Tuscany: our visit in Bagni San Filippo, Bagno Vignoni, San Gimignano and Volterra

Enjoy a wonderful glimpse of Tuscany: share our itinerary in a land where history, art, culture, nature and traditions makes this region one of the most fascinating places in Italy. Let's start the tour with two stops, in two close locations that are distinguished by the peculiarity of their respective spa areas: Bagni San Filippo and Bagno Vignoni.
The journey will later reach two other charming destinations: San Gimignano and Volterra!

Bagni San Filippo (San Filippo Baths)

Bagni San Filippo, a little village in southern Tuscany, between Orcia valley and Mount Amiata, where the slow and steady flow of bagni-san-filippothermal waters have spontaneously created whitewashed limestone formations, several waterfalls and some small natural hot water tanks where it is possible to make relaxing baths encircled by a luxuriant woodland.

A unique and rare experience!

Let's begin. Wherever you look at, you realize how this scenic location has maintained a natural and wild aspect unchanged over time.

This area, which we may call "magic", is called "free spa" or "white ditch" by residents.

Access to the entire area is absolutely free.

As soon as you enter this space you will encounter the first tanks (characterized by transparent and very hot water) and the first calcareous formations.

As you descend into the valley, following a naturalistic path, you will fall in love more and more with this place.

Every excuse is good for taking a short break and diving into the waters of the many pools you encounter on the way.toscana02

Then, along the path beside the river, through the woods, you will reach the Fall of the Whale.

We found ourselves in front of a huge and evocative limestone block formed by the sediments of white hyperthermal waters.

A real wonder of nature!

The thermal waters blend with the stream gives it a particularly beautiful white-blue color creating a fascinating chromatic contrast with the rest of the surrounding woods.

The waterfall is called the whale (or white whale) just because this extraordinary calcareous formation recalls the mouth of a whale.
tuscany3At this point the hottest waters flow, providing such a high temperature to allow you to bathe even out of season.

In the vertical part of the waterfall (right in the middle of the limestone formation) there are small tanks that collect the hottest waters, before mixing with those of the White ditch.

It was a wonderful feeling for us to stay "soaking" in these tanks, on the bottom of which lay the precious mud baths used for the treatment of facial and body skin.

Bagni San Filippo was an exciting journey into nature that would leave the skeptics even open.

Up the valley, we stopped at a sort of emporium in the village, a distinctive place where they will prepare exquisite chips of tuscanian salami and typical cheeses  of the area.

A real need to refresh after this wonderful naturalistic adventure.

Bagno Vignoni (Vignoni Baths)

Just a few miles from Bagni San Filippo you can discover another magical hamlet!

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The central square of the village, Piazza delle Sorgenti, is made up of an impressive and huge medieval pool, where you will see hot and steamy water, flowing directly from a volcanic underground fossil.

You will be astonished at this fairy-tale place!

The imposing square-tub is surrounded by elegant renaissance buildings and, on the one side, a loggia from which to enjoy this enchanting show.

The waters that emerge from the spectacular spa tub head towards the steep escarpment of the Natural Park of the Mulini (Mills).

Here, immersed in the Mediterranean scrub, there are four medieval mills dug into the rock.

These mills in ancient times were extremely important for the local economy, because the perennial thermal spring guaranteed their operation even in the summer, when other mills in the area were stopped due to the dry rivers.

118It is possible to visit freely and free of charge the four medieval mills, following a very well-marked path.

Even the "Mulini Park" has inspired great emotions in us to embrace such a unique hydraulic engineering work of its kind.

After the excursion to the Mulini park, we continued our visit wandering through the tiny ancient village, developed around the Piazza delle Sorgenti, giving us a few moments of relaxation in one of the many bars located right around the large tub.

Bagno Vignoni is the ideal place for those who are looking for a relaxing wellness holiday. In fact, the whole country has been disseminated by numerous spa and SPA centers attached to the spa dating back to Roman times.

And we gave ourselves a few hours in one of the oldest spa resorts in the village: fantastic experience!

As soon as you enter the spa, you can use the spa bath with thermal water that gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in a 119relaxing bath, enjoying a pleasant massage under the waterfalls.

The pleasant water temperature ranges from 37 to 39. We recommend baths of up to 15 minutes!
We then experienced the whirlpool bath combining the massage to the refreshing water effect at a temperature of about 32 degrees.

And we did not miss the Roman Sauna: intended for body purification, relaxation of the muscles and regeneration of the spirit!

This type of sauna creates a pleasant relaxing atmosphere that helps improve blood circulation, decrease muscle tension and stress.

