The Chiesa dell'Osservanza, stands outside Siena, in beautiful rolling country. It was built in 1476 and occupies the site of an earlier church founded by San Bernardino; its architect was Giácomo Cozzarelli. After suffering severe damage in air raids in 1944 it was rebuilt in its original form. The aisleless nave has eight side chapels. In the third chapel on the right is the Reliquary of San Bernardino by Francesco d'Antonio (1454), and in the fourth a beautiful triptych ("Madonna with SS Ambrose and Jerome", 1436), by an artist known only, after this work, as the Maestro dell'Osservanza. On the pillars of the triumphal arch (between the nave and the choir) is an "Annunciation" in painted terracotta by Andrea della Robbia. The sacristy has a "Pietà" by Giácomo Cozzarelli (15th century).
Abbazía di Sant'Ántimo
The Abbey of Sant'Ántimo, a Benedictine foundation, lies some 40km/25mi south of Siena, from which it is reached on SS 2 (to just south of Buonconvento) and then via Montalcino.The abbey, which may have been founded by Charlemagne and first appears in the records in 813, stood at the foot of a hill covered with dense vegetation. Through various grants of land it grew enormously wealthy, but it began to decline in the 14th century and was formally dissolved in 1462. Only the church now survives. It dates from the 12th and 13th centuries and shows the uncluttered forms of Romanesque architecture. Built in travertine, it has no transept. The nave, 42m/138ft long, is flanked by aisles which lead into an ambulatory with radial chapels reminiscent of French models. On the north side is a squat campanile, on the south side a chapel dating from the Carolingian period. A notable feature is the richly decorated doorway, set in the otherwise plain facade. The nave is divided from the aisles, above which are galleries, by columns and piers (alternately two columns and one pier). The capitals are richly carved with Romanesque ornament, plant and animal motifs alternating with chequer-board and interlace patterns. Note particularly Daniel in the lions' den on the second column on the right. The three-aisled crypt probably dates from the 11th century.
The hilltop Monte Oliveto Maggiore was built in the 14th C. Among the highlights are the frescoes lining the cloister.
The little town of Buonconvento was established in the 14th century on the site of the Roman Fort of Percanna on the Via Cassia, and is surrounded by the 14th century walls of Sienese type. It has a fine 15th century parish church (Santi Pietro e Paolo), containing some good paintings, and an excellent picture gallery with works of the medieval Tuscan schools. The Emperor Henry VII died in the town in 1313.
SituationMonte Amiata, Tuscany's highest peak, rises out of a tract of lower hills between the valleys of the Orcia, Fiora and Paglia in the south of Tuscany, on the boundary between the provinces of Siena and Grosseto. Topography Monte Amiata (known to the Romans as Mons Tuniae or Mons ad Meata) is an extinct volcano, with numerous springs which supply water to Siena and Grosseto. It is rich in workable minerals (mercury, antimony), which were already being exploited in Etruscan and Roman times. On the fertile lower slopes of the hill corn, vines and olives are grown; higher up are forests of chestnut, oak and beech, traversed by attractive footpaths. In recent years an extensive winter sports area has been developed, roads (kept open in winter) constructed and hotels built. The summit of Monte Amiata is encircled by a 13km/8 mile long road, some stretches of which have steep gradients, but the drive is well worth while. The road, which is most easily reached from Abbadia San Salvatore, has a track on the south side leading to the summit on which a tele-communications station has been set up and on which stands a steel cross. From here there is a magnificent panoramic view.
Abbazia di San Galgano
San Galganno, in the hilly country at the foot of Monte Siepi, is the only religious house built by the Cistercians in Tuscany. The abbey was founded in 1218, and the building of the church began six years later. It became wealthy and influential, but the 16th century saw the beginning of its decline, soon followed by structural decay. The roof of the church fell in towards the end of the 18th century.
The church, 69m/226ft long, is a classic example of the austere Cistercian style which originated in France but never achieved full acceptance in Italy. On a Latin cross plan, with aisles, it is built partly in travertine and partly in brick. The older part of the nave has four storys, the later part only three. Even in its ruined state the church is still of powerful effect. Of the conventual buildings there survive the chapter-house, refectory and part of the cloister.
San Galgano sul Monte Siepi
On nearby Monte Siepi (338m/1,109ft) is the little round domed Church of San Galgano sul Monte Siepi. It marks the spot on which a hermit named Galgano Guidotti is said to have died in the 12th century. The church contains notable frescoes by Ambrogio Lorenzetti.
Situation and landscapeThe barren rolling hills known as the Crete, which form one of the most impressive and most unusual landscapes in Tuscany, lie southeast of Siena between Taverne d'Arbia and Asciano.TopographyMuch indented by valleys and continually threatened by erosion, the Crete are quite unsuitable for cultivation. A scanty growth of grass offers only meager pasture for sheep. There could hardly be a greater contrast to the gentle green hills found elsewhere in Tuscany. Geologically the Crete belong to the Cretaceous system, making them between 65 and 135million years old; and the creta (Latin "chalk") after which the Cretaceous is named has also given its name to this lunar landscape.
SituationThe little town of Asciano lies in the foothills of the Crete, in the Upper Valley of the Ombrone, 25km/15mi southeast of Siena.The townAsciano, once held by the Counts of Sinalunga, was acquired by Siena in 1285 and defended against Florentine attack until 1554. Notable features of the town are a Romanesque church, the Collegiata (Sant'Ágata), built of travertine; the Museum of Religious Art (Museo di Arte Sacra), with some fine pictures by medieval painters.
The Etruscan Museum in Asciano, housed in a small Romanesque church, with finds from five Etruscan chamber tombs discovered in 1957 on the Poggio Pinci, to the east of the town, as well as gold jewelry, bronze fibulas and funerary urns; and the abandoned and dilapidated Romanesque and Gothic Church of San Francesco.
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