Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Palazzo Piccolomini

Palazzo Piccolomini is located in the center of Pienza , close to the Duomo.
The building, also known as the Pontificio, was commissioned by Aeneas Piccolomini, that Pope Pius II , to Bernardo Rossellini, within the project of reconstruction of Pienza as the ideal city. Designed in the second half of the fifteenth century (after 1459 ), for its realization Rossellino was inspired by the Palazzo Rucellai in Florence, the work of his teacher Leon Battista Alberti . The palace is one of the earliest examples of Renaissance architecture.
Il Giardino
My partner, Francesca.


Pienza is an Italian town of 2,190 inhabitants of the province of Siena in Tuscany . It is probably the most renowned and artistically important town of the Val d'Orcia . It is not far from the Via Cassia and the two other major towns of the valley, San Quirico d'Orcia and Castiglione d'Orcia . The historic center has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996 .
Pienza Duomo
Much of the relevant historical and artistic heritage of Pienza is concentrated in the picturesque square dedicated to Pope Pius II personality that has given so much to the town, trying to make his " ideal city "of the Renaissance.
Il Palazzo Comunale
Palazzo Borgia
Palazzo Piccolomini

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Montepulciano is an Italian town of 14,506 inhabitants of the province of Siena in Tuscany.   The municipality is situated at 605 meters above sea level, between the Val di Chiana and Val d'Orcia.
Of ancient and long history, Montepulciano has origins from the people of the Etruscans from the fourth century BC.
It has notoriety also for the wealth of excellent vineyards from where we get the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG,
In this area of Tuscany south-east, are mixed forests of pines , oaks and chestnut trees , with plans sandstone sandy-cultivated, undulating clay plains of former marshland. A heterogeneous territory, low population density, which remained almost isolated from the influences of the surrounding areas. 
Palazzo Nobili-Tarugi
Palazzo Nobili-Tarugi is a palace of Montepulciano. Located on the Piazza Grande in front of the Duomo of Montepulciano and has been attributed to Antonio da Sangallo the Elder.
Torre dell'Orologio
Trittico dell'Assunta di Taddeo di Bartolo (1401)

Monday, September 23, 2013


Radicofani is a comune in the Province of Siena in the Italian region Tuscany, located in the natural park of Valdorcia about 110 km southeast of Florence and about 60 km southeast of Siena.

The main landmark of Radicofani is its Rocca (Castle), of Carolingian origin and documented from 978. It was the castle of Ghino di Tacco
Rocco di Radicofani
View from Rocco
Occupying the highest point of a hill, at 896 m, it was restored after the conquest from the Grand Duchy of Tuscany (1560-1567). 
Mount Amiata from Rocca di Radicofani
Looking down at Chiesa di San Pietro from Rocco
It has two line of walls: the external one has pentagonal shape, while the inner one is triangular, with three ruined towers at each corner and a cassero (donjon) which can be visited.Also notable is the Romanesque church of San Pietro, with a nave, housing some works by Andrea della RobbiaBenedetto Buglioni and Santi Buglioni. Also by della Robbia is the precious Madonna with Saints at the high altar of the Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta a Contignano
The road to Radicofani from Bagno Vignoni was long (over 32 km) and arduous.  

In the spring, I may return to Radicofani and finish the Via Francigena through Lazio into Roma.  

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Bagno Vignoni

Bagno Vignoni is a town situated on a hill above Val d'Orcia in TuscanyItaly. It is a popular tourist destination and well known for its hot springs.  
Castiglione D'Orcia from the Parco naturale dei Mulini.  The ancient village of Bagno Vignoni is located in the heart of Tuscany, in the Val d'Orcia Natural Park. Thanks to the Via Francigena, these thermal waters were found and have been used since Roman times. At the heart of the village is the "Piazza della sorgenti", namely a rectangular tank, of 16th-century origin, which contains the original source of water that comes from the underground aquifer of volcanic origins.
We stayed at the Albergo Le Terme in order to bathe.  This is the modern spa.  It uses the volcanic waters.  The effervescence of the volatile calcium carbonate in these waters is remarkable and extremely helpful for aching feet and tired muscles.
The Orcia from the Ponte.
On the long road towards Radicofani.  Looking back towards Castiglione.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

San Quirico d'Orcia

San Quirico d'Orcia is a comune of c. 2,500 inhabitants in the Province of Siena in the Italian region Tuscany, located about 80 km southeast of Florence and about 45 km southeast of Siena inside the Valdorcia landscape. It is named in honor of Saint Quiricus.  It is located on the Via Francigena.

Collegiata di San Quirico is an ancient parish church preceded by a baptistery of the ' eighth century . The current building was built in the late twelfth century or the beginning of the next century. 
The oldest part seems to be that corresponding to the facade and in particular the portal
The pilgrim's accommodations adjacent to the church were well-managed by the young, and seemingly progressive, priest.  On the day we stayed here, there was also a large group, apparently a hiking club from Italy.  The priest expertly handled the arrangements, including the passport stamp for about 35 people.  The main logistical problem was women and men in the same room, but this was acceptable for couples and married people.  We stayed with an older French couple, and a single German woman, who we had met in San Gimignano several days earlier.  