The therapeutic properties of the thermal waters of this enchanted place were first discovered by the Etruscans and then by the Romans, who have always loved the spas.

After such a delightful afternoon it is now time to depart again to San Gimignano, we left Bagno Vignoni with the promise to come back to visit us!

San Gimignano

The fascination of the Middle Ages, for us today, has a name: San Gimignano!

We've come to realize it right away. Ever since, coming down the hill, we saw the village and its spectacular towers in the distance unexpectedly.
san gimignanoWe parked our car and pass St. John's Gate, impregnated by the millennial history of this incomparable example of medieval and Renaissance urban architecture.

Through the Arc of the Becci and Cugnanesi we enter our unique "Piazza della Cisterna", an ancient square that owes its name to the octagonal well in travertine.

In this magical glimpse overlook some of the oldest palaces of San Gimignano and some of its towers: the Tortoli Palace, with its four elegant 14th century mulches; the Torre mozza; the Ridolfi palace; the towers and houses of Becci and Cugnanesi; the Ardinghelli Palace with its two towers and the Lupi Palace with the Devil's Tower.

Every detail of this square is worthy of note, it has been impossible not to dwell on the peculiarities of every single building and leave it on a real journey over time!

We left behind our cistern square to head to the Duomo square, another unique medieval jewel!

There are other splendid monuments: the Municipal Palace, the staircase leading to the entrance of the Duomo, the palace of the Ghibellini Salvucci with the two "twin towers", the Chigi-Useppi palace and the Palazzo del Podestà with the Tower of Rognosa.

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Moreover what definiterly excited us, in addition to the extraordinary monuments that make up the square, is the overhanging space!

We talk about the breathtaking spectacle that is able to give the view from above the Big Tower.

From the Palazzo Comunale you can access this majestic tower, the highest in the city, from which you can see an exceptional view.

Hard to climb to reach the top of the tower (walking for hundreds of steps) but make sure that physical effort is highly payed! It is possible to admire an absolutely unpublished San Gimignano and all around the view is rated A++!

From that height, on the north, you can see the Apuan Alps and Pistoia, and, to the south, the Amiata mountain that marks the border with Lazio region.

Once you get off the tower we recommend visiting the Palazzo Comunale (Municipality building), one of the most interesting monuments of San Gimignano, built between 1289 and 1298 on the remains of a pre-existing building.

An impressive commotion along the interior courtyard, painted with frescos with its characters who had held public office in the context of the Commune, will lead you to the two upper floors of the complex that make up the historical site of the Civic Museums of San Gimignano and the Pinacoteca.

Must visit!

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Also in the Piazza del Duomo, do not miss a visit to the Duomo (formally the Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta) that stands at the top of a large staircase overlooking the western side of the square.

The curved and unadorned facade of the 13th century contrasts with the intensity of the interior frescoes of the church: all the walls and vaults are covered with frescoes by various artists and mainly by Lippo Memmi and Bartolo di Fredi. A great example of art!

Continuing our visit, outside the Duomo, you can not admire the Chigi-Useppi Palace (right in front of the Duomo) and the old Podestà Palace with the tower called Rognosa, which until the end of the 18th century was used as a prison.

Below the palace itself there is a large androon with stone seats at the bottom of which there is a fresco of Sodoma, dating from 1513, representing the Madonna and Child and the Geminian and Nicola Saints, and a door that gives access at the small Teatro dei Lettori.

From Piazza del Duomo, on the right side of the church, we crossed Piazza delle Erbe until we reached the Montestaffoli Fortress.

It was realized by the Florentines in 1353, just when San Gimignano submitted himself to Florence, to reject any attacks that could come from Siena or rebellions within the same city.000123

The Rocca was a fortress with a pentagonal plan, with a perimeter of 280 meters, with towers at the corners and connections that united it to the mighty city walls and was defended by a drawbridge.

From the only tower of the Rocca that remains agibile, you can enjoy a remarkable view on the towers of the city center

We suggest a stroll along the perimeter of the second wall, dating back to the 13th century and admiring the beautiful views of Valdelsa.
Along the way you will find some medieval "Torrioni", the main gateways to the city: Porta San Giovanni, Porta Quercecchio, Porta San Matteo, Porta San Jacopo and Porta delle Fonti.

We stopped at Porta delle Fonti where, shortly after a short but steep descent, there are public sources.
From these sources, where old water was drawn and washing washes.
The splendid 14th-century building has ten Romanesque arches and six acres.

Very spectacular construction!

124We dedicated much of our visit to San Gimignano to wander around the alleys of this wonderful town.

