Only two minutes out of Castello delle Serre, one will take the motorway in the direction of Siena. After twenty minutes this motorway actually ends directly into Siena city center, however we suggest taking the Tangenziale in the direction of Firenze. From the Siena Ovest exit, one can reach easy parking around the Fortezza Medicea or the church of San Domenico. From the west side of Siena, visitors have the easiest walk into the city center and can view most sites along this path.
See the holy relics of Saint Catherine at San Domenico. Visit the Piazza del Campo, a square that is not square and features one the the tallest bell towers of Italy. Marvel at the centuries of devotion it took to build one of Italy’s finest cathedrals, works featured here have been created by Michelangelo, Pisano, Donatello and Bernini.
Siena offers the visitor with a voyage back in time, to the Medieval Ages, when Siena was at the hight of its cultural, civil and financial supremacy until Florence conquered it once and for all.
From Castello delle Serre, simply take the motorway in the direction of the A1 and Perugia. Exit at Sinalunga, drive through Torrita di Siena and proceed to Montepulciano. We suggest using one of the pay parking areas, by the Porta al Prato and the church of Sant’Agnese, outside the ancient walls of the town.
Montepulciano is one of our favorite hill top towns as it offers something for everyone. History and architecture, quality shopping and excellent wine production all take place here. Kids will enjoy exploring the Eturscan caverns, tombs and wells deeps under the foundations of the towns majestic buildings.
Starting at Porta al Prato and walking up the main street toward Piazza Grande, will permit visitors to see the most. Once in Piazza Grande don’t forget to see the famous Bottega del Rame and the De Ricci wine cellar, a monumental cathedral to wine aging.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is the counterpart to Brunello di Montalcino. Within the walls of the historic center it is possible to taste many wines by different producers. Wine lovers can visit the seat of the Consorzio del Vino Nobile to taste and gain further knowledge of what makes this wine unique.
From Montepulciano it is possible to visit Pienza, the next village on the Val D’Orcia loop.
Montalcino offers the perhaps the most in-depth experience of Tuscan wine making. Located to the southwest of Castello delle Serre, the DOCG zone of Brunello di Montalcino hosts almost 200 fine wine producers ranging from small family owned farms to large international labels. Wine enthusiasts curious about vintage ratings, micro-climate zones, laws regulating production and Brunello events can visit the website of the Consorzio Brunello.
Since the late 1800’s Brunello di Montalcino has been pursued by wine connoisseurs for its bold character and exceptional ability to age. Today the international regard for the 100% Sangiovese grape wine brings thousands of wine lovers to the medieval village. Quality shops and restaurants line the quaint streets, while majestic views and centuries old abbeys lie on the roads leading to the village.
Take a moment to taste all the local delights including aged cheeses and meats, not to mention the highest quality honey available in Italy.
Firenze (FLORENCE) is only one hour and ten minutes drive from Castello delle Serre. Give yourself the entire day for Firenze as it does merit the time. Take the main motorway in the direction of SIENA, then drive around the center of SIENA following signs for TANGENZIALE and FIRENZE. The Siena-Firenze 4 Corsie, is by far faster and less complicated than the SS222 or Chiantigiana road. Follow the blue signs into Firenze and take advantage of the free parking in Piazzale Michelangelo, so that you are on the edge of the city without ever actually driving through it.
Admire the view from Piazzale Michelangelo and gaze down on the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance while slowly making your way down towards the river. Major sites include the Uffizzi and the Accademia. The Uffizzi houses one of the western worlds largest art collections, including paintings by Michelangelo, Da Vinci and Botticelli. The Accademia is most famous for housing the original statue of David by Michelangelo. To avoid long lines we strongly urge you to pre-purchase your museum tickets at the official Firenze Museums website, www.firenzemusei.it. You can also visit the Duomo, Santa Croce, Piazza della Republica, Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens.
If you are looking to shop, then Florence is the perfect place to let loose. Via Tornabuoni offers every designer label one can imagine, the Ponte Vecchio is the center for the most extravagant jewelry shops in Tuscany and the Mercato di San Lorenzo offers traditional style leather goods and other artisan products.
From Castello delle Serre, one of the closest and most famous Tuscan hill top towns is Cortona. Simply take the main motorway in the direction of the A1 and PERUGIA. Do not get off the motorway until you see the sign that says only CORTONA. It is best to drive through Camucia, which is lower Cortona. After driving through Camucia, proceed up the hill to Cortona. We suggest parking in the large gravel lot on the right side of the road as you approach the village. From there you can take the mobile stairs to the top of Piazza Garibaldi.
Once in Piazza Garibaldi, all the scenic walk through the park is to the right and the town center is to the left. While in the town center enjoy the magnificent art galleries, fine leather and cashmere shops, or nibble on some quality Tuscan snacks at the fun local bars and enotecas. Once you reach the Teatro Signorelli, we do not suggest you walk any farther up, unless you are an expert at hiking. Every Saturday morning Cortona has a fabulous Farmers Market, but Cortona is really most often enjoyed in the later afternoon.
