Via Francigena Stage 35
Via Francigena Stage 35 from Ponte d’Arbia to San Quirico d’Orcia is a demanding walk with steep ascents and long distance. On this walk you will visit three of Sigeric’s Stopovers. It begins at Ponte d’Arbia which was his XIV or 14th place of rest, Arbia. Then on to Torrenieri, his XIII or 13th place of rest, Turreiner. And finally, San Quirico d’Orcia, his XII or 12th place of rest, Sce Quiric. Altogether the walk is more than 26 km with limited places for refreshments.
Stage 35 begins at Ponte d’Arbia
Ponte d’Arbia is a small village! But without a doubt, it has an amazing medieval bridge which managed to survive the bombings of WW II. The Catwalk affords great views of the bridge! Follow the link to find out more about Ponte d’Arbia.
Ponte d’Arbia to Buonconvento
Via Francigena Stage 35 from Ponte d’Arbia to Buonconvento is a 6 km walk. It begins with a steep uphill walk for 1.5 km to Serraville. In Sigeric’s day there was a Castle, several buildings including a Hospice and the Church of San Lorenzo a Sprenna at Serraville. Today, it is well worth a visit!
Just past Serraville there is a steep descent to a little bridge crossing Fosso del Poggiarello creek. Then a short walk through a forest to Via cassia. Turn left to begin the steepest part of the walk to Buonconvento. It is a 2 km very steep walk up to 220 m! But the reward is the beautiful views over the Crete Senesi landscape! It is surprising to see the difference between June and September. It was lovely and green in June and grey and barren in September.
Distract yourself during the steep uphill walk by looking for the following features of Crete Senesi landscape. You will notice the distinctive grey or white colouration of the soil. Also, there are many barren and gently undulating hills with solitary oaks and cypresses. In addition, there isolated farms on hill tops and stretches of woods and ponds of rainwater in the valleys. Then there are eroded areas called biancane or ‘badlands’.
The descent into Buonconvento begins with a steep descent from 220 m to 150 m over 1 km. Although this is tough on the knees, there is plenty of scenery to distract you. In June we were surrounded by perfumed, yellow flowers, but in September the grey clay! The last kilometre is level to Via Cassia. Then you turn left and cross the River Ombrone and enter the city through the Porte Senese.
Buonconvento is a small medieval town located along Via Francigena Stage 35. In medieval times, the rich fertile soil of the Ombrone and Arbia rivers led to growth and prosperity. Its name comes from the Latin words ‘Bonus Conventus’ meaning ‘good place’. Also, its location along the Via Francigena guaranteed the patronage of travelers and pilgrims.
The city walls are the most striking feature of the town. The 14th century red brick walls have Lombard bands and seven watch towers. Entry is through Porta Senese leading to Via Soccini and the historic centre. Along the way are the church of Santi Pietro e Paolo, the Religious Art Museum, and the Museum of Sharecropping. The Palazzo Pretorio is at the centre of the town. And its façade is still covered with 25 crests of the mayors who ruled until 1270. But most importantly, do enjoy the food, wine and gelato!
Buonconvento to Torrenieri
Since there is very little accommodation in Ponte d’Arbia we like to stay overnight in Buonconvento. As you can see our group looks very refreshed as we head out to San Quirico d’Orcia! From our hotel we walk straight ahead along Via Roma and turn right at Via di Percenna. We cross Via Cassia and then take the second right and walk until we reach Via Cassia again at 3.2 km. Here you can see us lined up to cross Via Cassia and head towards the sunflowers.
Cross Via Cassia and then follow the Via Francigena trail that runs beside it for about 0.5 km to a roundabout. After crossing the roundabout follow a trail to the pedestrian crossing. This is the beginning of a stunning beautiful walk through the best of Tuscany’s vineyards!
The trail is steep to begin but it is amazing to look back over the 4.0 km covered so far from Buonconvento. In June we walked through trails filled with red poppies framed by distant Tuscan hills. It is a steep walk towards Santa Cristina and then downhill to Torrente Serlate.
Just past Torrente Serlate we turn left and walk up a steep hill towards the Montalcino vineyards. It is easy to forget about the steep hill when you are surrounded by gold and purple flowers, vineyards and views of the distant Tuscan hills.
After walking 6.0 km we arrive at Castello Altesi in the heart of the Montalcino vineyards. The walk through the vineyards is spectacular! For about 3 km it is a level walk surrounded on all sides by vineyards framed by distant rolling hills and Cypress trees.
We all agreed that the pilgrim’s break at Caparzo vineyards was the best part! Via Francigena pilgrims are very welcome and they have restrooms and a pleasant eating area. In addition, they have a Via Francigena pilgrim stamp and even wine tasting! Cypress trees line the road just before Caparzo and here we are hurrying around the corner to Caparzo!
Caparzo to Poggio Gambocci
More of those endless white roads! As always the views are spectacular, but painfully uphill for 3 km! As you can see there is no shade as we head for Poggio Gambocci.
Poggio Gambocci to Torrenieri
Poggio Gambocci is at the summit above 300 m! And here we were greeted with a sign announcing that it is still 4 km to Torrenieri. But at least it is downhill despite those endless white roads! Also, we seem to be greeted by the last of the vineyards. And how nice to find a spot to sit in the shade!
The vineyards are now replaced by seemingly endless long, hot, white gravel roads with distant panoramas and no shade! But our hope is renewed as the small village of Torrenieri starts to come into focus!
Torrenieri is the 13th Via Francigena place where Sigeric stopped on his way home to Canterbury in 990 AD. In his diary he calls it ‘Submansio XIII, Turreiner’. Its 9th to 10th century defensive castle made it a safe place to stay. The Castle had a tower made of dark stone giving the village its name. Also, its location on the river Asso meant it had plenty of water. In fact there was once a very large medieval water cistern.
In addition to being a safe refuge for pilgrims Torrenieri was a place of spiritual significance. In the 13th century church of Santa Maria Maddalena there is a ‘Black Madonna’ much venerated by Via Francigena pilgrims. Originally it was carved in dark wood, but today it is painted. Next to the Church is a 16th century oratory of the Campagnia di San Rocco. Inside there is a fresco of the Madonna and Child.
Today Via Francigena pilgrims find Torrenieri a very different place compared to medieval times. It is small a village and the ancient medieval buildings and castle no longer exist. But the Churches can still be visited. Best of all, the Bars in Via Romana are very welcoming. And the regional food is very inviting.
Torrenieri to San Quirico d’Orcia
Via francigena Stage 35 ends at San Quirico d’Orcia. The last 8 km section begins at Torrenieri. After a rest break in one of the bars leave Torrenieri crossing a small bridge over the Torrente Asso. Then begin walking along a quiet road (SP137) surrounded by the Tuscan countryside and more of the perfumed yellow flowers. It is a steep uphill walk for 2 km, and then downhill for another 2 km to Torrente Tuomo.
After crossing the Torrente Tuoma bridge turn right into an unsealed road. After a short distance the trail turns left and passes under Via Cassia. This is the beginning of a steep ascent to San Quirico d’Orcia. After a short distance the trail turns away from Via Cassia. Then it continues very steeply uphill to its peak at Madonna di Riguardo. After that there is a beautiful white road leading to San Quirico d’Orcia.
San Quirico d’Orcia
The road into San Quirico d’Orcia is very beautiful. From the high altitude there are panoramic views as far as the eye can see! The white road has a magical feeling and the entry arch to the city is very welcoming. Arriving in such a spell-binding place almost makes you forget the almost 30 km walk!
Don’t miss Via Francigena Stage 36 to discover the pleasures that await the pilgrim in San Quirico d’Orcia!