Pienza - Val d'Orcia - Siena - Tuscany

The area called "The Crete Senesi" is very specific and goes from south of Siena to Sant'Antimo passing Montalcino, encompassing suggestive, unforgettable landscapes.

This area is yet another one of the most photographed in all of Italy, both for the uniqueness of the landscape and for the presence of historical and architectural buildings. The heart of Le Crete, a sandy, lunar landscape, has a magnetic fascination. The primary characteristic of this area is the earth's grey color which features different shades and reflections according to the time of the day and the season. It is a vast area which features little vegetation and deeply eroded gullies, which looked carved by a cosmic sculptor.

The clay of this area has been used for centuries for making earthenware. The visitor who is interested in ancient handicrafts will find many terracotta workshops, where the artisans work the clay according to the traditional techniques which in other places have been abandoned for a more modern technology.

Amid the bare areas of Le Crete you find vast sunflower fields which, in the summer, make the scenery even more brilliant and suitable for photos worthy of calendars and works of art. In spring there are bright green wheat fields. Vineyards dominate the landscape around Montalcino, famous for the excellent Brunello di Montalcino wine. Everywhere you find medieval villages, farms, churches and fortified castles, which represent the history and the architecture of man.

The landscape is among the most fascinating of Italy, sweet and suggestive, embellished with buildings by man who has always loved, protected, and enhanced it with sober architecture harmonically set in the natural scenery. The result demonstrates the healthy and visionary relationship between man and nature and produces excellent agricultural products, first of all the wines, but also other specialties which can be tasted in the restaurants and inns in the small villages.

The pecorino cheese from Le Crete is produced with the famous milk of Asciano, from the free-breeding sheep. The bare land only features aromatic bushes which give the cheese its special fragrancy and taste and can be eaten fresh or aged. In Le Crete you also find the precious white truffle, as well as the black truffle, and the best truffle market is located in San Giovanni d’Asso.

Another delicious product is the artichoke of Chiusure which grows thanks to the unique microclimate of the area, particularly suited for this plant. Do not miss the honey produced in Montalcino, where its fields offer a vast selection of fragrant flowers and aromatic essences. Along with the Brunello di Montalcino wine, also try the excellent grappa produced with the Brunello grapes.

In the heart of Le Crete is one of the most beautiful monasteries in Italy—Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore. This 12th century monastery belongs to the Benedictine order, is the home of many beautiful and extraordinary frescoes painted by Luca Signorelli (1497) and Antonio Bazzi - called "Sodoma" (1505), and has a shop where the public can purchase special items which are grown and produced on-site by the monks, such as wine, liqueurs, and olive oil.

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