Montalcinothe town where our Nocciolata cookies originated, is an exquisitely pretty little town. It is famous for its wine, Brunello di Montalcino. Brunello Di Montalcino is a visually brilliant wine with an intense garnet color. Its bouquet carries the scents of the earth and fruits of the area, as well as a hint of vanilla. The Brunello di Montalcino is dry and elegantly harmonic to taste. It can withstand lengthy aging. Depending on the vintage, the Brunello di Montalcino can be kept from 10 to 30 years.
The Brunello di Montalcino pairs well with red meats and game, and especially those prepared with truffles or mushrooms. It is excellent with full bodied cheeses and goes perfectly with locally produced Tuscan pecorino. For more information, visit the website of the Consortium of Brunello di Montalcino producers at: www.consorziobrunellodimontalcino.com
The Val d’Orcia
The Val d’Orcia areasituated south of Siena, boasts several features that make touring the area a unique and wonderful experience. There are rolling hills, woodlands and brushlands to be viewed, as well as some strikingly picturesque and interesting towns, here you will see what is set in your immagination as the perfect picture of Tuscany .Here the hard work of the man , determination and detication made possible to obtain high quality products from the vines, olive trees and wheat. We invite you to explore an itinerary through some of the area’s highlights, beginning with two ancient towns near the northern tip of the Val D’Orcia. In our next post we will continue to explore the Val D’Orcia with a visit to Pienza.
One might wonder what brings so many visitors to the tiny village of Bagno Vignoni, especially during the warmer months. It is the sulfurous hot springs there that having been drawing visitors since Roman times. Although it is no longer possible to bathe in the public pool once used by Lorenzo the Magnificent to ease the pains of rheumatism, visitors are still drawn to the huge cistern of warm and bubbling water at Bagno Vignoni. The arcaded stone cistern is a startling sight and well worth a visit to admire its architecture.
This medieval spa village is quite unique. A few houses are situated around a huge piazza, which in turn surrounds a gigantic arcaded, stone-lined pool. The pool is filled with hot sulfurous waters that spring from volcanic rocks deep within the earth. Legend says that St. Catherine of Siena was also a visitor to the Bagno. Today’s would be bathers can still swim in the sulfur pool on the grounds of the Posta Marucci hotel (open to the public, except on Thursdays), as well as where the waters emerge from the cliff below the village.
The ruins of the Rocca d’Orcia, and the charming hamlet of Castiglione d’Orcia are both within a few minutes car ride of Bagno di Vignoni. Bagno Vignoni itself boasts an excellent restaurant, the Osteria del Leone
Osteria del Leone
Via del Mulini 4
San Quirico D’Orcia
San Quirico is situated at a major junction of the S2 highway, but in medieval times an important route to Rome passed through the town. Leading pilgrims to Rome, the Via Francigena established the importance of San Quirico in the Orcia Valley. This pilgrim route also passed through Bagno Vignoni.
The 15th Century turreted walls of San Quirico enclose the Collegiata church, which contains a well known triptych by Sano di Pietro. The church was built in the 12th Century from the remains of an earlier 8th Century place of worship. The Collegiata has a beautiful facade and three sculpted portals from the 1200s. Next to the Collegiata church is the 17th Century Palazzo Chigi, where visitors can view the recently restored frescoed interior.
Also of interest to visitors is the Horti Leonini, which is open from dawn to sunset and free to visitors. The formal Italianate box hedges of this lovely garden park declare its Renaissance beginnings; in fact, it was established in the 16th Century. Once meant as a refuge for pilgrims on the Via Francigena, it is now a public sculpture garden in the summer months.
The Festival of Barbarossa
San Quirico d’Orcia celebrates the Festival of Barbarossa on the third Sunday of June. The colorful festa should not be missed by visitors lucky enough to be in the area at the time it is celebrated.
The festival celebrates the visit and brief residence of Federico the First, known as Barbarossa (the Red Beard) to San Quirico in 1155. Barbarossa came to San Quirico for a meeting with the ambassadors of Pope Hadrian IV. He hoped to gain from them the Pope’s approval for his coronation of Emperor. The meeting between Barbarossa and the Papal ambassadors was interrupted by Arnaldo of Brescia, a monk accused of heresy for questioning the authority of Pope Hadrian. Barbarossa offered the head of Arnaldo to the ambassadors in exchange for the Pope’s blessing and approval of his ambitions.
Members of each of San Quirico’s quartiere dress in exquisitely constructed mediaeval costumes to commemorate this historic meeting. The Festa continues throughout the entire day, after beginning in the central piazza where a costumed Consul reads a proclamation announcing Barbarossa’s meeting, and then reads the results of a drawing which establishes the order of the participants in the long bow and flag tossing competitions. The four contrade of San Quirico then celebrate with a flag waving and tossing demonstration.
At 4 PM, the meeting between Barbarossa and the Papal ambassadors is recreated in the sandstone courtyard of the Collegiata Church. This is followed by a procession of page boys, ladies and lords, cavaliers on horseback and local gentry dressed in costumes. The procession then finds its way to the upper part of the Horti Leonini for the long bow and flag tossing competitions.