Post image for Walking in Tuscany: Pienza Ring Walk

Walking in Tuscany: Pienza Ring Walk

February 14, 2016 · 14 comments

Date walked: October 4th 2015

Distance: about 6 miles

Guide book used: “Walking and eating in Tuscany and Umbria” by James Lasdun and Pia Davis.  Edition published 2004.

Pienza ring walk-100

See website www.walkingandeating.com for comments and corrections.

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Since my last walk I had been in Siena for a few days, photographing several gardens in the area. Last night I was a guest at La Foce garden near the town of Chianciano Terme, south-east from Siena.  One of the highlights of the trip.

La Foce garden, Tuscany, photohgraphed by Charles Hawes

This pic taken on my first look round

I was lodged in their Bed and Breakfast villa “Palazzolo“, situated just half a mile from the gardens. The accommodation was just wonderful; I would love to have stayed a week.

It shares the same view as that of the gardens, looking over the valley to the Amiata mountain.

View from Bed and Breakfast Palazzolo, La Foce, Tuscany, photographed by Charles Hawes

I loved the spaciousness and simple décor of my room its large bathroom and the way that the large open-plan kitchen/ living room were decorated and furnished in the same style.

Bed and Breakfast Palazzolo, La Foce, Tuscany, photographed by Charles Hawes

All the bedrooms have their own colour but are decorated in the same way

I had been up for first light in the garden but it had stayed stubbornly dull. No matter, I had had fabulous light the night before.

La Foce garden, Chianciano Terme, Tuscany, photographed by Charles Hawes

Upper terrace at Sunset

I was back at the Bed and Breakfast in time for the housekeeper to cook me some excellent scrambled eggs and was on the road by 9.30am.

Bed and Breakfast Palazzolo, La Foce, Tuscany, photographed by Charles Hawes

The breakfast/sitting room area

I was heading for San Giovanni D’Asso and my last garden visit of the trip – the extraordinary Il Bosco della Ragnaia created over the last  20 years by American artist Sheppard Craig.  Going via Pienza – a UNESCO World Heritage Site- wasn’t a big detour and Sheppard had told me how attractive a town it is.

It was raining when I arrived, and full of Japanese tourists, but still managed to charm me. By the time I found the start of the walk it had stopped raining and I was looking forward to exploring on foot the weird lunar landscape of the Crete Senesi.

Pienza in the rain, photographed by Charles Hawes

My, it does look wet

Leaving the Piazza Dante Alighieri I passed a restaurant on the left, dropping down the hill to a T junction where a stone and brick-built house suggested an interesting architectural history.

House outside Pienza, Tuscany, photographed by Charles Hawes

Obviously several buildings joined together

I have no idea of the date of the house or when its faded Madonna and child would have been painted.

Madonna fresco on house outside Pienza, photographed by Charles Hawes

Maybe it was never finished?

Turning right here, the road descends to the Romanesque  Pieve di Corsignano, its bell, calling the faithful (and probably the tourist-curious) to assembly.

Pieve di Corsignano, Pienza, Tuscany, photographed by Charles Hawes

Very simple exterior

Leaving the asphalt road here, the path then takes  the gravel surfaced track that is signposted to the Agriturismo Terrapille, the sign overhung by a large fig tree.

Sign for Agriturismo Terrapille, near Pienza, photographed by Charles Hawes

The track is bordered by several small trees as it descends into the valley.

Road to Agriturismo Terrapille for Pienza, photographed by Charles Hawes

The trees stop suddenly and I was  presented with this typical landscape of deeply furrowed soils, the agriturismo Terrapille sitting on top of the nearest hill, surrounded by pencil cypresses.

Road to Agriturismo Terrapille, Pienza, Tuscany, photographed by Charles Hawes

The soil looks browner than it should – it is nearer to grey

These grey clay soils that characterize the district are heavy and cloddy, the furrows far deeper than any that I have walked by in the UK.

Crete senesi, outside Pienza, photographed by Charles Hawes

My route approached the house and then by a post with several red and white direction signs…

Waymark signs for public paths in countryside near Pienza, Tuscany, photographed by Charles Hawes

Directions, distances, time and symbols : great signs!

