Between Siena and Grosseto
Siena - for the art lovers
Only 25km away from Montacuto is Siena, one of Europe’s most beautiful medieval cities. As well as being the city of the ‘Palio’ – the famous horserace which takes place in the main square twice a year – Siena is one of Italy’s most artistic cities. It is the medieval city par excellence, with a historic centre which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site – an open-air museum rich in works of art and breathtakingly beautiful monuments such as the Duomo, the Palazzo Comunale, and the Piazza del Campo, arguably the most impressive medieval ‘piazza’ in Italy. The Piazza del Campo, the conch-shaped main square built on a natural incline in the 13/14th cent., is the pulsing heart of the city. It’s harmonious shape is framed by many-windowed palaces from various epochs, some of them turreted, other more classical in style. The most majestic of these is the Palazzo Pubblico, which has been the seat of the city’s government ever since it was completed in 1297. The Palazzo is flanked by the memorable Torre del Mangia (which is open to the public and whose 102m height offers a bird’s-eye view of the city and the country beyond it) and the Cappella di Piazza, a twelth-century frescoed loggia. The Palazzo also houses a museum which includes frescoes by the likes of Simone Martini and Ambrogio Lorenzetti.
The second most important square in the city is the Piazza del Duomo, which is dominated by the striking black-and-white marble mass of the city’s cathedral. This rises on Siena’s highest spot, and it is a measure of the city’s astounding confidence and wealth that it was originally intended to be more than twice its present size. Its construction, however, was impeded by the outbreak of the Great Plague in 1348; some of the huge columns and bastions of the original ambitious design still stand unfinished, under the open sky, to one side of the square. Still, the final design of the Duomo is widely considered to be one of the masterpieces of Italian architecture of all periods. Beyond particular monuments and sites, Siena is to be enjoyed for its special atmosphere: the compactness of the medieval architecture, bounded by the city walls and gates and punctuated with public fountains, has meant that the appearance of the city has remained practically unchanged since its first prodigious development in the 13th and 14th centuries.
Places to see: Piazza del Campo, the Duomo, the Basilica of San Domenico, the Sanctuary of St. Catherine, the Palazzo Comunale, the Basilica of Santa Maria dei Servi, the church of San Francesco, the picture gallery of the Pinacoteca Nazionale, the museums of the various ‘contrade’.
Grosseto - for those who love nature and the seaside
The city of Grosseto stands about 12km from the seaside, in the middle of an alluvial plain called Maremma Grossetana. The territory of Grosseto includes as many as four different nature reserves: the Diaccia Botrona to the north-east and the Parco Naturale della Maremma to the south-west; then there are the small islands called the Formiche of Grosseto (the ‘ants’ of Grosseto), which form part of the reserve of the Arcipelago Toscano and the Cetacean Sanctuary, an internationally protected marine area which in fact includes the whole of Grosseto’s coast. The territory of Grosseto also boasts various thermal springs, including those at Roselle, an ancient Etruscan and Roman settlement which is itself an interesting destination. The sulphurous waters of Roselle have the same origin, and thus the same celebrated health virtues, as those of the famous Terme di Saturnia, which bubble up a little further to the south.
Nella parte orientale e meridionale del territorio comunale scorre il fiume Ombrone, che con il suo corso prima costeggia la frazione comunale di Istia d'Ombrone e poi si avvicina in alcuni punti alla città con alcune sue anse che precedono la foce situata all'interno del Parco Naturale della Maremma, poco a sud di Principina a Mare.