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In the path of migrating flocks

In the heart of the Crete Senesi

Diga del Calcione, Municipality of Lucignano - Arezzo
La Befa, Municipality of Murlo
about 55 km
10 - 12 hours in two or three legs
There are several service and rest stops along the way


Welcome to the heartland of the Crete Senesi, where travelling becomes an important aspect in understanding the relationship between the land and its inhabitants. In essence we will be travelling in the tracks of flocks and their tenders, ready to discover the scents and flavours borne of this land, such as its cheeses and cured meats. But this is also a trip back in history, as the Etruscan archeological sites at Poggio Pinci and Montecalvoli clearly show.


1° Leg

Distance: 6,2 km
Duration: 1 hour

The point of departure for this itinerary lies in the province of Arezzo, in the municipality of Lucignano. This man-made dam, called the Diga del Calcione, is found in a splendid panoramic location amidst woodlands marking the border between the provinces of Arezzo and Siena. This dam built along the Foenna stream has over the years become an important wetland area, and its waters harbour a great number of carp, tench, perch, pike and other fish species. It is a strategic area where the horse trail for the Casentino meets the trail leading to Terre di Siena and Maremma, tracing the path of the ancient flock migrations that took place at the change of seasons from inland Tuscany to the Maremman coast. Before taking off it's advisable to have a look in Lucignano, a village that offers an exquisite example of Medieval urban planning. Its streets are in fact laid out in a series of concentric ovals. An unpaved path leads to Molino del Calcione, from where the wooded road proceeds to the splendid Castello di Modanella, built by the Cacciaconti family in the 12th century and then handed over to Siena's noble Piccolomini family together with the rest of the hamlet, the surrounding farmhouses and a thousand hectares of farmland. Today the Castello di Modanella is a renowned winemaking estate offering agritourism hospitality. Once out of the woods, an unpaved path amidst olive groves and vineyards (the Vignacce farm) leads to a crossroads on the left. From here, the signposted trail number 528 allows us to cross a railroad crossing and a viaduct for the Siena - Bettole motorway. At this point, trail number 527 passes through fields just below the Castello di San Gimignanello and down a wide valley of vineyards, finally entering the woods and leading to the Violante farm.


2° Leg

Distance: 5,6 km
Duration: about 1 hour

The landscape now changes quite drastically. Woods and thick vegetation make way for hills and valleys under the open sky. Just land and sky, cypresses and dirt roads make up this fascinating land. We near Serre di Rapolano, where the cuts into the subsoil reveal gleaming travertine marble (lapis tiburtinus) formed by the sedimentation of calcium carbonate, plentiful in the area's natural springs. The marble so evident in these historical quarries depicts the white heart of this land. The skill of Sienese craftsmen transforms blocks of this white stone into plates, tables and refined home furnishings. Even the Etruscans had been aware of travertine's potential, and it was later used in important architectural projects such as the Torre del Mangia and Palazzo Piccolomini in Siena, the Renaissance church of San Biagio in Montepulciano and the lovely façade and bell tower of Pienza's cathedral. From the Violante farm we descend on the right to the Strada Statale 438 for Asciano and then take an unpaved road on the left that leads to the ancient villa of Poggio Pinci, the beginning of the unique Crete landscape where landscape becomes sculpture. We continue down this panoramic path toward Bagni di Montalceto, abandoned hot springs of ancient origin (near the path lies the Etruscan necropolis of Poggio Pinci: take the Provincia di Siena trail number 4), and proceed to the Pecorile farm, located in a panoramic spot with a view of Siena from an altitude of about 352 metres. At Montalceto, spring water gushes out of the porous travertine stone. These hot springs have been famous since the 14th century, when they were mentioned in a report by the statistician Simone di Jacopo Tondi for the Sienese Republic in 1333. At present the springs are part of the Azienda Agricola Montalceto, where two large, restored 18th-century farmhouses overlook the fabulous Crete scenery. Just 4 km away lies the Villa dei Boschi stables, an agritourism complex specialized in hosting riders and their horses. Hot spring lovers will take the opportunity to spend a day relaxing in the wellness centre of Rapolano Terme.


3° Leg

Distance: 7,3 km
Duration: 1 - 1 and a half hours

From the Pecorile farm we descend to the left toward the Strada Provinciale 38 of Trequanda, reaching the charming little railroad station whose only current traffic is the scheduled passing of the Treno Natura. Having gone beyond the railroad crossing, we climb toward the splendid Belsedere farm. This historical estate offers gracious agritourism facilities and is especially renowned for its excellent sheep cheese and cold meats made from local Cinta Senese swine. Having reached Poggio Pinci, it's possible to take an alternative route, along trail 509a. An enchanting unpaved road passes just below the woods of Lecceto toward the village of Montecalvoli, later passing next to the impressive Medieval Castello di Gallico which dominates the Crete. The trail then descends to the Ormennano farm and the Strada Provinciale 38 for Trequanda, reaching the railway station and then ascending to the Belsedere estate.


4° Leg

Distance: 5,6 km
Duration: about 1 hour

Our voyage into the heart of the Crete comes alive as we seem to gallop across waves of clay soil. From the Belsedere farm we head downhill toward the Cetinali farm and cross first a ditch, then the Asciano - Montepescali train tracks. Proceeding to the Canneto farm, we then take a dirt road on the left and reach San Giovanni d'Asso from below, using the Consorzio Agrario sign as a target. From the hill overlooking the Asso stream the Crete reveals all the magic and atmosphere of this pristine, aromatic land. And so it is, because San Giovanni is the homeland of white truffles, to which a traditional festival pays tribute every November in the castle rising up from the "Borghetto", the highest part of the town. The church of San Giovanni Battista and especially the church of San Pietro in Villore (11th - 12th centuries) in the lower part of town are worth a visit. This town's richness lies not only in the venerable stones of San Giovanni, but also in the environmental heritage of the hamlets surrounding the Asso valley, graced with an outstanding landscape. The steep intertwining slopes that cut through wheat fields and oak woods create optimal growing conditions for the most precious of tubers: truffles. Having been exported for years to the most important markets of northern Italy without certification of their origins, white truffles from the Crete have now become renowned. A full forty hectares of truffle territory are now regularly surveyed. The truffle territory is monitored with the help of a data base and recognized in the municipality's building code. In fact, truffles also act as an ecological indicator of potential environmental decline.


