We recently visited Asciano, (Tuscany, Italy) a small historical town south of Siena and much to our joy not overrun by tourists.
In fact, if the name does ring a bell to you, it is probably because of its position at the very heart of the so-called Crete Senesi (Siennese clays) with its characteristic lunar-like landscape of biancane and calanchi.
The unique combination of white clay rocks and gully erosion finds its origin in Pliocene when this area was covered by sea (even now fossilized fish teeth are sometimes found)
Not many vineyards or olive trees here in this part of Tuscany, instead a patchwork of fields (wheat, sunflowers,rapeseed,…) shifting colours depending the season and, as often, the soil and its typical vegetation (shrubs and herbs,…) have a distinct influence on the flavour of some locally grown produce. (Pecorino delle Crete Senesi for example)
Book a guided tour with Vademecum Tours and Alessandro will tell you all about this region’s history and its geographical marvels. We could only do a part of the tour (my health and mobility were far from optimal that day) but even the smallest hike reveals breathtaking views.
To explore this region we flew on Firenze airport and rented us some wheels. As always we opted for the all-included packages of Sunny Cars.
We stayed in centrally located Hotel La Pace, offering comfortable rooms with breakfast. There’s a restaurant, open every evening serving Tuscan cuisine and the outdoor swimming pool is a bonus!
Asciano has a lovely small historical center and is partly surrounded by medieval walls. The city is easily walkable with all major to-sees on or near the main street. At the lower end of the main street you will find the tourist office and the Etruscan and Sacred Art Museum, for those into archaeology and Etruscan and medieval art. At the other end of the street you will find the Basilica di Sant’Agata (and welcoming steps to rest) and Torre della Mencia.
There’s also a beautiful travertine fountain (15th century) at Piazza del Grano.
Food-wise we especially enjoyed the Tuscan-Siennese cuisine and local wines at Ristorante La Mencia.
As for an aperitivo or little lunch or snack we highly recommend Bar Gaston. A Campari (or Apérol) spritz and ham and cheese platter, all local produce, combined with the warm welcome by Davide is the perfect way to kick off the evening or afternoon. Located at a central spot in the village, it is also perfetto per osservare le persone!
And then of course the famous cypress trees, majestic wind-breakers brought to Tuscany by the Etruscans…so symbolic for this region and there’s no Tuscan postcard where this tall green giant doesn’t take its moment of glory.
In part two of this series I’ll take you with me exploring Siena, San Gimignano and of course Firenze (and its rural surroundings). Join me then?