Fun Places to Visit in Tuscany

Additional FieldtripsPlease remember that Italians usually prefer cash and are often not able to process credit cards or ATM cards. You should bring enough Euro to pay for all tastings, visits, etc at the time of the visit. All prices are approximate and subject to change. Please confirm the price when making the reservation directly with the vendor.

ARTISAN VISITS:

Colle Val d’Elsa – City of Crystal – Colle is located 25 minutes north of Spannocchia (on the way to San Gimignano). This charming town is off the beaten path of most tourists, but is well worth the stop. Colle is responsible for 95% of Italy’s crystal production and 15% worldwide. There is a museum in the town center Museo del Cristallo in via dei Fossi, 0577 912260 open during the tourist season from 10am to 12pm and 4pm to 7:30pm, always closed on Monday. There are also numerous showrooms spread out around the town. Groups can visit the Colle Cristallo/Vilca crystal factory located in the industrial section of the city Località San Marziale from 8:30-12:30 from Monday to Friday for 3 Euro per person (www.collecristallo.com, www.vilca.it). Learn how crystal is made and get a tour (English or Italian) of the factory where artisans are hard at work producing hand blown crystal. Be sure to call 0577 909111 for an appointment.

Other things to do in Colle Val d’Elsa: Friday morning (9-1) open air market selling everything from food to purses to clothing to tablecloths. Artisan chocolate production Le Follie di Arnolfo (0577929683) is located right across the road from Colle Cristall/Vilca in Località San Marziale– you can purchase wonderful treats such as chocolate covered espresso beans, chocolate with pistachio nuts and chocolate made into fanciful shapes like espresso cups, and maybe even get a peek into their small production facility in the back of the store.

Terracotta – There are a plethora of terracotta producers (the typical pottery style of Tuscany) and you can easily visit one or many of them within a 20 mile radius of Spannocchia. The closest is Vetus that has a very large show room off the Siena-Grosseto highway (from Spannocchia -direction Siena) you can call 0577 347822 for more information or simply visit the store directly. There is also Terracotte di Alessandro Tesi that makes handmade terracotta and also some hand painted pieces, the workshop/store is on the way to Colle Val D’Elsa about 20 minutes from Spannocchia. The workshop is located in Pian di Olmino and the phone number is 0577 928130. In both places you can ask to see the actual workshop area, and can sometimes get a look at artisans creating their masterpieces.

TASTINGS/LOCAL FOOD & WINE:

Cheese Tasting at Fratelli Sanna – Fratelli Sanna’s farm and cheese making is located near Radi (10 minutes south from Siena, 40 minutes from Spannocchia) phone 0577 378007. Vittoria and her brothers speak limited English – so try some Italian! They produce all their own organic cheese from their 400 Sardinian sheep. The area you will visit is where they actually make the cheese. The sheep are located on a separate part of their farm about 7km away (on down the road to Radi). They milk 10 months out of the year, and grow their own hay and other crops to feed their animals (busy people!). They produce both raw and pasteurized organic sheep milk cheeses (pecorino Toscano). You can make a reservation for their fantastic cheese tasting of everything from their aged 12-month pecorino, to their 3-month truffle pecorino, to fresh ricotta. This “lunch tasting” is 15 Euro per person (and is plenty of food to substitute lunch), a more limited tasting may be available upon request.

Fattoria Dei Barbi Wine Tasting near Montalcino – The visit starts with a tour of the Fattoria dei Barbi cantina where this world class Brunello wine is made and aged. You can choose from various tastings depending on the wines you select and if you want cheese and cured meats to accompany your tasting. All tours must be reserved ahead of time by calling 0577 841111 or emailing info@fattoriadeibarbi.it and are available for groups ranging from 8 – 30 people Monday to Friday from 10:30am to 11:30am and 3:30pm to 4:30pm. Sometimes it is possible to make a reservation for Saturday or Sunday, but there is a surcharge of 2 Euro per person for this service. A 30% deposit of the total must be paid before the visit to Fattoria dei Barbi-Monte dei Paschi di Siena, Ag. Di Montalcino – c/c 5386/22 CAB 25500 ABI 1030, and the balance must be paid in cash at the time of the tasting. No credit cards accepted.

