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AUTUMN IN VAL D'ORCIA between Festivals and Steam Train


In Pienza, six or seven cheese makers produce highest quality versions of the world-renowned Pecorino cheese. Here, during the 1st week of September, the Cacio Fair takes place (cacio is the ancient local name of Pecorino cheese). Every year during the 2nd and 3rd weekends of October, the Vivo d'Orcia event (in the municipality of Castiglione d’Orcia) known as the Mushroom and Chestnut food festival is on, during which visitors can taste porcini mushroom-based dishes and browse food stands selling mushrooms and chestnuts, both raw and roasted, as well as marmalades and other local products. 

Since 1958, on the last Sunday of October, Montalcino celebrates its Thrush Festival, one of the most famous food festivals in all of Tuscany, which traces its origins to ancient hunting traditions of the region. During the fair, taste local dishes and typical products, such as pappardelle pasta in wild boar sauce, pici pasta in meat ragù, bean soup, spit fire-roasted thrushes and grilled meats, all accompanied by the famous wines of Montalcino. OnNovember 9 and 16, in San Giovanni d’Asso, the White Truffle Exhibit Fair takes place, for which (and for some years now) an historic steam train service is available, departing from Siena at 9am and arriving at San Giovanni d’Asso at 12:30pm, after following a course through the Val d'Arbia and the Val d'Orcia Park, the areas of Brunello di Montalcino and the Crete Senesi. The return is at 4:30pm with a scheduled arrival back in Siena at 5:40pm (for information and reservations phone 0577 281834).

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The extraordinary Val d’Orcia has been witnessing an abrupt rediscovery of the countryside in the last few years, above all by foreigners, fascinated by the unique natural landscape and quality of life here. 

Just to name some famous personalities, John Voigtmann, a former music executive, and his wife Ondine, have bought a farm in Pienza and turned it into a country-farm boutique hotel. Louis Camilleri, CEO of tobacco giant Philip Morris International, has purchased several hectares of vineyard land and become a Brunello wine producer, following the steps of Richard Parsons, former chairman of Time Warner, who was asked to  repair financial giant Citigroup in 2006. Michael Cioffi, an  American attorney  and strict collaborator of Barack Obama who is actually contributing to the rediscovery of the tiny village of Castiglioncello del Trinoro, named his fouth daughter Athena Cetona. And when Oscar winner Colin Firth comes to Italy with his wife Livia Giuggioli, they usually spend some time in Rome and some in Città della Pieve (in Umbria near the Tuscan border) at Livia’s family’s house. And in San Casciano dei Bagni, the Podernuovo a Palazzone wine estate is managed by Bulgari. That’s sheer class.

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The magic of Gregorian chanting in the ancientabbeys in the province of Siena


The numerous visitors of the ancient abbeys are often attracted by the Gregorian chanting of their monks: a chanting that gives a vibrating voice to the inexpressible, express the values of the soul, warms and stenghtens the mind and the heart. Today more than ever both believers and non-believers are inspired by Gregorian chanting, which dates back to the early Church. Gregorian chants are played in a modal style, and this explains the unique spiritual connection to them felt by those who sing and hear them. Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote: "There is only one problem in the world: to create here on earth something that resembles a Gregorian chant". 

In the main and most suggestive abbeys of Tuscany, Monte Oliveto Maggiore and Sant'Antimo, both located in the southern part of the province of Siena, always have a Gregorian chanting during religious services and vespers.
Here the Religious Services Hours:
- Abbey of Mount Oliveto Maggiore (Monte Oliveto Maggiore, 53041, Asciano, tel. +39 0577 707652): from monday to saturday: 6.15 p.m., sunday and festivities: 11 a.m. Christmas Eve special service (24th December): 11.00 p.m.
- Abbey of Sant'Antimo (Sant'Antimo, 53024, Castelnuovo dell'Abate, tel. +39 0577 835659). Here seven Masses with Gregorian chants are celebrated by the monks every day, following a tradition born over a thousand years ago. Christmas Eve special service (24th December): 11.00 p.m.

