Tuscany is choke-full of delightful picture-perfect hilltop towns. Pitigliano, San Gimigniano and Montepulciano are among the most popular and can get quite crowded in summer. If you are looking for quitter escapes near Siena, forget the well-trodden tourist routes and head to these breathtakingly beautiful villages.
One of the best-preserved medieval towns in Italy, Monteriggioni boasts spectacular medieval walls with fourteen towers enclosing the town. They remind of the turbulent past when the Sienese fought bloody battles with Florence for dominance. Every July the town hosts the Medieval Festival of Monteriggioni (“Monteriggioni di torri si corona”) and its streets fill up with locals dressed in period costumes.
Overshadowed by its neighbour Montepulciano, the village of Montefollonico offers Tuscan charm without the crowds. It is surrounded by a mighty medieval wall with seven towers and three imposing entrance gates. There many other sites dating back to the Middle Ages: the church of San Leonardo, Palace of Justice, ancient water cistern. The town is famous for its traditional sweet wine Vin Santo that is drunk with desserts and used to dip the Tuscan cantuccini biscuits. In December, Montefollonico celebrates its delicious wine with a lively annual festival.
Located 12 miles from Siena, the small village of Murlo is freighted with history. The old town remains untouched the passing of time with the beautiful Murlo Castle, San Fortunato Church and the elegant Palazzone. The nearby archaeological site of Poggio Civitale is a reminder of the days when Etruscans ruled the area. You can see the artefacts from the area in the lovely Museo Civico Archeologico in Murlo.
Strategically located on the via Francigena, the old pilgrim road running from France to Rome, the village is dominated by the impressive 11th century Rocca di Radicofani. Once an important formidable fortress in the area notorious for its never-ending feuds, today the fortress boasts spectacular views of the Val d’Orcia and Monte Amiata.
Photos via Flickr by: Isabelle Puaut, Phillip Capper, Simonetta Viterbi.