Poggio Alloro Farm Visit, Wine Tasting or Meal near San Gimigniano – A family-run organic farm about 5km from the center of San Gimigniano with a breathtaking view back to the town. They produce saffron (a historically significant DOP product from the area), chianina beef, pasta, olive oil, salt cured meats, honey and wine. A tour of the cantina and tasting of their Vernaccia, a typical white wine from the area, or their Chianti red wine. You can visit their website at www.fattoriapoggioalloro.com or call 0577 950153 for a reservation.

Grappa Tasting and tour of Distillery – The Bonollo Distillery is located near Greve in Chianti (about 1 ¼ hours from Spannocchia) and makes incredible grappa, aqua-vitae, brandy and different liqueurs. Grappa, a very strong alcohol from the skins and seeds of grapes, is traditionally from the north of Italy, but has become a popular after dinner drink in all of Italy in recent years. The tasting is 6 Euro per person and includes a tour of the copper distillation machine dating from the 1800’s, and the ageing cellars (tour available in English, Italian, German or Spanish). The tasting is of many different types of grappa, including aromatic, morbido (soft) and secco (dry) made from grapes such as the famous Chianti wine grape Sangiovese. Tours can be reserved by calling 055 8544466 or emailing greve@bonollo.com, website www.bonollo.com. Hours are Monday to Friday from 9am to 1pm and from 2:30pm to 6:30pm. We recommend going after lunch as the tasting is better on a full stomach!

Enoteca Italiana – This famous Enoteca Italiana is located on Via Camollia 72, 53100 near the historic city center of Siena in the Fortezza. Tel. 0577.228.811, Fax. 0577.228.888, info@enoteca-italiana.it. The Enoteca Italiana is a public institution that was established in 1960 as an operational instrument of the Ente Mostra Mercato Nazionale (National Market-Exhibition Body) for Fine and Appellation of Origin Wines, which was founded in 1933. Its main objective is to spread the knowledge of, enhance and promote all of the best wines produced by the many vine growing and winemaking enterprises scattered throughout the national territory. Its headquarters are located in a captivating venue, on the north-east side of the Fortezza Medicea in Siena. There is a permanent exhibition of over 1,500 wines: only the best wines are admitted, following rigid classification by a Judging Commission. Wines can be tasted on the spot – either in the rooms inside the Enoteca or on the outside terraces – and can be purchased directly. The wines on display at the Enoteca represent a qualified selection of the most refined national production: wines labeled with Appellation of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin (DOCG), Appellation of Controlled Origin (DOC), Typical Geographic Origin (IGT), and prestigious table wines.

Nannini Pastry Production and Coffee Bar – Pasticceria Nannini is located near the Piazza del Campo in the historic city center of Siena on Via Banchi di Sopra, 24, Tel.0577 236009. This is an ideal place to stop while visiting Siena to try the typical Senese sweets: panforte, ricciarelli, cavallucci, panpepato or other sweets made in Siena since the Middle Ages. You can stop at the coffee bar for a quick espresso or go around to the back where it is possible to sit in a quiet corner with a cappuccino and pastry.

MUSEUMS:

Museo della Mezzadria – The Mezzadria Museum is a wonderful compliment to your stay at Spannocchia. This new, very well done museum provides a thoughtful look into Tuscany’s recent past, exploring the share cropping lifestyle that defined the culture of this area for the past 800 years. Open from Thursday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm, you can either do a self-guided visit or call ahead 0577 809075 for a guided tour (English or Italian). The entrance fee is 2 Euro per person. The museum is located in the small village of Buonconvento (on the way to Montalcino or Pienza) and is about 40 minutes away from Spannocchia. You can combine this visit with a visit to Abbazia Monte Oliveto Maggiore about 10 minutes away, or a nice stroll through Buonconvento. There is also a small open market on Saturday mornings right in front of the museum.

Museo Del Bosco / Torri’s Cloister – Just a few kilometers from Spannocchia in the small town of Orgia there is a museum dedicated to the forest (il bosco). For 1 Euro per person, guests can either go through on their own or request a guided tour by calling 0577 342097. Visitors learn about the surrounding forest, land use, natural resources, and the mezzadria sharecropping system. Hours are Thursday through Sunday from 3pm to 7pm and Friday and Saturday additional morning hours of 9am to 1pm. On Fridays, it is nice to combine this visit with a short stop in Torri (a very small town on your way to Orgia) to visit the Abbey’s chiostro a beautiful cloister courtyard that is open to the public Friday and Monday mornings from 9-12. The Abbey, now privately owned was built in the late 1100’s.