San Quirico is a gem, and the atmosphere is genuine, having very little contamination by commercial mass tourism.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Palazzo Pubblico

The Palazzo Pubblico is a palace in SienaTuscany, central Italy. Construction began in 1297 and its original purpose was to house the republican government, consisting of the Podestà and Council of Nine.
The outside of the structure is an example of Italian medieval architecture with Gothic influences. The lower story is stone; the upper crenelated stories are made of brick. The facade of the palace is curved slightly inwards (concave) to reflect the outwards curve (convex) of the Piazza del Campo, Siena's central square of which the Palace is the focal point.
Nearly every major room in the palace contains frescoes. These frescoes are unusual for the time in that they were commissioned by the governing body of the city, rather than by the Church or by a religious fraternity. They are also unusual in that many of them depict secular subjects instead of the religious subjects which are overwhelmingly typical of Italian art of this era.
The terrace on the upper floor provides outstanding views of the city.

Santa Maria della Scala

The Santa Maria della Scala was one of Europe’s first hospitals and is one of the oldest hospitals still surviving in the world.  Siena lies on the Via Francigena, the main pilgrimage road to Rome, and the Hospital was probably founded to accommodate the pilgrims and other travelers who passed through by the canons of the Duomo.  

According to legend, the Hospital was founded in 898 by a cobbler named Sorore. However, the first known document mentioning it is a “deed of gift” from March 29, 1090. The first rector, Beringerio, was said to be appointed in 1200.

In the 1330s Santa Maria della Scala commissioned many very important interior and exterior frescoes as well as several significant altar pieces.  Around 1335 a final set of scenes from the life of the Virgin played an important role in the religious imagery frescoes of the Hospital Church Santa Maria della Scala
There are nearly 12,000 square meters of paths covering the renovated parts of the Hospital.  Places include the Pellegrinaio, the Cappella del Manto (Chapel of the Mantle), the Sagrestia Vecchia (Old Sacristy), the Cappella della Madonna (Chapel of the Virgin Mary), and the Oratory of the Compagnia di Santa Caterina della Notte,
There is also an Archaeological Museum and catacombs that seem endless.  

From the Fonte Gaia, Jacopo della Quercia's La Temperanza (1419).
This is a great museum.  The subterranean setting is perfect for archaeology exhibits.  It is an under-worldly experience.

Duomo di Siena

The Metropolitan Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta is the main place of Catholic  worship in Siena , Tuscany.

The cathedral itself was originally designed and completed between 1215 and 1263 on the site of an earlier structure. It has the form of a Latin cross with a slightly projecting transept, a dome and a bell tower. 

The dome rises from a hexagonal base with supporting columns. The lantern atop the dome was added by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The nave is separated from the two aisles by semicircular arches. The exterior and interior are constructed of white and greenish-black marble in alternating stripes, with addition of red marble on the façade.

The façade of Siena Cathedral is one of the most fascinating in all of Italy and certainly one of the most impressive features in Siena. Each of the cardinal points (west, east, north, and south) has their own distinct work; by far the most impressive of these is the west façade. Acting as the main entryway to the Duomo proper, it boasts three portals; the central one is capped by a bronze-work sun.

In the interior the pictorial effect of the black and white marble stripes on the walls and columns strikes the eye. 
Black and white are the colours of the civic coat of arms of Siena. The capitals of the columns in the west bays of the nave are sculpted with allegorical busts and animals. The horizontal moulding around the nave and the presbytery contains 172 plaster busts of popes dating from the 15th and 16th centuries starting with St. Peter and ending with Lucius III
The spandrels of the round arches below this cornice exhibit the busts of 36 emperors. The vaulted roof is decorated in blue with golden stars, replacing frescoes on the ceiling, while the formerets (half ribs) and the tiercerons (secondary ribs) are adorned with richly elaborated motifs.
The stained-glass round window in the choir was made in 1288 to the designs of Duccio.
It is one of the earliest remaining examples of Italian stained glass. 
The inlaid marble mosaic floor is one of the most ornate of its kind in Italy, covering the whole floor of the cathedral. This undertaking went on from the 14th to the 16th centuries, and about forty artists made their contribution.
Adjoining the cathedral is the Piccolomini Library, housing precious illuminated choir books and frescoes painted by the Umbrian Bernardino di Betto, called Pinturicchio, probably based on designs by Raphael.
The ceiling is covered with painted panels of mythological subjects. They were executed between 1502 and 1503 by Pinturicchio and his assistants.  The frescoes tell the story of the life of Siena's favourite son, cardinal Enea Silvio Piccolomini, who eventually became Pope Pius II. He was the uncle of cardinal Francesco Todeschini Piccolomini (then archbishop of Siena and the future pope Pius III), who commissioned this library in 1492 as a repository of the books and the manuscript collection of his uncle.