Tuscan Treasures in Italy Tour
June 2 – 10th, 2015


June 4th Thursday Chianti Hills – Il Giardino Delle Rose, Villa Poggio Torselli and Siena Walking Tour

We leave with happy hearts to discover today …

a very special rose garden, Il Giardina delle Rose. The Rose Garden is a breeding ground for old roses and classical English roses and clematis, unique in Italy. Born from the passion of Maria Giulia Cimarelli Nenna, it is set in a large Mediterranean garden in the hills of Chianti. Among the olive trees have been planted over 900 varieties of roses, along with clematis, shrubs and herbaceous perennials in the landscape, creating a picture of harmonious beauty of colors and scents.

The gardens at Villa Poggio Torselli . The Villa Poggio Torselli is situated just outside San Casciano Val di Pesa, immersed in the greenery of vineyards and olive groves, and was recorded in the land registers as early as the beginning of the 15 C. It is traversed by a monumental boulevard of cypresses and boasts an extraordinary panorama across a typical landscape of the Tuscan hills.

The villa was built in the 15th century by the Machiavelli family and has passed through the hands of the more important representatives of the Florentine nobility (Corsini, Antinori, Capponi) up to the Orlandini family, to which it owes its last transformation in 1690. It is probable that the garden dates back to this era also. It is formed of a park area on the northern side and by an Italian garden, set on two stepped terraces, to the south. Part of the original flower garden is preserved with oblong flower beds watered by an ingenious channelled irrigation system that has an important historic value, being one of the best preserved in Tuscany. The flower garden underwent a first restoration around 1925 with the renewal of its box-tree hedges and a second, by the current owners, who during the works brought to light one of the original flowerbeds with its irrigation channels. The recent conservation work of these elements also envisaged the re-introduction of vegetation typical of late17th century gardens. Dwarf fruit trees, roses common to that era, aromatic herbs, perennial, annual and bulb plants render the garden interesting throughout the year and function as a picture frame to the architecture of the three-storey building, with its façade decorated with stuccoes and statues, and the baroque chapel.

A visit during the summer season offers the opportunity to admire the centuries-old collection of potted citrus trees in the open-air, otherwise maintained in the splendid "limonaia".

Here we also enjoy a visit to their ancient wine cellars, a light lunch and wine tasting.

On our return to Siena, we will enjoy a guided walking tour of this enchanting area where we shall also visit the Siena Cathedral and Maesta. The Cathedrale di Santa Maria, better known as the Duomo, a gleaming marble treasury of Gothic art was a stunner. In 1196 the cathedral masons’ guild, the Opera di Santa Maria, was put in charge of the construction of a new cathedral. By 1215 there were already daily masses said in the new church. The cathedral itself was originally designed and completed between 1215 and 1263 on the site of an earlier structure. It has the form of a Latin cross with a slightly projecting transept, a dome and a bell tower. The dome rises from a hexagonal base with supporting columns. The lantern atop the dome was added by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The nave is separated from the two aisles by semicircular arches. The exterior and interior are constructed of white and greenish-black marble in alternating stripes, with addition of red marble on the façade. The origins of the first structure are obscure and shrouded in legend. There was a 9th century church with bishop's palace at the present location. In December 1058 a synod was held in this church resulting in the election of Pope Nicholas II and the deposition of the antipope Benedict X.

‘I could not get over how similar the tower was to a minaret. Everything was just so unusual and awesome…the library was so beautiful – full of handmade paper with this gorgeous font and artwork. The organ alone has 4 sets of pipes. Never have I seen this nor so many beautiful frescoes. Truly inspiring.’ Donna

Also part of the Duomo is the Duccio’s Maesta at the Museo dell’Opera Metropolitana del Duomo

The Maestà, or Maestà of Duccio is an altarpiece composed of many individual paintings commissioned by the city of Siena in 1308 from the artist Duccio di Buoninsegna. The front panels make up a large enthroned Madonna and Child with saints and angels, and a predella of the Childhood of Christ with prophets. The reverse has the rest of a combined cycle of the Life of the Virgin and Life of Christ in a total of forty-three small scenes; several panels are now dispersed or lost. Though it took a generation for its effect truly to be felt, Duccio's Maestà set Italian painting on a course leading away from the hieratic representations of Byzantine art towards more direct presentations of reality. Tempera and gold on wood.

We will also fit into our day of discovery in Siena a Panforte and Ricciarelli tasting at Nannini. Panforte is a traditional Italian dessert containing fruits and nuts, and resembles fruitcake or Lebkuchen dating from the 13th century. Documents from 1205 show that panforte was paid to the monks and nuns of a local monastery as a tax or tithe which was due on the seventh of February each year. There are references to the Crusaders carrying panforte, a durable confection, with them on their quests, and to the use of panforte in surviving sieges. Ricciarelli are a traditional Italian biscuit with origin in Siena as well dating to the 14th century. The refrigerator at Nannini is cooled by water carried from 16km away by the same 13th-century tunnels that fuel many of the city's fountains, including the Fonte Gaia in Piazza del Campo.

Our last visit of the day will be to a private Contrada…. A contrada is a district, or a ward, within an Italian city. The most well-known contrade (plural) are the 17 contrade of Siena that race in the Palio di Siena. Each is named after an animal or symbol and each has its own long history and complicated set of heraldic and semi-mythological associations. We shall go inside one of them to discover much more…



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