GARDENS/SCULPTURE PARKS:

Il Giardino dei Tarocchi – Literally translated as “The Tarot Garden” this strange and intriguing sculpture garden is located 2 hours south of Spannocchia, and is the perfect addition to a day at the beach on the Tuscan coast. It was created by famous artist Niki de Saint Phalle www.nikidesaintphalle.com Tel. 0564 895122. Located near the Tuscany/Lazio border just minutes from the beach near the small town of Capalbio in the province of Grosseto. The garden can be visited from April 1st until October 15th and the entrance fee is 10.50 Euro per person. Groups of 25 people or more may qualify for group rates, but must email/fax for reservations at least 10 days in advance to tarotg@tin.it, fax: 0564-895700.

Il Bosco della Ragnaia – Half an hour from Buonconvento and 20 minutes away from Abbazia Monte Oliveto there is a natural woodland garden that you can visit from sunrise to sunset. The perfect place to relax and unwind after a day of touring, this garden, created by an artist (who wants to stay so low key that his name is impossible to find!) is on the outskirts of San Giovanni d’Asso and in the heart of the Crete Senese. For more information please visit the site www.laragnaia.com. No reservation or fee required.

Giardino di Villa Cetinale – The Villa Cetinale gardens are located about 20 minutes from Spannocchia near Sovicille in a small town called Ancaiano. They are open for visits from Monday to Friday 9am to 12pm by appointment only by calling 0577 311147. The entrance fee is 10 Euro per person. Built between 1676 and 1678 by cardinal Flavio Chigi, to a design by the architect Carlo Fontana (a pupil of Bernini) to celebrate the election of Fabio Chigi as Pope Alexander VII, the villa was never used for reception purposes, but as a private residence to which the Chigi would retreat for brief periods of repose. The complex was built in three stages: the first, involving the construction of the villa, its outbuildings and the formal garden (1676-1688); the second, involving the laying out of the Tebaide park (1698-1705); and the third, involving the building of the hermitage (1716). The garden was restored by Lord Lampton in the twentieth century. He also made an English flower garden below the villa. Steps ascend a hill into a sacred wood with statues of hermits.

Giardino di Villa Le Foce – The gardens of Le Foce can be vistited by appointment only on Wednesday afternoons from 3pm to 7pm from April to September, and from 3pm to 5pm from October to March by calling tel 0578 69101. It is located in Chianciano Terme near Montepulciano, about 1 ½ hours from Spannocchia. It is a re-created renaissance style garden designed by Cecil Pinsent between 1927 and 1939 for Iris Origo, a writer and horticulturalist. The harmony between buildings, garden and surrounding nature makes Le Foce an ideal example of Tuscany’s architectural and cultural evolution in the 20th Century.

Parco Sculture del Chianti – The Chianti Sculpture park is located about 40 minutes from Spannocchia in a small town in the Chianti called Pievasciata. You can book on their website at www.chiantisculpturepark.it or get more information by calling 0577 357151. The entrance fee is 10 Euro per person April – October from 10:00 am to Sunset. From November to March it is advisable to call first. The Chianti Sculpture Park offers each of its visitors a unique experience. In an untouched wood of ilex and oak trees in the heart of Sienese Chianti, many internationally renowned artists from five continents have created imposing contemporary sculptures in accordance with their own creative ideas and style. Every artist was invited to choose his/her preferred place and then make a proposal. All the sculptures therefore, can be considered to be truly site-specific, which explains their harmony with the trees, the sounds, the colours, the light, and every other element of the wood. In fact, these man-made works do not extend beyond the limits of nature, rather, they integrate with it and enhance it.

Orto Botanico di Siena – The Botanical Gardens of the University of Siena has more than 2000 plants from all over the world. The entrance is free and the garden is open to the public Monday to Friday from 8am to 5:30pm and Saturday morning from 8am 12pm. The area is a total of 2 hectares, and it is located inside the Siena city walls near Porta Tufi, with an entrance on Pier Andrea Mattioli, 4. For guided tours please call 0577 232871.

