Via Francigena splits in two Val d’Orcia and the river that names the valley. It’s on the edge between San Quirico d’Orcia and Castiglione, and to be exact at Bagno Vignoni, that the pilgrim trail and the river intersect themselves and form a contorted and troubled cross which evokes the original sense of a long pilgrimage towards the center of the Holy Roman Empire and then to the holy sepulcher of Jerusalem, as a last destination.
The territory of Val d’Orcia has always been a threshold of this journey, a transient place between contiguous and distant territories, between seculR and theocratic power, between the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and the Church. A threshold marked by the powerful frames of Amiata and Radicofani, that are the two volcanic bastions guarding the valley.
Val d’Orcia and Amiata are a completed universe, where one is the rough sea, now grey and then green and still yellow, of lands and seasons, while the other one is the mountain perennially blue like the distance, evanescent and strong as the thought.
Crossing Val d’Orcia breathing its history
Crossing Val d’Orcia and Amiata means encountering the secular testimonies of man’s work, the defense systems of its castles, that were the castles of the Republic of Siena, but also churches and abbeys, small hospices along the street, postal stations, treadmills and bridges that with their silence and their composure tell the story of a world in which everything is in its place. So you travel over this land with your mind, more than with your body. And you get the impression that you have crossed not only its physical space, but also the time that has kept it and brought it up to here.
From Torrenieri, already a castle with postal station on the Roman Empire road, to the ancient village of San Quirico d’Orcia, Vignoni and its Bagni, and then beyond the river at the two rocks of Castiglione, pursuing the slopes of Amiata along the Paglia river valley to Callemala, and then to the volcanic climb in Radicofani and the domains of the Abbey of San Salvatore, it is a kind of a slow go because of the inevitable pauses, meditations and enchantments, of thoughts and strangers that induce the traveler to stop. Half-way through the path, two providential hot springs, Bagno Vignoni and Bagni S. Filippo, comfort the pilgrim, refresh limbs and mind, along with the frozen jets that spring out from the mountain rocks and refresh him. Because these are the places dedicated to the retreat, refuge, and the gathering of physical and spiritual energies without which no trip should be possible.
And finally the chestnut and beech woods full of greenery, the same green that the Longobards and Benedictines saw. Columns of nature all around and stone trees in the crypt of the Badia remind everyone who has come up until that point the labyrinths of life and those of the soul.
Ugo Sani, Cultural Councilor of the municipality of San Quirico d’Orcia