Il Granaio di Siena
Leaving Siena from Porta Romana, the Southern city gate, we walk on the Via Francigena or “strada romea“, which – it is said – made the city grow in the Early Middle Ages. Following the sign “Francigena sud” in the countryside, through the Val d’Arbia, we reach the imposing Grancia di Cuna, made of red colored bricks. That is the southernmost point of a very suggestive track. The Val d’Arbia is alluvial valley crossed by the Arbia river. Here you find an important production of white, rosè and Vin Santo wine, the Val d’Arbia DOP.
Many authors have written about Siena and its harmonious beauty throughout history, and it is difficult to invent new words to describe its charm, especially if you are not a poet. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.
José Saramago, a Portuguese writer and Nobel Prize winner, fell in love with the city and dedicated words to the town, describing it with brushstrokes of deep emotion and passion:
‘And here is Siena, the beloved, the city where my heart is truly pleased’. ‘The three hills on which it is built make it a town where there are no two identical roads, all of them are bound to no geometry. ‘This wonderful colour, the colour of the burnished body, is also the colour of the cornbread crust, this wonderful colour goes from stones to the road and roofs, softens the sunlight and wipes away anxieties and fears from your face.
‘There is nothing more beautiful than this town’. Piazza del Campo ‘a sloping and curved square like a shell that the builders did not want to pave and it remained so, as if it were a lap’.
‘I look at the old palaces of Siena, ancient houses where I want to live one day, with a window of my own, overlooking the coloured clay roof tiles, over the green shutters of the windows, as if in an attempt to decipher where this secret that Siena murmurs and that I will continue to hear, although I do not understand it, until the end of my life.
The Crete Senesi are a rural landscape. Rain and wind formed, with clay hills shaped like facial wrinkles showing the passing of time: harshness and sweetness, roundness and edges, deep ruts and light slopes, the signs of a very long life lived intensely.
The Crete Senesi are a sea landscape when the expanse of green grass hills, caressed by the wind, seems to move: waves, as far as the eye can see, up to the horizon. An illusion of infinity, a crystallized and static space that alienates your soul. Then, a stronger wind rises and the clouds run, changing the colours of the landscape. A herd moves, the sun is reflected in the window of an isolated farmhouse next to a cypress tree, and dirt roads open up like scars in a green belt.
Ideal places if you are looking to get away from the world, as did Giovanni Tolomei, of an important and wealthy Sienese family, who found his place in the ‘Accona desert’ in 1313, where he founded the Abbey of Oliveto Maggiore, not far from the Via Francigena that ran further downstream, where mills moved water, giving man the means to overcome nature.