Il Giardino di Daniel Spoerri – The gardens of Daniel Spoerri cover an area of 15 hectares with 80 art installations to see and experience. It is a garden and “gallery” in continual evolution with works by Spoerri and other internationally known artists such as Nam June Paik, Eva Aeppli and Roberto Barni. Please call ahead for reservations to 0564 950457 or visit the website www.ilgiardinodidanielspoerri.it. The entrance fee is around 7 Euro and the area is near Monte Amiata (past Montalcino), about 1 ½ hours from Spannocchia.

Parco Fattoria di Celle – The park Fattoria di Celle, in the Pistoia province, has no entrance fee and can be visited by written request sent via or fax to 0573/479486. In the 15th century this villa and its adjoining land belonged to the Pazzaglia family, but later became the property of the Fabbroni, a cultured noble family from Pistoia, who were responsible for much of the reorganization of the building and its garden. In the mid-19th century the garden was turned into a romantic park, in a design by the architect Giovanni Gambini. The Brana river, which crosses the area of the park, was used to create a small lake, with an island in the centre, complete with Neoclassical ornamental temple, and a rocky gorge crossed by a bridge onto which a waterfall cascaded. Near the gorge was a neo-Gothic building, known as the Tempietto della Fonte, and a building in the ancient Egyptian style. In 1969, after changing hands several times, Villa Celle was bought by Prato entrepreneur Giuliano Gori, a collector of contemporary art, who over the years brought many works of art here, turning the villa into a fully-fledged open-air museum. Scattered inside the park are works of art by various national and international artists, including Magdalena Abakanowicz, Alice Aycoch, Luciano Fabro, Dani Karavan, Sol LeWitt, Richard Long, Fausto Melotti, Robert Morris, Dennis Oppenheim, Pistoletto, Anne and Patrick Poirier, Ulrich Ruckriem, Richard Serra, Mauro Staccioli, George Trakas and many more besides. The park is also home to a large number of trees of various species, such as white fir, chestnut and horse chestnut, white hornbeam, Atlantic and Himalayan cedar, cypress and Lawson cypress, flowering ash, giant arbor vitae, red fir, black and umbrella pine, plane trees, scented American fir, Douglas fir, yew trees, lime trees, elm trees, and a whole range of different kinds of oak: holm-oak, turkey oak, common oak, downy oak, red oak and American oak.

THERMAL BATHS:

Bagno Vignoni – Bagno Vignoni is a charming town in the Val d’Orcia near Montalcino and Pienza about 1 ½ hours from Spannocchia. The tiny village center is a large rectangular basin in which hot thermal spring waters flow from its underground volcanic origins. The healing properties of the thermal waters in Bagno Vignoni were first discovered by the Etruscans ­­ and then by the Romans, always great lovers of thermal baths. Illustrious visitors such as Pope Pius II, St. Catherine from Siena, Lorenzo de Medici not to mention poets, writers and artists from all over the world have searched use of these therapeutic waters and gained inspiration from the wonderful surroundings. You can go for a dip in the hot springs at Piscina Val di Sole at the Hotel Posta Marcucci www.piscinavaldisole.it. Open most days from 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 6pm. You can call 0577 887112 or fax 0577 887119 by email info@HotelPostaMarcucci.it.

Terme di Rapolano – About 1 hour from Spannocchia, located right off the Siena-Bettole highway is the Antica Querciolaia Rapolano, a hotel and thermal bath spa with many large heated pools. See their website www.termeaq.it. Tel. 0577 724091 on Via Trieste 22 in Rapolano Terme Open every day. Entrance fee is from 9-13 Euro per person depending on the day. Besides a soak in the thermal baths all kinds of spa treatments are available. On some Thursdays and every Saturday the baths are open till after midnight so you can experience the thermal baths under the stars!

Saturnia – About 2 hours from Spannocchia in the heart of the Grosseto province you can visit the wonderful thermal baths of Saturnia. There are two ways to visit the terme di Saturnia: the first is by paying to get into the “official” baths www.termedisaturnia.it. There are four thermal water pools, falls, Jacuzzi and vascular courses having both warm and cold water. The thermal water, at the constant temperature of 37°, allow people to have bath all year round. Your other option is to experience the natural baths created just a ½ mile or so away from the official baths. The entrance is free, and there is a beautiful waterfall created by the many carved out pools, but no spa services.