….. turned off to the right, following a now earth track through the ploughed fields.

Right of way in countryside near Pienza, Tuscany, photographed by Charles Hawes

The rough grass banks were colonised by masses of two little butterflies – a brown jobby and a pale blue one but both were irritatingly reluctant to be photographed.

In a little hollow a small pond provides a visual marker for the route, though I don’t know who (or what) is intended to benefit from its muddy water.

Pond in countryside near Pienza photographed by Charles Hawes from a ring walk

The path carried on down to  the little tree-lined stream ahead.  Climbing up again, over to the left, the guide named an abandoned house as Casa Piani.

Casa Piani, outside Pienza, photographed by Charles Hawes

I find the prospect of exploring ruins that I come across on walks irresistible- especially old Tuscan farm-houses. And besides, it was only 100 yards off my route.

Casa Piani, outside Pienza, photographed by Charles Hawes

(My camera battery failed at this point and my spare was also flat so from here on the pics were taken in my I phone).Structurally, the place didn’t look too bad in parts.
Casa Piani, outside Pienza, photographed by Charles Hawes

I found a way in up what remained of  stone steps to the first floor. Here’s a few pics of the inside.

Casa Piani, outside Pienza, photographed by Charles Hawes

 

Casa Piani, outside Pienza, photographed by Charles Hawes

So, its been a while since it was lived in!

 

Casa Piani, outside Pienza, photographed by Charles Hawes

 

Casa Piani, outside Pienza, photographed by Charles Hawes

Someone is bound to make a home from this place again, though I can’t say that I envy them their views.

View from Casa Piani, outside Pienza, photographed by Charles Hawes

The path takes the route that you can see in this last picture, climbing up from Casa Piani to reach a gravel road in about 10 minutes. From there was a good view back to Pienza.
 
View to Pienza from gravel road near Vitaleta, photographed by Charles Hawes

This new road was bordered by mixed deciduous trees and shrubs, with broom underneath.

Gavel road near Vitaleta, Pienza, photographed by Charles Hawes

In half a mile I took the option of a short detour mentioned in the Guide to see the chapel at Vitaleta. A coach was waiting for its occupants to return. The chapel was,  indeed, very  pretty from all directions.

Vitaleta near Pienza, photographed by Charles Hawes

Vitaleta near Pienza, photographed by Charles Hawes

The façade  is made of a limestone called travertine – the same stone was used in St Peters in Rome.

Facade of Vitaleta near Pienza, photographed by Charles Hawes

The coach party turned out to be a photographers group from the USA, discussing in earnest such technical issues as whether a polarizing filter would enhance their images. They had been to La Foce that week but had been told that on no account could they use their images; I felt a little smug.

Group of photographers at Vitaleta near Pienza, photographed by Charles Hawes

Having returned to the gravel road, I had an easy amble for about 1/4 mile…

Gravel road outside Pienza, Tuscany, photographed by Charles Hawes

….and then a post with several more path signs directed me to go down the hill again to the right.

Right of Way signs near Pienza, photographed by Charles Hawes

These ups and downs were not very demanding.  At the bottom the path climbed again to another abandoned property called (according to the Guide) Podere San Tito.

Podere San Tito, outside Pienza, Tuscany, photographed by Charles Hawes

Here the stone steps had an alarmingly  large hole in the  landing but I managed to step across at the corner to enter the main upstairs room.

Podere San Tito, outside Pienza, Tuscany, photographed by Charles Hawes
This place was rather more rewarding that Casa Piani. The brick floor was mostly intact, there was the most enormous fireplace…

Podere San Tito, outside Pienza, Tuscany, photographed by Charles Hawes

…..and to the side of one of the rooms an intriguing structure that I was not sure what it had been.

Podere San Tito, outside Pienza, Tuscany, photographed by Charles Hawes

A basin – with a fire box underneath ? I should have looked more closely.

For once the graffiti was not the spray-canned insignia of some local youth but a  half decent stab at a  horse.

Podere San Tito, outside Pienza, Tuscany, photographed by Charles Hawes

I was a little worried about the floors, though , so didn’t push my luck much further.