Arezzo is about thirty minutes from Castello delle Serre. Take the main motorway direction A1/PERUGIA, exit at Rigomagno/Lucignano, drive through Lucignano and follow for Arezzo. The pay parking area called Prieti is the most convenient as there are mobile stairs that take you to the historic center. Known for being the birth place of Piero della Francesca, having Italy’s finest Antique Fair (the first Sunday of every month), and for being the filming location for the internationally awarded movie “Life is Beautiful”, Arezzo is a small city for Italians.
Much of Italy’s gold design and production has fueled Arezzo’s local economy, as a consequence the city never steered itself to be a major tourist destination. The benefit to the visitor is a taste of real Tuscan life. Enjoy the Renaissance masterpieces in the historic center’s churches, locals shopping, superb antiques and a social scene around the main streets for all age groups. If you wish to visit Arezzo along with Cortona, we suggest that first you go to Arezzo.
If you are coming to Castello delle Serre from Florence it might be a good idea to stop and visit San Gimignano on the way. The same can be said if you are on your way to Florence and have the time.
San Gimignano is famous for its tall towers. Called the “Medieval Manhattan of Tuscany” it is easy to admire the skyline of the town and see the remaining thirteen towers make an imposing statement of the grand past of this small village. At one point there where as many as 72 towers, some as high as 70 meters. Historically the area became very wealthy because if its saffron industry that created a much desired and costly red dye. Some historians believe that the towers, where nothing more that a competition between rival families of who could have the tallest, while others sustain that the always expanding heights where a response to the necessity of drying longer and larger pieces of the saffron stained fabrics. Visitors can still purchase saffron here, but the town is full of beautiful ceramic shops, art galleries, carved olive wood objects and some of the best gelato in Italy. If you have had a bit too much red wine, try the famous white wine called Vernaccia di San Gimignano.
Located between Montepulciano and Montalcino, Pienza can be visited on its own or with one the the previous towns.
In 1996 the town of Pienza was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site and in 2004 the entire Val D’Orcia was added to the UNESCO World Cultural Landscapes. This is the area where almost every picture perfect image of Tuscany is photographed. Gentle rolling hills, covered with either wheat, poppies or sunflowers, depending on the time of year make for breath taking views.
Previously named Corsignano, Pope Pius II, made it his personal mission to transform his little farming village into the perfect example of Renaissance town planing. Working closely with the architect Bernanrdo Rossellino, the town transformed into complete pure Tuscan Renaissance and the name was changed to Pienza, latin of city of PIUS. Architecture aficionados will admire the Duomo and the Papal Palace, alone with the City Hall Building.
Today Pienza is perhaps even more known for its Pecorino, a pungent cheese made from sheep’s milk. This chess is either fresh, semi-aged or fine-aged and rubbed on the outside with every imaginable coating. Shop keeps will be happy to let you sample it, but just remember to let them handle the wheels of cheese!
Chianti is more then just wine, it is about avoiding the crowds, enjoying superb food, taking in quintessential Tuscan scenery, dotted with castles and large estates and wandering through small unspoiled hamlets.
Take the SS73, also known as the Raccordo Siena-Bettole, in the direction of Siena. Exit at Castellonuovo Berardenga and drive through that town. You are now in the Consorzio del Chianti Classico, the Black Rooster area of the Chianti. Proceed in the direction of Radda in Chianti and Gaiole in Chianti. You can stop for a wine tasting at Felsina or Villa A Sesta and also visit the charming little village of San Gusme’. Continuing toward Radda in Chianti and Gaiole in Chianti it is possible to visit Castello di Brolio, where the Barone Bettino Ricasoli created the DOCG recipe for Chianti wine.
The day could end there, but you may decide to proceed to Radda in Chianti or even Castellina in Chainti if you are aggressive with your sight seeing schedule. If you reach Castellina in Chianti we suggest you drive to Siena, then come back to Castello delle Serre on the SS73, also known as the Raccordo Siena-Bettole, direction Perugia.
The region of Umbria is only about a 30 minute drive from Castello delle Serre. Assisi is perhaps one of the most famous of Umbria’s picturesque towns. Although Assisi dates back to the Roman times, it is Saint Francis that has made Assisi well known to through out the world. In a the Cathedral of Saint Francis visitors can admire the frescos of Giotto, considered the father of the Renaissance and teacher of Michelangelo. On the lower level of the cathedral is the actual tomb of Francis and his closest disciples. The main square of the town showcases a magnificent Roman temple, later turned into a church.
While Umbria is abundant with mysticism and spiritually, it is just as rich in history, fine food and art. Other towns like Perugia, Spolletto, Todi, and Deruta are famous for just about everything from fine chocolate, cured meats, truffles and beautifully decorated traditional Italian ceramics.
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