THE CRETE SENESI
Welcome to the world’s most photographed panorama! There is indeed no piece of this landscape left that has not already become a snapshot. A wide sea of clay spreads out over the countryside Southeast of Siena: one evocative, soft hill follows the other, the few forests leave space to the endless stretches of wheat fields and grassland, able to change their colours with the succession of the seasons.
The Crete Senesi are indeed a quite different world. Someone has defined them as “moonscape”, but only because he hasn’t seen them in spring, when the explosion of nature makes the fields become green waves, caressed by the wind, or in autumn, when the farmers’ ploughs bring the clay back to the surface, with its beautiful violet shimmer.
The Crete are, without doubt, a land of agriculture. In the first place a land of wheat and land of the shepherds. Not by chance it’s famous for its sheep’s milk cheese, unique like the unmistakable flavour of the wild herbs that give their aroma to the sheep’s milk. Land of olive groves that produce the fine “Terre di Siena” oil with guarantee of origin (Dop). And right here in the area of the Crete one of the rarest and finest white truffles of Italy can be found.
In this clayey region with its endless horizons we do not find a lot of stone. Almost everything is made of bricks and therefore made of clay: the beautiful farmhouses that stay isolated on the top of a hill, lined by high cypress trees; the magnificent monuments that mark the territory like cardinal points, from the Abbey of Monte Oliveto (spiritual headquarter of the Crete Senesi, with a marvellous cloister with 16th century frescoes by Sodoma and Signorelli) to the fortified medieval storehouse for wheat Grancia di Cuna, from the castle of San Giovanni d’Asso to the city walls of Buonconvento.
Only around Rapolano, land of the hot springs and the travertine, stone is a protagonist. Stone and bricks meet harmoniously in Asciano, chief city of this territory centuries ago, where we can admire side by side the Sienese city walls of the 14th century, the Romanesque architecture of the Basilica of Sant’Agata and the artistic treasures of Palazzo Corboli, a glorious medieval city palace that today houses a rich museum.