The poet Mario Luzi described the suggestive lunar landscape of gullies and hills south of Siena “Le Crete Senesi” as an “open sea”. It’s the “Crete senesi” that occupies a vast area of the territories of Asciano, Buonconvento, Monteroni d‘Arbia, Rapolano Terme and San Giovanni d‘Asso. This barren area has almost remained intact conserving its original characteristics: still today it’s difficult to cultivate olive trees and grapevine although corn and sunflower are very common thanks to the work that has been done to enable the watering. The nudity of the landscape change colour each season: the gray clay, the yellow nuances of the sulphate, the mature corn and the intense green of the grass. A malleable earth where the herd paths are visible, like the antique road Via Cassia constructed by the Romans and renamed “via Francigena” by the emperors. Thousands and thousands of pilgrims have walked across here during the centuries and therefore the road is lined by many parishes, abbeys and small fortresses. We would suggest a circular itinerary of about 75 kilometers long starting from Siena and then going south on the Via Cassia (S2). You will go across the main municipalities and you can go through the mountain range, in the heart of the Crete, till you reach the abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore – surrounded by thick forest.
Going back you take the Lauretana (S438), you will pass by villages like Asciano where it’s worth to pause a bit and have a look around. In Taverne d’Arbia, you go back taking the Statale 73, just outside Siena.