Siena is a lovely example of a medieval city with the famous ‘Campo’ at its centre, where the ‘Palio’ horse race takes place. I suggest calling in to the ‘Il Doccio’ bar on the way to the city to try one of the best porchetta rolls in Tuscany. Once at Siena head for the ‘Campo’ car park for reasonably priced parking near the centre. Podere Sant’Angelo is about 1.25 hours drive from Siena.
This lovely classic Renaissance garden was created in the late 16th century during rebuilding works after the damage caused to San Quirico by the war between Siena and Florence. Geometric box hedges merge into wilder home oak woods.
For garden lovers I recommend a visit to La Foce east of Monte Amiata. The garden here was designed in the 1930s for the Origo family by the English landscape gardener Cecil Pinsent. It is a mix of formal Italian style with box hedges and lemon trees and informal English style that blends into the surrounding countryside. There are spectacular views across the Val d’Orcia to Monte Amiata. When in flower (early spring) the over 100m long wisteria vine is a wonderful spectacle. From spring to autumn the garden is open on Wednesday afternoons.
A new car park just off the autostrada at Villa Costanza has made day trips to Florence easier. The parking costs €4.00 for 8 hours and it’s located at the end of the tram line into the centre (€1.20, 20 minutes). What’s more, there’s a fantastic bar near the car park. Podere Sant’Angelo is about 2.5 hours drive from Florence.
At 1490m Monte Amiata is the highest point in southern Tuscany and is visible from miles around. On the lower slopes there are extensive chestnut woods (the chestnuts feature a lot in local dishes) higher up the chestnut trees are replaced by beech trees. Monte Amiata has one of the largest beech forests in Europe. It’s nice to visit at any time of year and it’s possible to reach the top of the mountain if you park near the top and walk the last 600m or so. The views aren’t great as there are so many trees but it’s lovely to walk here at any time of year. From Podere Sant’Angelo head towards Arcidosso, at Aiuole (the helicopter pad) take a right and then a left to drive up the mountain. The same road leads to Abbadia San Salvatore on the northern side of the mountain.
Castiglione della Pescaia is a traditional Italian seaside resort with a good selection of seafood restaurants and ice cream shops. Castiglione also has one of the cleanest beaches in the whole of Italy. My favourite restaurant is ‘Ristorante Molo Sedici‘ above the quay where the local fishing boats pull in. From Podere Sant’Angelo it takes about 75 minutes to get to Castiglione. Before you arrive in Grosseto take the Aurelia, direction Livorno, exit at Grossseto Nord, take a right along the old Aurelia after a few kilometres take a left towards Castiglione – this way saves you from going through Grosseto.
The Val d’Orcia is located to the east of Monte Amiata about 45 minutes from Podere Sant’Angelo. With its hilltop farmhouses and lines of cypress trees this is the place to enjoy the archetypal Tuscan landscape. My favourite places here are the amazing castle at Castiglione d’Orcia from the top of the castle there are stunning views across the whole of the valley, San Quirico d’Orcia with its lovely renaissance garden, the Horti Leonini, and the beautiful gardens at La Foce.
This lovely town on the slopes of Monte Amiata is famous for the renaissance ceramics by Andrea della Robbia. You can see these in the Pieve delle Sante Flora e Lucilla in the upper part of the town. The main square, again in the upper part of the town, is very charming. The medieval fishpool and surrounding park in the lower part of town is also worth a visit, especially on a hot summer’s afternoon.
Saturnia takes its name from the Roman god Saturn (or Saturnus). Legend has it that he grew tired of the constant wars of humans, and sent a thunderbolt to earth that created a magic spring of warm sulphurous water which would pacify mankind. Here you can enjoy the 800 liters a second of sulferous water at a temperature of 37.5 °C that attract visitors from all over Italy. Most people head to the waterfall next to a restored water mill, you can also take the waters at the five star ‘Terme di Saturnia’ hotel. Access to the waterfall is free and it’s open 24/7. To get there keep on on the road to Montemerano, drive along the straight stretch of road past the petrol station, at the turning to the left keep straight on. There’s a large car park at the end of the access road on the right. The best time to visit is late afternoon. Saturnia itself has a pleasant main square with several restaurants/pizzerie and a couple of good ice cream shops!
For more than 30 years the Swiss artist, Daniel Spoerri, has been adding pieces of sculpture to this large ‘garden’ of 16 hectares. Today there are over 100 installations by 50 artists. The garden is located in a spot with lovely views over the Val’d’Orcia on the lower slopes of Monte Amiata near Seggiano, about 35 minutes from Podere Sant’Angelo.