San Giovanni d'Asso
San Giovanni d'Asso is in central Tuscany, near Montisi, Sinalunga, Asciano and San Quirico d'Orcia. It sits amidst the rolling hills that are blanked in shades of grains and grasses. The landscape here is undulated and slashed with country roads and speckled with small groves of trees.
The names comes from St. John the Baptist and the Asso stream, a tributary of the Orcia River. Its position at the edge of the Val d'Orcia, considered the quintessential Tuscan zone, and the Crete Senesi, the other-worldly clay hills south of Siena. Here, traces of Etruscan presence were found, along with remains of ancient Roman temples. The town was a fief of a Tuscan count before becoming part of the Siena council, and was ruled by noble families for centuries, most notably the Aldobrandeschi.
The dominating castle draws the eye to San Giovanni d'Asso from below, sitting prominently on top of the hill. It was originally a Lombard construction, then replaced with the brick structure you see between the 12th and 14th centuries, in various stages. It is now used for cultural events and periodic exhibitions, and also hosts the Truffle Museum, the first museum in Italy dedicated to the tasty tuber.
In fact, San Giovanni d'Asso is a good destination for foodies. The truffle is a big deal here, with much of the local cuisine utilizing the prized product. There is a festival dedicated to it every autumn (end of October-beginning of November). You can even schedule a day of truffle hunting through the Osteria delle Crete, who will take you out with the truffle dogs to find the nuggets (and then sample some goodies prepared with them, of course!) San Giovanni d'Asso is also designated as a "citta' dell'olio" (olive oil town) and a citta' del Vino Orcia DOC. The wine zone is between the two most acclaimed wine districts of Tuscany - Montalcino and Montepulciano. Like those productions zones, the Orcia produces excellent vintages from the sangiovese grape. The Orcia DOC includes the towns of Buonconvento, Pienza and San Quirico d'Orcia. Be sure to do a wine tasting while you're here!
There are several churches to visit. Of course, the church of San Giovanni, the town's primary place of worship, which was established in 1492. Even older is the church of the Nativita' dating to the 9th century, and the church of San Pietro in Villore, which was first built in the 700s and restored in its current form in the 1300s. The facade retains the original columns. Inside is a single nave but the stone simplicity is endearing. The beautiful original altar piece by Ugolino is now in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Artwork from the town's other churches has been moved to the Diocesan Museum in Pienza.
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Explore nearby towns
Let yourself be enchanted by Montisi: charming hamlet of San Giovanni d'Asso, in the area of Crete Senesi, near Siena, whose name probably derives from a temple situated 2Km away and dedicated to to the goddess Iside (worshipped by the Etruscans).
The medieval village of Trequanda developed around the castle dating back to 1200, of which just the cylindric crenellated tower remains, some pieces of the boundary walls and two of the three original entrance doors are still well visible.
Buonconvento is considered one of the most beautiful towns in Italy.