San Quirico d'Orcia
Arriving through the magnificent Val d'Orcia countryside, the town of San Quirico manages to stand out as one of the most beautiful villages in a sweeping valley full of charming towns. It is known for its brick-built walls and watch towers, its perfectly-preserved town-scape and its skilled tradesmen who keep on the centuries' old building skills that make these villages so special. Located along the ancient Roman road, the Via Francigena, it has been a stop-over spot for two thousand years. Along the SS 2 road from Siena you'll also recognize the scenery of the cypress-lined lanes, some of the most photographed landscapes in Tuscany!
San Quirico has a marvelous surrounding panorama, while the old town center hosts a lovely restored Romanesque church and, next to the church, the 15th century Palazzo degli Amerighi, where a legendary conspiracy was hatched against the Spanish that oppressed Siena (1555-1559).
The stately Palazzo Chigi, dating back to the late 17th century, shows off its magnificence in the rooms that were restored by the skilled hands of the citizens in San Quirico. It is now home to the town hall. The splendid Collegiata offers a stunning St Peter's altar-piece, and the ligneous inlaid choir that must be seen, behind the questionable baroque altar. The church of San Francesco houses a glorious glazed terra cotta sculpture of the Madonna by Della Robbia.
Among the many marvels in San Quirico, the Leonini gardens, or Horti Leonini, deserve special attention. These lovely gardens have 16th century origins, and were in fact created in 1581 on a peace of land owned by Diomede Leoni, who gave the name to this stunning work of art and nature. The Horti have kept their original structure and design, representing a truly classic example of Italian-style garden and a model of reference for future parks. The garden is divided into two areas, the lower artificial one and the upper natural one. The lower area is accessible through a small brick courtyard, surrounded by secular walls and holm-oaks. Here you'll be able to admire many fine sculptures, like the lion heads nearby the entrance portals, as well as the representation of Janus, the two-faced Roman god of boundaries, located between the wild and the formal garden. Leonini gardens are open to the public every day.
The town is utterly charming, so walk around and take in the old world atmosphere of the medieval streets spiked with towers, the pretty piazzas and the stunning views.
While in San Quirico you must try the sweet olive oil, even celebrated every year in December.
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