Cetona. Originally an Etruscan town, Certona rises on the slopes of the mountain of the same name that has been home to frequent visitors since the Bronze Age. Its first written mention is rather late, dating back to 1207. Contested by Orvieto and Siena, the town was sold to the latter by the lord of Perugia, Braccio di Montone, who conquered it in 1418. It surrended to the Florentine and imperial troops in 1556. Shortly after it was granted in fiefdom by Cosimo I de’Medici to the Vitelli family, who held it until 1770. It then followed the fate of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.
There is an interesting Prehistory Museum in Nilla, connected to the Belverde Archaeological Nature Park, where it is possible to visit a series of caves used for funeral or cult purposes during the Bronze Age. In the park, you’ll also find an Archeodrome and an educational trail with models of houses and objects used in prehistory by the people who inhabited this territory. There’s also a Middle Paleolithic cave dwelling and part of a Bronze Age village.
Castiglione d’Orcia. With a recorded history that dates back to 714, it was a possession of the Aldobrandeschi before becoming an independent municipality in 1252, then briefly part of the county of Santa Fiora. Occupied by the Republic of Siena, it was granted to members of important families, such as the Piccolomini and the Salimbeni. After becoming part of the state of Florence after the War of Siena, it was granted to the Riario family by the Medici as a fief in 1605. For a long time, many believed the Sienese painter and sculptor Lorenzo di Pietro, called il Vecchietta (1410-1480) was born here. The main square of the town is dedicated to him.
San Quirico d’Orcia. Originally called San Quirico in Osenna, a clear toponym of Etruscan origin, it was the seat of an imperial vicar in the 12th century. It became part of the Sienese state in 1256 and followed the state’s fate until it was annexed to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.
Of great interest is the Collegiate Church dedicated to the Saints Quirico and Giulitta, which dates back to the 8th century, but was rebuilt in the 12th century. It took on its current appearance at the end of the 13th century. There are two incredible portals, one of which is Romanesque (1080) with an architrave decorated by protruding fighting monsters on knotted columns resting on figures of lions. The second portal is in the Lombard style, dating back to the second half of the 13th century, with protiro supported by caryatids resting on lions and attributed to the school of Giovanni Pisano. Inside there is a triptych by Sano di Pietro and a precious 15th-century wooden choir.
Radicofani. Placed on a relief that was once an ancient volcano, the town was first inhabited in the Bronze Age. The first written mention dates back to 973, when it was a possession of the Abbazia di S. Salvatore on Mount Amiata. It was later disputed by numerous feudal families and ruled by the famous Ghino di Tacco at the turn of the 12th and 13th centuries. It became an independent municipality contested by the Abbey and the Church, until it was occupied by the troops of Ladislao di Napoli and sold to the Republic of Siena. Besieged in vain by the Florentines during the War of Siena, it surrendered only after the fall of Montalcino, the last Sienese bulwark, in 1559.
Pienza. The ancient Corsignano, transformed into the perfect Renaissance city by Pope Pius II (see card).
Montalcino. The last part of the Republic of Siena to fall into the hands of Florence, it’s the home of Brunello, one of the most prestigious wines in Italy.
The river Orcia flows from the slopes of Monte Cetona, skirts the northern slope of Monte Amiata and becomes the main tributary for the Ombrone River, near Monte Antico (Civitella – Paganico). Its valley, located on the border between the provinces of Siena and Grosseto, includes the municipalities of Cetona, Radicofani, Sarteano, Pienza, San Quirico d’Orcia, Castiglione d’Orcia and Montalcino in the province of Siena, and Castel Del Piano and Cinigiano in the province of Grosseto. Except for Sarteano and Castel del Piano, all the other municipalities are part of the Val d’Orcia Natural and Cultural Art Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2004 for its characteristic and pristine landscape and well preserved examples of Sienese Renaissance art.
Intensely inhabited since prehistoric times, it flourished in the Middle Ages thanks to the Via Francigena, the main artery of communication between central and western Europe, which connected the valley with, in particular, France and Rome and continued further towards Puglia, where boats to the Holy Land departed. The road was therefore traveled by a large number of pilgrims from every corner of Europe.