5° Leg

Distance: 3,6 km
Duration: about 45 minutes

Notes: At the crossroads for Lucignano d'Asso (at the end of the fifth and the beginning of the sixth legs) the road splits in two: one way leads to the Val di Merse - Montalcino road, while the other leads to the Montalcino - Radicofani road. We cross the railroad tracks and the Asso river, continuing on toward Strada Provinciale 14 (whose asphalt paving we follow for about 300 metres) that leads to Trequanda. At this point we take the first road on the right and pass a number of attractive farmhouses scattered throughout the unique Crete landscape. We trot on just above the course of the Asso river, until at the crossing of the Trove stream we encounter the unpaved road for Lucignano d'Asso, a tiny hamlet worth a visit, perhaps to taste its cold meats, sheep cheese and memorable wine in the courtyard opposite the restaurant-grocer. Such a rare culinary and spiritual experience is the perfect way to break up the ride.


6° Leg

Distance: 12,8 km
Duration: 2 and a half - 3 hours

The itinerary proceeds amidst rolling hills and ancient farmhouses that, together with the cypress trees, are ideal visual reference points while navigating the clay waves of the Crete. Once again we cross the Strada Provinciale from San Giovanni d'Asso to Torrenieri, then moving uphill to the Bertagna and Cassero farms, to then reach the Montechiari farm. We proceed slowly toward the Vergelle farm, one of the most panoramic spots in the Crete and a perfect place to try excellent sheep cheese. The stretch leading down to the Serlate stream is breathtaking. Then it's back up to the opposite hilltop and the unpaved Strada Provinciale leading to Pieve a Salti. The road for Pieve a Salti is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular in Terre di Siena, to be savoured with every step. The up-and-down with unpredictable winding curves follows the movement of the landscape. Having encountered the Caprili and Villa Casale farmhouses and the locality of Percenna, we reach Buonconvento, a centuries-old rest stop for wayfarers and pilgrims on the Via Francigena. We ride around Buonconvento's city walls and reach a paddock located just behind the town where the horses can have a rest. This town so famous for its historical meetings and battles, trade and markets is a worthy stop, thanks partly to the services it offers to travellers. Geographically, this is where the Arbia and Ombrone rivers meet. The rectangular layout of the town and surrounding Medieval walls feature monumental buildings that hark back to a glorious past. In addition to the town hall (bearing the 25 coats-of-arms of as many mayors who governed the town up to 1270), the Museo della Mezzadria and Museo di Arte Sacra della Val d'Arbia are inviting places to stop. The latter is a lovely art nouveau building housing works from churches scattered throughout the Crete.


7° Leg

Distance: 13,5 km
Duration: 2 and a half - 3 hours

Notes: Near the Giungheto and Cava di Giungheto farms in the area of La Befa, you may encounter a numerous colony of bee eaters, colourful migratory birds which are quite rare in Italy. Here the itinerary bids farewell to open, sun-drenched landscapes and heads toward the the hilltop of Murlo, which marks the geographical boundary between the Crete, Val di Merse and the hill of Montalcino. From Buonconvento we proceed via Strada Provinciale 34 for Murlo. Having crossed the bridge over the Ombrone river, we turn right into the road for Piana, until we reach the the cross in Piana, whence we continue on for Pieve di Piana. When facing the Pieve we turn left and follow a trail along a vineyard that leads to the Ceppeta and Colle farms, then rising and tracing a wide loop around Castelnuovo Tancredi and ultimately arriving at the Fornace farm by again crossing the Provinciale 34 road for Murlo. Here a magic sense of solitude accompanies riders and wayfarers into a unique, unsullied world that was once home to the Etruscans. An unpaved road leads to La Befa by way of the Giungheto and Cava di Giungheto farms. The isolated village of La Befa is soon at hand, and is ideal for some culinary enjoyment. It has the fascinating air of a travellers' stop, a sort of "Far West" in Terre di Siena.


8° Leg

Distance: 22,3 km
Duration: 3 and a half - 4 and a half hours

The unpaved municipal road rises to the Medieval hamlet of Lucignano d'Asso, where we turn left for the Sant'Alessandro farm. We continue straight ahead on a lovely ridgetop road leading to the Santa Maria and Poggio al Vento farms as far as the Strada Provinciale 71 for Petroio and Castelmuzio. Soon afterward we take the panoramic ridgetop road for autos which loops around the clay ditches and peaks, typical geomorphological characteristics of this area. Having crossed the Tuoma stream we proceed slowly toward the Colleguardi farm. This panoramic trip reminiscent of a low-altitude flight over the rolling hills briefly travels down the Strada Provinciale 46 for Chianciano and then down a lovely unpaved road with wide-ranging views of the surrounding countryside. We then follow an aqueduct and descend to the ravine of the Rigo, which we cross twice before climbing toward the Colombaio and Marciano farms, as the surrounding fields become ever more extensive. At this point the Orcia valley comes into view and is reached by descending progressively toward the road from Montalcino to Radicofani, in the bed of the Orcia river.


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