Crete Senesi

Crete Senesi

Small towns and low-key sightseeing in the weirdly eroded hills south of Siena

Sinalunga has spread down its slopes, but the old center retains its Collegiata church with a Renaissance Madonna and Child by Sodoma, the San Bernardino convent some Gothic Sienese paintings.

Asciano is a lovely small town girded by 14th century walls, with tiny museums devoted to Etruscan remains, Gothic Sienese art, and local 19th century painters.

Beyond Asciano, ★★ Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore monastery ( is hidden in a womb of hilltop cypress, its cloister covered in frescoes by Sodoma and Luca Signorelli, one of the masterpieces of High Renaissance narrative painting. The monks also run a small cafe and sell their homemade herb liqueurs, beauty poultices, and other medieval-style products. It's free, open daily 9:15am to noon and 3:15 to 6pm (until 5pm from the last Sunday in October to the last Sunday in March).

Take a hike (roughly 7-8 miles roundtrip) to tiny hilltop Lucignano, built as a perfect ellipse from the town walls and concentric streets to the oval stairs leading up to the central Collegiata church. The town museum has 15th century paintings, two works by Signorelli, and a 14th century, seven-foot-tall Tree of Life reliquary.

The best bike ride from Modanella, about 14 miles roundtrip, is to Asciano (see above). You could prolong the trip on the way back (adding about 2-3 miles overall) by swinging north past the Rapolano Terme hot springs, a medieval spa whose thermal waters are good for skin ailments and rheumatism.


The Crete Senesi largely share Siena’s cuisine, but since this is also the home country for pecorino sheep’s milk cheese, be sure to try some fresco (soft and mild) as well as stagionato (sharp and hard).

Locanda dell’Amorosa
Ancient farming estate 1.5 miles south of Sinalunga. Off of the picturesque courtyard opens one of Tuscany’s best countryside restaurants; traditional dishes using farm-fresh ingredients. Loc. Amorosa. $50-$70

La Rocca
Rustic osteria in picture-perfect Lucignano serving traditional rustic cuisine. Via Giacomo Matteotti 15-17. $25.

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