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Autumn, harvest time: The top 5 recommendations for the best wine "experience"


South of the province of Siena, two of the most prestigious DOCG wines in Tuscany are found, and it is here in these lands that two of the world’s greatest and most prized wines derive, Brunello di Montalcino and Nobile di Montepulciano. The September harvest is the ideal time to visit and get to know these wines on-site, through guided visits at producer estates or in historic cellars (some of which date back to the Etruscan era), as well as enjoyable private tastings or even direct participation in the grape harvesting and the traditional party with which every wine producer finishes this crucial stage of the agricultural year. Years ago, during the harvest that was always a huge job for the farmers, the harvest was a time for company, for meeting people, for happily sharing the work.

And then a new knowledge and awareness of wine came to the Tuscan countryside, driven by the insights of Piero and Lodovico Antinori, and all those who believed - following the example of the French - that it was time for the start of a new era of technology and selection in Tuscany too. Today, it is a balance between the old world charm of the country party and the new technological and economic needs. But there is a growing tendency to return to highlight the important moments in the agricultural year with events, open participation and festivities on the estate. One of the best examples of this is the party in late August given by Sting and his wife Trudie Styler at their property in Chianti. Friends, acquaintances and journalists are invited to their estate, Il Palagio, to learn about its new products, and to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary. So, come on now, from September to October there are hundreds of estates happy to let you share in their harvest or their parties at the end of this important event in the agricultural year.

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SUMMER. It's Festival time!


Exclusively for you, a valuable guide to the when and where of the ballet and music festivals held in the southern province of Siena, and a chance to discover a land unique of its kind through its artistic and music performances. 

International Musical Festival, San Galgano, Chiusdino, from July 11 to 27, eight events starring Italian and international performers. The repertoire ranges from opera to orchestral music, from ballet dancing to ethnic music, from jazz to rock and blues concerts.

At  Montalcino Jazz & Wine, Montalcino, from July 15 to 20, you will be able to listen to some of the greatest Italian and international jazz musicians while tasting the best local wines: an unforgettable sensory experience

Incontri in Terra di Siena, Val d’Orcia, from July 18 to 27, is a lovely chamber music festival held in some of the most beautiful locations of the Val d’Orcia area. 

Cantiere Internazionale d’Arte, Montepulciano, from July 18 to August 2. This year’s festival is devoted to opera arias. The program includes the opera Orfeo ed Euridice by Gluck, conducted by Roland Böer (July 18), and the touring show The Soldier’s Story by Stravinskij.

Festa della Musica, Chianciano Terme, July 23-27: world-famous artists, national premieres, up-and-coming bands and avant-garde music. Among the guest stars are Asian Dub Foundation, Le Luci della Centrale Elettrica, Mellow Mood and many more. Wine and food tastings, art installations, flea market. Admission free.

Sarteano Jazz & Blues, Sarteano, August 22- 24: concerts by internationally-renowned Italian and foreign musicians and marching band parades.

Festival Orizzonti, Chiusi, August 1- 10, 71 events in 10 days, in eight performance fields: theatre, ballet, opera, music, art exhibitions, lectures, workshops and film showing.

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TRADITIONS. The celebration of medieval life in Tuscany


Siena and surroundings, with its deeply-rooted history of “knights, ladies and tournaments”, still very much part of  traditionalist Sienese people’s modern life, is the ideal place for history and medieval parade fans. 

Here are the must-see events:

Palio of Siena: the world-famous legendary horse race between Siena’s contradas held in Piazza del Campo. The Carriera, as it is called in Siena, takes place twice a year, on July 2 and on August 16. 

Teatro del Bruscello: a folk theatre festival held every year in August in Montepulciano. 

Bravio delle Botti: Montepulciano’s Palio held every year on the last Sunday of August between contradas. Each contrada has a team of “pushers” that have to push an 80-kg wine barrel uphill along the town’s narrow streets. 

Palio di San Cassiano: it is held on August 10 in San Casciano dei Bagni. Four contradas challenge each other to sporting events and games before running a wheelbarrow race with a frog placed on top.

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