VAL DI MERSE / SOVICILLE
Twelve kilometres along the old Maremma Road, which linked Siena with the coast, in an area of lush, tangled Montagnola forest you find the small town of Sovicille.
The town has the typical elliptical shape of many of the towns of the area. The historic centre is little changed fro the 14th century when it was owned by the Sienese Republic. In the 17th century the palace was the seat of local government.
The whole of the area around Sovicille is full of prehistoric, Etruscan and Roman remains. There are many medieval castles, palaces, churches, tower houses and historic settlements amidst the beautiful scenery which surrounds the town. Among the most important buildings worth visiting is the parish church of Ponte allo Spino, the Pieve di San Giovani Battista, a 12th century Romanesque structure built by the Vallambrosan monks close to the remains of a Gothic cloister – the Rosia Hermitage.
Other interesting buildings are the abbeys of San Lorenzo, Santa Mustiola, the striking black and white columned abbey at Torri, and the churches of San Giusto a Balli, Pernina and Molli.
The Villas of Cetinale and Celsa are also close by.
The 17th century Cetinale, designed by Fontana, belonged to the powerful Chigi family and was famous throughout Europe for its magnificent gardens with their gorgeous fountains. The 16th century castle, Villa Celsa has elaborate formal gardens.