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Pienza - Crete Senesi

‘Terre di Siena’, ‘terra di Siena bruciata’ and ‘ocra’ (which translated are ‘siena earth’, ‘burnt siena earth’) are the Italian names for the various shades of brown that artists all over the world recognise. Colours made by mixing the natural pigments of the clay earth from the Crete Senesi, the southern part of Tuscany, south of Siena.

Millions of years ago the ‘Crete’ were a seabed on which the ash fell from Monte Amiata, once an active volcano but no longer so, and that stills overlooks the region. Even today there are frequent findings of fossilised shells, fish remains or prehistoric whales when the farmers plough the earth.

Today “le Crete” appears a lunar landscape, metaphysical if seen in August or September, an undulating sea of “creta” (clay). Long waves of ploughed land that changes colour every square metre: from grey, to brown, to ochre, to yellow, to brick. As if it were an enormous Japanese zen garden, the ploughed furrows snake up and down the hills, twisting back on themselves, creating fascinating graffiti.

Pienza - Crete Senesi Pienza - Crete Senesi Pienza - Crete Senesi Pienza - Crete Senesi Pienza - Crete Senesi Pienza - Crete Senesi Pienza - Crete Senesi Pienza - Crete Senesi Pienza - Crete Senesi Pienza - Crete Senesi Pienza - Crete Senesi Pienza - Crete Senesi

Pienza - Crete Senesi

With the spring, in April and May, the electric green of the young grain transforms the landscape into velvet cloth waving in the wind as far as the eye can see. Here and there is a touch of pale yellow, or of magenta, depending on whether the crop is rape, lucerne or mustard. But it is in June and July that the Crete reach their chromatic highpoint: this season sees the triumph of the yellow of the sunflowers and of the broom, of the gold of the ripe grain, striking as the golden backgrounds of the Sienese painting of the 1300s.

So the ‘Crete Senesi’ are a grand ephemeral seasonal endeavour of ‘Land Art in Progress’ unknowingly made and remade every year by the farmers with their tractors and their crops.

Due to the high temperature still deep inside Monte Amiata today, the ‘Crete’ have many thermal springs with calcareous-sulphureous water, on which many Spas in the area have been built. This prolongs the tourist season into the autumn and winter months and it is particularly inviting and beneficial when the outside temperatures drop below freezing and you can sink yourself into a large outdoor pool full of water that comes from deep underground at a natural temperature of 40°. There are outdoor pools at San Filippo, Rapolano and Bagno Vignoli.

But it would be misleading to paint the Crete as a desert of clay and sulphurous water. Founded by the Sienese Republic of which this vast territory was part, on the hilltops in fact stand beautiful medieval villages like Montalcino, home to Brunello, perhaps the most famous Italian wine in the world; or Pienza, a small jewel of Renaissance town-planning, designed by Rossellino on commission from Pio II, the Pope who belonged to the noble Sienese Piccolomini family, and who established his summer residence there; today Pienza produces one of the best Italian cheeses, ‘pecorino’ made from the sheeps' milk from the flocks that graze freely all over the ‘Crete’.

The ‘Crete’ are a perfect location for a wedding, and a favourite destination among ‘intelligent’ and ‘slow’ travellers. There are many venues with swimming pools of differing standards offering accommodation. Exclusive private luxury villas; romantic hotels; elegant and luxurious relais, resorts and historical country houses, finely renovated.

click accommodation reception venues/Crete Senesi-Pienza, or accommodation reception venues/Montepulciano, and you can choose one of the ideal venues with swimming pools in the Crete Senesi area.

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