Siena – the surroundings: Bagno Vignoni

Bagno Vignoni

Bagno Vignoni, south of Siena, is with its rarefied atmosphere, with the hot vapours that escape from the large Piazza Acqua, the centre of attraction of the area.

Entering Bagno Vignoni is like travelling in time, like diving into a situation that is completely outside time. You really do breathe in a new, or extremely old air in this town that winds round its unique square. And it is here, from the large Cinquecento pool that Saint Catherine of Siena and Lorenzo de’ Medici once bathed in, that you can admire one of the most suggestive views or the area: the bights of the River Orcia that, at times welcoming and reassuring, suddenly become hostile and inaccessible, the severity of Rocca d’Orcia and, looking to the right in the valley, the shadowy profile of the Ripa Castle. Behind the town there is Vignoni Alto, a small village immersed and half-hidden by the green hill, while in front rises, in a position dominating the whole Orcia valley, Mount Amiata, a popular tourist resort for summer and winter holidays, that seems to remind everyone of its menacing volcanic origins.

The village rises over Bagno Vignoni and can be reached by taking a dirt track from San Quirico d’Orcia following indications for Ripa d’Orcia-Vignoni. The origins of the castle of Vignoni date back to the eleventh century, when it was owned by the Abbey of S.Antimo. In the first half of the following century it was owned by Tignosi of Rocca d’Orcia, but the power of Siena already made itself felt, so much so that in 1207, Vignoni was one of the areas forced to pay a special tax. However, during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, Vignoni, with the nearby Bagno Vignoni, continued to escape the control of the Sienese, passing from the Tignosi family to that of the Salimbeni. Only at the end of the fourteenth century did Siena manage to get hold of the castle and Bagno Vignoni. Now, in the fortified town you can still see a half-demolished tower. One of the old access gates to the ring of walls is still perfectly intact, next to the church of San Biagio. This, of Romanesque origins even though the interior has been greatly modified, has a single nave and still preserves the remains of frescoes dating back to the fourteenth and fifteen centuries.

From this church come the baptismal font (of 1585) currently in the main church of San Quirico d’Orcia and the bronze crucifix by Giambologna now at the Museum of Montalcino.

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