Crete Senesi is the name of the range of woods and hills south of the wonderful city of Siena, in Tuscany. Literally, this name means Sienese Clays, and includes a wide area characterised by a peaceful atmosphere, isolated small farms and solitary cypresses. The soil here is rich in clay, and this is the reason why this area has a greyish colour and a lunar landscape. The clay dates back to 3 million years ago, when the ocean that used to flood the hills left this silvery sediment.
What to see and do
If you’re into nature, you can’t miss a stroll around Crete Senesi. The blinding sunlight on the hills and the fresh wind will lead you to one of the most astonishing landscapes of Crete Senesi, the Accona Desert. This semi-arid area is characterized by steep-walled inlets known as calanchi and dome-shaped formations called biancane.
If you’re looking for a cultural itinerary, head to the town of Buonconvento and discover the grance, typical farmer’s buildings with a warehouse and granary, surrounded by a fortified structure. Here you’ll also find the Sharecropping Museum (“Museo della Mezzadria”), focused on the history of the area and on the farmers’ traditions.
Asciano, famous for its wide range of historical monuments, is also worth a visit. Not far from Asciano, don’t miss the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore, mother-house of the monastic order of the Olivetans, standing out against the grey horizon with its red bricks.
Rapolano Terme is a fascinating town, too. Founded by the Romans, the area is famous for the travertine, a limestone deposited by fresh waters that once covered the area, frequently used as a building material. Did you know that many famous Renaissance churches were built with travertine from Rapolano caves? Rapolano also hosts two ancient thermal baths, Antica Querciolaia and Terme di San Giovanni.
Others picturesque hamlets in Crete Senesi are San Giovanni d’Asso, Buonconvento, and Monteroni d’Arbia.
Where to eat and drink
Crete Senesi is known for white truffles, also known here as white gold. To find out more about this food tradition, visit the Truffle Museum in San Giovanni d’Asso, and if you’re in the area in March, don’t miss Marzo Marzuolo, the popular Marzuolo Truffle Market Fair.
The traditional Tuscan cuisine near Siena is also characterized by the smell of sheep milk’s cheese pecorino, the thickness of hand-rolled pici spaghetti, and locally produced oil and wine.
Go to Chiusure, not far from Asciano, get lost in the narrow streets, then head to the little restaurant Osteria Enoteca Il Pozzo di Chiusure to taste the best traditional food.
For a wine and olive oil tasting, in Rapolano you can visit Tenuta Armaiolo, where white wine, red wine and olive oil are locally produced and sold. Its excellent extra virgin olive oil, with the characteristic aroma, and the intense Chianti wines will inebriate you.
Where to sleep in Crete Senesi
To live the aristocratic rurality of Crete Senesi to the fullest, you must enjoy the luxury of Villa Armena’s small hotel. The Tuscan fairytale will be fulfilled only in this environment where quality hospitality blends with finest interior design and top level gastronomy.
Villa Armena is a late Renaissance structure: imagine walking in the gorgeous Italian garden, or feeling like an Italian living in an abode made of red brick, original oak beams on the roof, and terracotta floors. Try to picture yourself enjoying the pleasure of the local food or sipping wines from the wine cellar at the hotel’s restaurant, tasting Tuscany’s flavours, or lying under the Tuscan sun next to the swimming pool: Crete Senesi is the exclusive region that can make your Italian dreams come true.