The land without the sweetness of trees
“La terra senza dolcezza d’alberi, la terra arida che rompe sotto Siena il suo mareggiare morto”. E ancora: “Questa terra eccita e alimenta la condizione enigmatica dell’uomo: la rappresenta e la asseconda. Ciascuno di noi ha dentro di sé queste perplessità dense di mistero e qui trovano un luogo”.
The land without the sweetness of trees, the arid land that breaks its dead swell under Siena. And again “This land excites and nourishes the enigmatic condition of man: it represents and supports it. Each of us has these perplexities full of mystery and here they find a place” So write the poet Mario Luzi about the Crete Senesi, the territory on which a large part of this route will develop, with its undulating elevation profile.
Immediately after Arbia, the landscape changes abruptly and we find ourselves catapulted into a different land made of gullies, Biancane and rounded hills in the shape of breast. And then bald and washed hills, eroded by the wind, folds of land kissed by the sun in summer.
We pedal along the Strada Lauretana, in the direction of Asciano, a strip of asphalt that cuts a rough territory, which after a couple of kilometers begins to climb.
Anyone wishing to cycle to the “heart” of the Crete and live a strong emotional, as well as physical experience (the route that we propose here, mostly on clay, can be traveled by mountain bike and only in dry periods) must follow the indication to Castello di Leonina, a fortified complex dating back to medieval times, nowadays become a Relais.
The Site Transitoire with the famous double sculpture (a set and a large stone window) created in 1993 by the French artist Jean Paul Philippe.
From Mucigliani, you have a unique view on the Crete Senesi, the Chianti and further away on Siena
San Martino in Grania, antica pieve ricca di leggende, oggi in stato di decadenza, già attestata in età longobarda conosciuta anche come “Ligrania”.
Intorno un oceano di terra lunare, punteggiata da pochi casolari aggrappati sui colli, come a dominare il territorio, fino a Monteroni d’Arbia il paese più importante della zona.
Nei dintorni, Lucignano e Ponte d’Arbia, e i castelli più importanti e strategici come San Fabiano, Sant’Ansano Gherardi, Radi e Ville di Corsano.
Among the castles mentioned, the one of San Fabiano is worth a visit, which is only a couple of kilometers from the center of Monteroni d’Arbia. The tower of the castle was part of a system of signal towers placed along the Via Francigena such as that of Radicofani to the South and the Torre del Mangia itself in Siena. The second part of this itinerary, (about 20km) starts from the center of Monteroni along the provincial road of Grotti, towards Radi, dominated by the mighty mass of a castle, now transformed into a villa, of which a beautiful steep tower remains, and the church of San Pietro, of Romanesque structure
From Radi to Siena, a continuous alternation of gentle climbs (beautiful views over the city of the Palio) and as many gentle descends with; the last dirt stretch before the final kilometers along the Cassia (pay attention to the traffic) is quite challenging.
Many have written about Siena and its harmonious beauty, in all times, and it is difficult to invent new words to describe its charm, especially if you are not poets. UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 1995.
José Saramago, a Portuguese writer and Nobel Prize winner, was in love with the city and dedicated words that describe 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 city where there are no two equal roads, all contrary to submit to any geometry”. “This wonderful color, the color of the body browned by the sun, but that is also the color of the crust of the corn bread, this wonderful color goes from the stones to the road and to the roofs, softens the sunlight and erases the anxieties and fears from the face”.
“There can be nothing more beautiful than this city”. Piazza del Campo “a square inclined and curved like a shell, which the builders did not want to pave and remained so, as if it were a lap”.
“I look at the old palaces of Siena, ancient houses where I wish I could live one day, with a window of my own, overlooking the clay-colored roofs, the green shutters of the windows, as in the attempt to decipher where this secret comes from that Siena murmurs and that I will continue to hear, although I do not understand it, until the end of life”.
The Crete Senesi are a land landscape. Rain and wind have shaped and designed the hills of clay as the passing of time on a face wrinkles: bitterness and sweetness, roundness and edges, deep furrows and light slopes, the signs of a very long life lived intensely.
The Crete Senesi are a sea landscape when, green of the grass, brushed by the wind, the expanse of hills seems to move: waves, as far as the eye can see, up to the horizon. An illusion of infinity, a crystallized and immobile space that extracts the soul. Then…. A stronger wind rises and the clouds run changing the colors to the landscape, a flock moves, the sun is reflected on the window of an isolated farm next to a cypress, and dirt roads open up like scars in the green.
Ideal places if you try to get away from the world, as did Giovanni Tolomei, of an important and wealthy Sienese family, who in 1313 found his place in the “Accona desert”, where he founded the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore, not far from the route of the Via Francigena that wound further downstream, where the water moved mills and gave man the means to overcome nature.