded by unspoilt forests, you can find masterpieces of Renaissance art, like the Church of San Giovanni Battista in Rosia, with an altarpiece by Matteo di Giovanni’s greatest disciple, Guidoccio Cozzarelli, depicting a Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints Sebastian and Anthony the Abbot.
Travelling the roads that wind through the forests, you’ll come to Monticiano and the nearby Petriolo hot springs. The latter is a thermal resort used since the Middle Ages for the presence of sulphur-rich waters with curative properties. The hot springs have been visited by many famous figures, including members of the Medici and Gonzaga families, cardinals, dukes and the excellent regular, Pope Pius II – Enea Silvio Piccolomini.
If you want to surround yourself with Renaissance elements after Petriolo, just head north to Murlo. Here, in the second half of the 1500s, the churches were decorated and renovated: the Parish Church of San Fortunato in Vescovado still conserves its large altarpiece, a triptych by Benvenuto di Giovanni, signed and dated 1475, depicting the Madonna and Child Enthroned, Angels Playing Music and Saints Catherine of Alexandria, Michael the Archangel, Blaise and Lucy; above is Christ Blessing with Saints Ansanus and Lawrence. The work boasts exceptional formal elegance, the use of new perspectives influenced by Vecchietta in full effect. In the same church, there’s also a surviving panel of a polyptych, today dispersed around the world, by Andrea di Niccolò, painted for the parish church in Carli and which only the Madonna and Child remains in Italy, the central part of a triptych whose side panels with saints are now in international museums.