A small hamlet of San Giovanni d’Asso is located 19 miles southeast of Siena, in the area known as the Clay Hills.
Its rich history can be traced back to the dawn of Christianity when an ancient local Longobard church, San Pietro a Pava, became an important religious center. The hamlet shaped up in the Middle Age when a castle was built here. Over the course of centuries, the hamlet passed from one noble Siennese family to another. Due to its non-strategic position, away from the main commercial routes, San Giovanni d'Asso has never been in the center of any historic events and has remained a sleepy charming village. Just like in the old days locals grow grains, olives and make wine, although, nowadays it is better known for excellent white truffles.
Every year in November the hamlet celebrates a two-week Festival of the white truffle (Sagra del tartufo bianco). The streets fill up with stands selling the precious tuber and traditional foods and restaurants serve various dishes made with it. There is also a museum dedicated to tartufo bianco, the first one in Italy, housed in the beautiful 13th century castle overlooking the hamlet that tells about every aspect of the fragrant tuber and takes visitors on a sensorial journey into its fascinating world.
The hamlet’s main 14th century church of San Giovanni Battista has no opulent décor but close to the heart of many Christians as it guards a number of religious relics of Saint Peter, Saint John and Saint Catherine of Siena. Another lovely church that is worth a visit is San Pietro in Villore. First mentioned in documents dating back to the 8th century , it has an atmospheric dimly lit crypt and a an elegant bell gable.
|Castello - San Giovanni d'Asso|
Despite its minuscule size, the hamlet has a few excellent restaurants where you can indulge in seriously good local food. La Locanda del Castello serves delicious pasta with a white truffle sauce and local Sienese porc chops rolled in almonds. In Osteria delle Crete you can taste mouth-watering salami and cheeses with truffles.
Photos via Flickr by: Carlo Tardani, Antonio Cinotti.