Suggestive Tuscan hill towns off the beaten path, Part II
A few days ago, I’ve dedicated a post to some of the most suggestive Tuscan towns and medieval villages that are off the beaten path; less popular destinations but incredibly beautiful and characteristic. As there’s a huge number of enchanting lesser known places and corners to discover in Tuscany, this is part II.
More suggestive Tuscan towns and special places all to discover:-)
Sorano is a beautiful and peculiar medieval town of Etruscan origin, rising near Pitigliano, in the far south of Tuscany, in the area called del tufo – tuff, in a landscape of exceptional beauty.
What is most impressive about Sorano is that many buildings are carved directly into the tuff rock, so the village seems part of the rock itself. There are dozens of spurs of tuff with the most varied forms and you can visit the Etruscan necropolis. The village is dominated by the 14th century Rocca Orsini, while in the town’s center you see the Sasso Leopoldino, a fortified cliff characterized by an impressive high wall and bastion.
Located right next Sorano and again near Pitigliano, this is another unique and evocative small village in Maremma, with a beautiful Duomo and a lovely and peculiar main square. Here time actually seems to have stopped. In the Church of San Mamiliano an ancient gold treasure has been found in recent years! It dates back to the 5th century! Do walk through the Vie Cave, peculiar paths carved into the tuff stone by the Etruscans, and visit the many beautiful Etruscan tombs at the Necropolis of Sovana, the Tomba Ildebranda has the form of a Greek temple.
Capalbio is a fantastic seaside destination in southern Tuscany. Beautiful hill town located south of the wild Maremma area, Capalbio enjoys a stunning location amid a unique natural environment and a landscape of rare beauty. It is very characteristic and boasts a stunning view over the sea. Its coast has long sandy beaches with clear waters. In the surrounding area do visit the Lago di Burano, WWF oasis, and the Etruscan ruins of Cosa, impressive also for its location overlooking the sea.
Sitting atop a hill surrounded by a deep blue sea, this village is extremely charming. Populonia was an Etruscan city, one of the most important centers of the ancient world for the manufacture and trade of iron.
Its medieval walls and the beautiful fortress enclose a tiny historic center, with small streets, small lovely shops, and a museum of Etruscan and Roman artefacts found in the area. A scenic road overlooking a beautiful landscape connects Populonia to the wonderful Gulf of Baratti and its enchanting clear waters.
The Archaeological Park of Populonia, full of Etruscan tombs and buildings, covers approximately 80 hectares and is visited through organized hiking trails. The landscape here is beautiful and unspoilt, right in front of the sea. An authentic spectacle!
Facing the more popular town of Montepulciano, Montefollonico is a beautiful medieval hamlet atop a hill, known as the town of the Vin Santo. What is particularly characteristic and charming about this place is its atmosphere: perfect medieval houses with flowers, beautiful churches and hidden corners, and a great silence all around. The medieval water cistern is wonderful!
Sarteano is a delightful borgo rising on a hill top between the Val d’Orcia and the Val di Chiana, preserving some of the most beautiful Etruscan tombs in Tuscany. The Tomba della Quadriga infernale (tomb of the hellish cart) has amazing frescoes depicting a tawny she-devil, today rebuilt in the Civic Museum. Sarteano has a lot of reasons to be visited, from the beautiful medieval fortress, to the 12th Church of San Martino with the Annunciation by Beccafumi, to the Renaissance palaces. The thermal spring right in the town’s center and the amazing terrace over the Val d’Orcia at Castiglioncello sul Trinoro, tiny medieval village all in stone with a castle.
Rocchette di Fazio
Semproniano, Scansano, Pitigliano, and Saturnia with its delightful thermal springs, are the most popular hill towns to visit in Maremma. But there’s another one that should be visited! Rocchette di Fazio is an extremely characteristic little hill town in one of the most hidden and secret parts of Tuscany. Its stone houses are lovely.
Walking up the village passing through the door of the castle, you get to the Church or Pieve of Santa Cristina, dating from the thirteenth century, maybe an ancient outpost of the Knights Templar. Over the door you can see the Templar cross, and inside there are fifteenth century frescoes partly still visible.
Only from a high location, as in helicopter, you can indeed notice the distinctive elliptical shape which makes this beautiful hill town in the province of Arezzo, one of the rare medieval jewels in Italy. Once you’ve entered the town’s historic center, you can get lost among the labyrinth of its suggestive alleys.
The village has maintained its medieval urban structure, made up of concentric circles. Within its walls there are the two main churches, the Collegiata Church and the Church of San Francesco. From the latter comes an authentic treasure: The golden tree, or the tree of life, a precious reliquary over two and a half meters high, built between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries by the masters Ugolino by Vieri and Gabriel D’Antonio.
Abbadia San Salvatore
Abbadia San Salvatore is a nice town south of Siena on the wonderful Monte Amiata, scenic mountain of volcanic origin. What is most impressive about this borgo is actually the ancient abbey from which the town takes its name: The Abbey (Abbadia) of San Salvatore. The abbey, facing a large piazza, was built on the Via Francigena during the 8th century by the Longobards. Inside the abbey, all in stone, is beautiful, and the external cloister is enchanting, but there are 2 real treasures in this incredible place:
The Crypt is the most suggestive part of the abbey; 35 columns supporting the vaulted ceiling in stone. The weak shadows and the peculiarity of the capitals, each one different from the other, give the place a very mystic atmosphere. The crypt looks like a little trip back to the Middle Ages.
The museum within the abbey preserves some unique finds, like the precious Codice Amiatino, the copy of the oldest manuscript of the Bible in the Latin version. The original manuscript is in the Biblioteca Laurenziana in Florence.
Do you like these new gems of Tuscany? Would like to know even more hidden corners of Tuscany? then go to read the Part I: