Unlike other well-known Tuscan localities, the Val di Merse
maintains a low profile, while preserving real
historical, artistic and natural jewels.
Along secondary roads and greenways you can breathe the most genuine essence of Tuscany.
A handful of towns, medieval villages that dot the hills, born along a road traced by Mother Nature: this is the Val di Merse, to be traveled with the rhythms of discovery among scents of earth and forest that fill the nostrils.
In this valley there are Etruscan, Roman and Longobard traces. A never monotonous landscape, which alternates the classic hills with sweet and rounded sides with hills that are almost mountains, with steep slopes covered with woods.
Along some hills there are vineyards, at their feet there are wheat fields and sunflowers.
The valley can be discovered through a circular route that at each stage reveals a marvel.
From Sovicille, a municipality that gathers 55 medieval villages including Tegoia and Toiano, you take the route that touches little-known gems such as the Pieve di San Giovanni.
Gently follow the road that winds along the valley and arrive in Murlo, a fortified village far from mass tourism.
Perched on a hilltop in the middle of open fields, it is perfectly preserved.
The route dissolves towards Monticiano, another commune of medieval origin which had an important role in much more recent times: it was in fact the base for the first organization of the Sienese partisan nuclei, the Resistance, during the Second World War.
A few kilometers away is Chiusdino, in the heart of the Colline Metallifere.
A well-preserved medieval village, it is best known for the “roofless” abbey of San Galgano.
The Abbey of San Galgano is a classic example of Romanesque and Cistercian-Gothic architecture, with solid walls firmly anchored to the ground and the vertical thrust of a faith that saw God as distant from man.
Nearby is the Hermitage of Montesiepi, which preserves the mystery of Excalibur, the sword that Saint Galgano is said to have thrust into the rock when he decided to become a hermit.
Legend has it that the myth of King Arthur‘s sword originates from here.
Indeed, the Hermitage is located along the Via Francigena, also beaten by the Crusaders on their way to the Holy Land.
It is therefore not to be excluded that in the stories of those who returned to their homeland there may also have been references to San Galgano, thus providing the cue for the birth of the myth of Excalibur.
From the Hermitage, the circular route leads to Radicondoli, an ancient village whose walls seem to border the top of a hill.
The last stop of the tour is Casole d’Elsa, a romantic center of Etruscan origin resting on the edge of the hill, which on one side opens onto the Val d’Elsa and on the other lets the eye run as far as the Maremma.
This closes a circle that welcomes a quiet beauty, rich in greenery and waterways, guardian of centuries-old treasures.