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A Drive Around Monte Cetona

Pauline Kenny

This is another lovely area in southern Tuscany and much of it is off the heavy tourist track. Monte Cetona is in the south eastern section of Tuscany, near the border with Umbria.

View of Monte Cetona from Celle sul Rigo

As you can see in the photo above, this area has a landscape similar to that around Pienza. Rolling hills, wide open fields and the clay cliffs of the Crete. It also has beautiful wooded areas.

The Drive

You can do a nice circular drive around Monte Cetona. Starting from the main highway, SS 2 that goes south from Siena to Rome, take the exit for Radicofani.

Radicofani

A small, well preserved town. In June they make pictures on the streets with flower petals (like the festival in Spello).

Route: From Radicofani, go in the direction of Sarteano, but in a few miles turn right on a small road, direction Celle sul Rigo. When you are outside Celle sul Rigo on the main road, you turn a sharp left up a hill and switch back up to the town. There is parking at the top of this hill, just outside the town walls.

Celle sul Rigo

A very small town. We rented a house just outside the town walls in June 2000. A nice town to walk around - you won't run into tourists here! A good alimentari on the main street, no stores in the piazza. The owners of the caffe just outside the town walls (on the road to the town) are very nice. You can park along the road. There are nice views from the town.

Route: Back down to the main road and turn left to continue. You join another main road. Keep left in the direction San Casciano dei Bagni. Just before San Casciano, you reach an intersection. Go right to San Casciano. There will be a big parking lot (free) on your left. Park here and walk into town. Or drive past the parking lot, then turn right and go up the hill to the main piazza which has pay parking (there is a machine).

San Casciano dei Bagni

Our favorite town in this area. An excellent caffe and restaurant right on the main piazza (where you can park). Natural hot springs down the hill from the town. A big spa a couple of miles outside of town. Good food shops and a couple of bakeries.

Tuscany, San Casciano dei Bagni. 06/00

View of San Casciano dei Bagni from the road to Celle sul Rigo

Restaurant: Ristorante Daniela, Piazza Matteotti 7, center of town. tel: 0578-58041. Closed Wednesdays. We have had several good meals here. They serve fish dishes. They have a fabulous bar attached to the restaurant where they also sell newspapers and magazines. They carry the International Herald Tribune and Wall Street Journal Europe. Also good pastries for breakfast. We went to this caffe many times while we were staying at Celle sul Rigo.

Route: Leave San Casciano dei Bagni and go straight on the main road (right from the parking lot or left from the piazza) in the direction of Piazze and Cetona. This is a very confusing intersection. Just follow the town signs. Do not go in the direction of Sarteano - this bypasses Cetona. In Piazze, you take a left in the direction of Cetona. This is beautiful countryside here. The road ends at the road to Cetona. Turn left. From this road take a left right into the town piazza where there is parking.

Cetona

Another wonderful town. This is a larger town than San Casciano. Several restaurants and caffes. Good food shops. You can park right in the main piazza (buy a ticket at the machine). Take a long walk all around the town. The houses are beautiful and there are some good views of the countryside. There is supposed to be some good hiking in this area. We will try some on our next trip.

Route: From the main piazza, take a left on the main road and continue to Sarteano.

Sarteano

We have have only driven through this town, but it would be worth exploring.

Route: From Sarteano, continue on the main road to Chianciano Terme. You come to the main road to Chianciano and Montepulciano. Chianciano is on this road.

Chianciano Terme

This is a large and busy spa town with several spa resorts. We have never stopped here, only driven through. It would be worth parking and exploring. I have heard there are some very good shops because of all the visitors that come and stay for the spa treatment.

Route: From Chianciano there is a small road that goes straight to La Foce.

La Foce

This is the estate the writer Iris Origo owned. You can rent vacation rentals on the estate. There are public roads through the estate, so you can have a nice walk and look about. From the road just west of the main estate you have a good view of the Cypress lined road frequently featured on postcards and book marks.

Route: From La Foce, continue west until you get to an intersection where you turn right for Pienza. From this road, before it reaches the main highway (No. 2) take another right for Pienza. This brings you into Pienza from below; a very different view than coming from the Montepulciano Road. Pienza wasn't actually in the plan for this day trip, but what a nice bonus! Have a gelato in the main piazza to recover from and celebrate your lovely day!

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