From Quirico d’Orcia to Bagno Vignoni
What you will see
San Quirico d’Orcia and Horti Leonini, an example of Italian garden of ‘500, Ripa d’Orcia, Orcia River, mineral springs, Bagno Vignoni
From SanQuirico d’Orcia, with ups and downs along the hills of the Vald’Orcia, you reach the small fortified village of Vignoni with its view of the Vald’Orcia and arrive to Bagno Vignoni, famous for its monumental thermal bathl through a climb called Via dei Mulini, because along this path, for hundreds of years the wheat was milled using the strength of these thermal waters.
San Quirico d’Orcia
The beautiful town of San Quirico d’Orcia sits atop a hilltop (what else?) halfway between Pienza and Montalcino. Right before you arrive into San Quirico, look to the right of the road right after passing a long bridge… recognize that crop of cypress trees on the side of the hill? Yep, that crop constitutes the most photographed trees in all of Tuscany! Depending on the season, they might not look picture perfect and they weren’t when we were in the area (October meant everything was quite brown) but if you’re here in spring or early summer, we are sure they will be picture perfect for you!
We quickly learned that San Quirico was a very important stop in ancient times since it sat right along one of the pilgrimage routes, the Via Francigena, that connected northern Europe to Rome in medieval times. The town is divided in half by the main street, Via Dante Alighieri, with most of its fortified walls still standing.
There is ample parking outside of the town right around these walls. You’ll enter the town through one of four entrances along the wall. We recommend you start from the northwest entrance so that you can enjoy the view of the front of the Collegiata of the Saints Quirico and Giulitta, a beautiful Romanesque church with Gothic and Baroque additions. The stone is pretty weathered and marked with holes; the doorways are beautiful, we recommend you go up and study the sculptures all around and noticy that each of the lions guarding the various entrances are in different poses.
Behind to the side of the Collegiata, you can then admire the Palazzo Chigi, the beautiful palazzo now home to the city council. Continue along Via Dante Aligheri, you’ll arrive at Piazza della Libertà, heart of the small town with the Church of San Francesco. The church is also called the Church of the Madonna since it now protects the terracotta statue of the Madonna by Andrea della Robbia that used to be in the nearby, very famous, Vitaleta Chapel.
If you stay on this main road, you’ll find several restaurants where you can enjoy lovely lunches and dinners. As you near the opposite end of San Quirico, you’ll find another lovely Romanesque church with its side to the street: the Church of Santa Maria Assunta. The church is very simple but full of atmosphere; its portal is beautifully adorned by little carvings of animals, very similar to the ones on the facade of the Sant’Antimo Abbey in Montalcino.
Head back to Piazza della Libertà: from here you can enter into the splendid Horti Leonini
The Horti Leonini is a small and very original universe that abounds in literary, artistic and scientific contents, which enclose invisible correlations between microcosm and macrocosm. It was realised by Diomede Leoni, right-hand man of the Medici family, who in 1535 received from Francesco I a piece of land amidst the bastions of San Quirico.
Designed around 1581 by its owner and named after him, the garden is a fascinating example of a classic Italian garden, joined to a wooded area. The particular conformation of the land led Leoni to divide it into two parts. The lower area is rhombus-shaped and contains an Italian garden with a hexagonal shape, conceived as a transfiguration of the circumference. The beds are bordered by a double box hedge and separated by a series of lanes that converge towards the centre where, in 1688, a statue of Grand Duke Cosimo III de’ Medici was placed. The centre lane of the Italian garden leads to a stairway that connects it to the upper area consisting of a wood of centuries-old holm-oaks around a grassy meadow, and traversed by winding paths. The Horti Leonini Garden is embellished by statues with symbolic connotations and inscriptions celebrating Diomede Leoni.
Further in, you’ll find the remains of the Torre del Cassero, an ancient medieval tower that used to rise over 39 meters but unfortunately destroyed by the Germans during the Second World War.
From the fortified walls surrounding the gardens, you enjoy vast and breathtaking views all over the Valdorcia, from the volcanic Monte Amiata to the beautiful hilltop towns of Pienza and Montalcino. If you follow the smaller streets from Via Alighieri, you’ll also find the Cappuccini door along the walls, an austere bulwark.
Property of the Commune of San Quirico d’Orcia since 1975, Horti Leonini has been subjected to conservation directed by the Supervisory Service for the Environmental and Architectural Heritage of the Provinces of Siena and Grosseto.
WHO WAS SAN QUIRICO?
He was a young Christian child, he and his mother Giulitta were put to death by the Emperor Diocleziano in the year 304 and thus became martys. The interior of the church is adorned with beautiful paintings and impressive carved wooden panels.
Bagno Vignoni is a town situated on a hill above Val d’Orcia in Tuscany, Italy. It is a popular tourist destination and well known for its hot springs.
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 (which was the main route followed by pilgrims in antiquity who went to Rome), these thermal waters were found and have been used since Roman times.
At the heart of the village is the “Square of sources”, namely a rectangular tank, of 16th-century origin, which contains the original source of water that comes from the underground aquifer of volcanic origins. Since the Etruscans and Romans – as evidenced by the numerous archaeological finds – the spa of Bagno Vignoni was attended by eminent personalities such as Pope Pius II, Saint Catherine of Siena, Lorenzo the Magnificent and many other artists who had elected the village as main holiday resort.
Characteristic of Bagno Vignoni, besides the thermal waters, are its structure, despite numerous incidents of war, devastation and fires that involved the Val d’Orcia in the Middle Ages, remains essentially unchanged since then. From Bagno Vignoni, you can easily reach the historical centers of nearby Pienza and Montalcino, and the general Val d’Orcia area, including the Park of Mount Amiata.
Bagno Vignoni is also the location where parts of Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1983 film Nostalghia were shot.