Podere San Tito, outside Pienza, Tuscany, photographed by Charles Hawes

Podere San Tito, outside Pienza, Tuscany, photographed by Charles Hawes

This seemed an altogether more substantial property than the first ruin. Outside there was a well…

Well of Podere San Tito, outside Pienza, Tuscany, photographed by Charles Hawes

Surprised no one has nicked this

…. and what I imagined might have been a bakery.

Bakery of Podere San Tito, outside Pienza, Tuscany, photographed by Charles Hawes

This place was at the outskirts of Pienza, and the path back up to the town climbs up by the side of an olive grove.

Olive grove outside Pienza, photographed by Charles Hawes

I wasn’t finished with interesting buildings, though. Opposite quite a substantial house were ruins set into the side of the hill which appeared to have had several sections that had held liquid of some sort.

Building outside Pienza, photographed by Charles Hawes

Most intriguing. And a lovely arch.

I then found myself back at the Pieve di Corsignano, now indicating no sign of occupation so I went in. The simplicity of the interior was stunning.

Pieve di Corsignano, Pienza, Tuscany, Photographed by Charles Hawes

There may not have been much to see but I found this place more affecting than the elaborate interior of the cathedral in Siena that I had visited a couple of days before.

Pieve di Corsignano, Pienza, Tuscany, Photographed by Charles Hawes

 

Pieve di Corsignano, Pienza, Tuscany, Photographed by Charles Hawes

A place that did not appear to want to put much in between the visitor and their God.

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Julia February 14, 2016 at 7:38 am

Magic – even the phone photos.

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Charles February 14, 2016 at 5:43 pm

Thanks Julia. I did treat the phone pics to the same processing as I usually do on the larger files.

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Neil February 14, 2016 at 9:56 am

What a fabulous walk. Landscape looks absolutely lovely and some wonderful buildings to explore !!!
Don’t need to be quite so smug about your rather fantastic free BnB though 🙂

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Charles February 14, 2016 at 5:44 pm

Yes, it is a weird landscape. I wouldn’t say it was lovely, though . (But then I try to avoid using “lovely” for anything.) Sorry about the smugness.

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Paul Steer February 14, 2016 at 10:04 am

The church interior is so surprising for an Italian interior , it is almost Lutheran in its stripped down simplicity. Strange barren landscape – must be a fair amount of erosion ?

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Charles February 14, 2016 at 5:46 pm

Well I was surprised about the church. Quite stunned. Bet you’d love it, too. I was thinking the same about soil erosion. Perhaps the deep furrows and heavy soil may help there.

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James Golden February 14, 2016 at 4:42 pm

Thank you. Beautiful. Do you know what is grown in the plowed fields?

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Charles February 14, 2016 at 5:47 pm

Thanks James. I was wondering myself and trying to recall what I might have seen on previous visits to the area. My guess would be a lot of Sweet Corn.

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John February 14, 2016 at 5:46 pm

You risking your safety to take photos for our entertainment is only to be expected (though I’m glad you didn’t get closer to that bakery arch). And, discounting totally the advice I was once given by a photographer to buy at least one spare battery (because nothing is more embarrassing than a flat one), I’ll give credit to your post-processing skills for the fact that the iPhone pics are just as good as those taken with the Canon. I can almost feel the atmosphere inside that church.

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Kev the Yank February 14, 2016 at 8:54 pm

Huh… bloody Americans, they’re EVERYWHERE!

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Charles February 15, 2016 at 5:35 pm

Well at least you are safely tucked up in the middle of the USA where you won’t get into trouble.

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Kev the Yank February 15, 2016 at 7:01 pm

Ah, good point! And Nature has dumped just over 3 inches of snow on us in the past day & a half, so I am sitting in the living room looking at photos of our walk in Wales missing the warmth and sun and ocean…

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Valerie February 15, 2016 at 12:43 pm

Bowl and firebox. Had one of these in an outbuilding attached to our house. The bowl was copper. It was used for laundry. Room at the front for washboard.

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Charles February 15, 2016 at 5:34 pm

Yes, I did wonder about that. Thanks Valerie.

Reply

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