Paesaggio delle Crete Senesi, comune di Asciano

A complete guide to the Crete Senesi

A treasure trove of natural and artistic beauty, the Crete Senesi are among the most suggestive locations in Tuscany. The particular conformation of the rolling hills of Siena and the unique atmosphere of the surrounding area have elevated the place to world fame, making it a popular destination for tourists and photography enthusiasts. Let’s find out which places you really can’t miss and what makes the Crete Senesi so fascinating.

What are the Crete Senesi?

Located in a specific area of Tuscany, the Crete Senesi are an integral part of the region’s unique landscape. Characterised by its undulating shape and a soil colour that ranges from grey to brown, the area is marked by gentle, sloping hills, interspersed with cobbled roads that seem to melt into the horizon. 

Pristine scenery stretching as far as the eye can see, each season holding different hues of light: it is the ideal place to experience nature, strolling in open fields and woods, alone or in company, enjoying the beauty and tranquillity of the Tuscan countryside.

Where are the Crete Senesi? 

The Crete Senesi extend between the provinces of Siena and Arezzo. This expanse of arid landscape resembles a scene straight out of an Impressionist painting. The area is characterised by softly rolling clay hills that stretch out for miles, offering a spectacular and unspoilt landscape.

There are no large cities in the surroundings, only small, quaint villages that seem frozen in time. This scenic spectacle can be admired in the areas of Buonconvento, Montalcino, Asciano, San Giovanni d’Asso and Rapolano Terme, which still preserve their Medieval and Renaissance-era landscapes. 

The Crete Senesi are also famous for their typical produce: extra virgin olive oil from the area’s numerous olive groves. As such, it is a must-see destination for all those wishing to discover the stunning natural beauty of Tuscany.

What to see around the Crete Senesi

The area is famous for its incredible natural landscapes, which vary with the seasons. In summer, the scenery take on a warm, ochre hue, while snow lends the place an even more magical atmosphere during the winter. A bike tour of the Crete Senesi is certainly a must-do.

Visitors to the Crete Senesi should take full advantage of the area’s artistic wonders: the Convent of Monte Oliveto Maggiore is definitely a must-see. This magical and imposing building is embellished by frescoes of Luca Signorelli and Sodoma, which decorate the walls of the corridors and the church.

The historic centre of the Medieval village of Asciano owes its importance to its strategic position to the south of Siena, along the Via Lauretana: don’t miss the chance to visit the Civic Museum of Archaeology and Sacred Art, where you can admire paintings by Sienese artist Bartolo, Sodoma and Matteo di Giovanni, as well as the Bicycle Museum.

You can also visit the Abbey of Sant’Antimo, known as ‘the gem of Tuscan Romanesque architecture’: the building appears to rise from a dense expanse of cypress and olive trees. Its origins are still unclear, although a document dates its construction to before the year 1000. 

Lastly, as one heads towards these locations, the distinctive, majestic sight of the white road can be enjoyed, starting in Buonconvento and winding its way across the beautiful rolling landscapes. The view is unique and truly spectacular, featuring the rounded tower of Sant’Ansano and the towers of Montalcino and Siena. 

How to get to the Crete Senesi

To reach the Crete Senesi, the hilly region in southern Tuscany, there are several transportation options available: 

  • Car: take the A1 motorway and exit at Valdichiana or Chiusi-Chianciano Terme. From there, continue in the direction of Siena and follow the signs to the Crete Senesi; 
  • Train: Siena railway station is the closest arrival point to the Crete Senesi. From there, you can take a bus or hire a car to reach your destination. Alternatively, there are direct buses from Florence or Siena to the Crete Senesi’s main towns, such as Asciano and Buonconvento. 

Lastly, those preferring a more leisurely and scenic means of travelling should consider taking the Crete Senesi’s cycle route and following the dirt roads criss-crossing these breathtaking landscapes.

Best time of year to visit the Crete Senesi

Spring and autumn are the best seasons to visit the Crete Senesi. During spring, the landscape is painted with bright colours as plants and flowers bloom, creating an enchanting atmosphere. Autumn, on the other hand, is dominated by shades of red, orange and brown as the leaves on the trees change colour. 

Temperatures are mild during both seasons, making it possible to take long walks and enjoy the beauty of the area. That said, whatever the season, the evocative landscapes and excellent food and wine culture are sure to deliver an unforgettable experience.

I Comuni di Terre di Siena