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Exploring Crete Senesi - An Itinerary from Siena to Asciano

The area south-east of Siena is called Crete Senesi. The word crete is used to indicate clay which gives the typical grey colour of the landscape. In this part of Tuscany you don't see many vineyards and olive trees, but cultivated fields crossed occasionally by rows of cypress trees and every so often a a solitary farmhouse. Here and there you can observe the particular dry grey terrain forms of badlands, typical of this area, which many have said could recall a "moonscape". The way from Siena to Asciano is very beautiful and you can enjoy this landscape at every curve of the road.

First stop: Landscape art Site Transitoire in Leonina

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To best enjoy this area, I suggest you that you visit the landscape art Site Transitoire by French artist Jean-Paul Philippe. When you leave Siena, take the SS438 road and about 4 kilometres after Arbia turn in the direction of Leonina. After another 2 km, you will find the Castle of Leonina, which is home to a luxury hotel. On the right hand side you will see some houses and a grove of olive trees, this is where you can leave your car and continue ahead on foot. Follow the curve in the road over a slight hill and you arrive at the sculpture. Sitting on the stone throne you can enjoy the silence of the landscape and see the view of the city of Siena.

Head on to Asciano: a small gem

Asciano has a very pleasant small historical center partly surrounded by medieval stone walls and it is the main village at the heart of the Crete area. Corso Giacomo Matteotti is the main street that crosses through the center. At the upper end of this street, you find the main church Sant'Agata, with a simple gray stone structure standing on the top of a staircase, preserving among other things two nice 16th century frescoes.

Live an ATV adventure in the Crete Senesi

If you want to explore the area in an ATV, then this 2 hour tour is perfect for you!

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Still on the main street, you will find two excellent restaurants for a lunch break, one is Amor Divino next to the interesting city museum of sacred art and archaeology.  This restaurant offers the famous Florentine steak cooked on an open fire in the middle of the dining room. The other is La Mencia in the middle of the village with a big dining room and an outside terrace in the summer, serving deliciously cooked traditional Tuscan dishes.

If you happen to visit Asciano in September, remember that the second Sunday of the month you can assist a popular event called "Palio dei Ciuchi", a race where the seven contradas of the village compete with donkeys in the old city stadium. You can read about that and other September events here.

Discover artistic and archaeological treasures at Palazzo Corboli

At the lower end of the main street you find the Etruscan and Sacred Art Museum in a recently restored Palazzo Corboli, one of the main attractions of the town. I highly recommend visiting this museum if you are interested in archaeology, Etruscan and medieval art, since this small collection houses an excellent selection of attractive pieces of artwork. The building itself, which belonged to a noble family of Siena, conserves some interesting allegorical frescoes from the 14th century. In the art collection you can admire some masterpieces of the Sienese school paintings and sculptures from the 13th century onwards, originally commissioned for the churches of the village. The archaeological section shows the findings of some nearby Etruscan burial mounds, like urns, jewelry, coins and other objects.

Museum of Etruscan and Sacred Art @Palazzo Corboli

Corso Giacomo Matteotti, 122 - Asciano Siena - Tel +39 0577 719524

Opening hours

from March 30 - October 31: from Wednesdays through Sundays and holidays open 10am-1pm/3pm-7pm.
from November 1 - March 29: Saturdays, Sundays and holidays 10am-1pm/2pm-5pm

Ticket costs €5

You can read more about Asciano and what to do, including a list of upcoming events, on the website for the towns in the Crete Senesi.

Continue on to the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore...

From Asciano, it is easy to continue your itinerary in the Crete area for example in the direction of the fascinating Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore, at 10 kilometres distance from here oin the direction of Serre di Rapolano, another quaint village in the south of Tuscany which merits a stop. 

... to end in Buonconvento

Head down to Buonconvento from the Abbey and make a stop to see the walls and small historical center and maybe enjoy dinner before heading back to Siena.

Author: Minna Kannisto

Finnish in origin, Minna has been living in Siena for almost 15 years. After so many years, this region still facinates her with all of its historical, artistic and culinary treasures, passions that she has always cultivated. Curious about many things, Minna loves to read, study and try new ideas. She loves to share her experience of her beloved city and the places she explores with her family, loving in particular the southern part of Tuscany.


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