Our constant reference point was Piazza della Cisterna, almost the neuralgic center of our medieval path in a splendid San Gimignano, declared by the UNESCO World Heritage Site!

Just in Piazza della Cisterna, among the many "tavernas", which opened at our horizons, we had the pleasure of sampling the Vernaccia of San Gimignano.

A delightful white wine, famous for being the first Italian wine to receive the DOC brand in 1966.

A curiosity: the same Dante Alighieri in his "Divine Comedy", wandering among the geniuses of Purgatory, meets with Pope Martino IV that he was overwhelmed by the desire of Vernaccia!

We were also won by Vernaccia's desire. Great wine!

San Gimignano is charming at night. Aging around the main places of the medieval town at sunset (and even late into the night!) It is never boring and is a source of constant emotions.

At sunset, another aspect of the city begins to come to life!

Reviewing streets, alleys, and monuments in the evening has brought new interest in rediscovering every corner of this enchanted place.

San Gimignano, in fact, at night offers interesting excitement by strolling through the village's hiking trails with suggestive views. Taking advantage of and enjoying the calm of the evening, the lesser influence of visitors and the evening light (which transforms everything) we enjoyed a relaxing evening.

Arrivederci San Gimignano!

Volterra

Last stop of our itinerary in Tuscany was Volterra: splendid hilly countryside with imposing walls that preserves ancient traces of its Etruscan, Roman and medieval past.

126We make our entrance to Piazza dei Priori, in the heart of historic Volterra.

In the middle of the square stands the magnificent Palazzo dei Priori: the most ancient communal palace in Tuscany.

The tower of the "Palazzo Pretorio" is particularly well-known, and it is known as the "Tower of the Porcellino" (Little pig tower) due to the characteristic shape of a stone on the top.
It was difficult to find it but at last we succeded!

The "Palazzo dei Priori" is entirely built of stone, its façade is refined with marcapian frames and decorated by 16th century semicircle banners and enamelled terracotta plates that represent coat of arms of Florentine families.
Inside, passing a spectacular atrium, you can visit the Council Room for the official meetings of the municipality on the first floor: a wonderful salon entirely frescoed.

Just a few meters away from Palazzo dei Priori lays the Duomo (the ancient Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta). Inside there is a mix of Romanesque and Renaissance architecture.

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The cathedral houses many works of art by renowned Italian artists including Andrea della Robbia, Mino da Fiesole and Benozzo Gozzoli.

We note the small baptism of the thirteenth century. Located on the opposite side of the octagonal cathedral, it has a façade decorated in white and dark green marble, and in its interior a marble baptismal font of 1500.

From the height of its dominant position, it immediately attracted our attention, the huge Medicean Fortress: the majestic building stands out, in fact, a kilometer away (before reaching Volterra).

The Fortress was built two years after the conquest of Volterra by Florence, following a violent battle for control of potash alum mines, an important mineral used in textile production.
The Fortress was meant to protect the city and to keep Volterra under close control and to prevent, therefore, any revolt against the new lords.

The building, built on the highest point of the hill where the city rises, consists of two parts: the old fortress, built by the governor of Florence in 1342 and subsequently modified by Lorenzo the Magnificent, and the New Fortress, by Lorenzo the Magnificent in 1475, joined together by high defensive walls.

At present, this impressive and historic building houses a state security prison, so (alas!) Is not accessible inside.
128Near the Fortezza, at the top of the hill, is the Etruscan acropolis, where you can admire buildings of various eras, from the

Etruscan to the Roman and Medieval, all made for religious purposes.
In the park there are the remains of a rainwater collecting tank, an august swimming pool and two ancient temples.

We continue the visit of Volterra, focusing on the wonderful Roman theater, located just outside the medieval walls and dating back to the 1st century AD: a magnificent set of beautifully preserved items!

After a real "dive" in the history we return to the historic center of the village and continue our walk through the alleys.
We can not help but buy a alabaster souvenir that will remind us of our Tuscan stage in one of the many artisan craft stores that come across the way.

In this fabulous place everything is about history!129

Tuscany: land of flavors, traditions and culture!
Throughout the entire itinerary in this wonderful region, we stayed at the "Sovresto" hotel.

A stunning property located less than 2 km from the historic center of San Gimignano, surrounded by a vast park of pine trees, surrounded by vineyards, olive groves and lush Tuscan-Mediterranean vegetation.

The hotel offers its own restaurant "da Pode". Typical Tuscan dishes and exquisite cuisine.
Absolutely recommended!

 

Our preferred places in San Gimignano:

Ristorante Da Pode, San Gimignano (SI)

Hotel Sovestro, San Gimignano (SI)