Crete Senese Travel Guide

Plan your trip to the beautiful region of Crete Senese in Tuscany, Italy with our comprehensive travel guide featuring must-see attractions, outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, local cuisine, accommodations, and more.

Introduction to Crete Senese

Crete Senese is a picturesque region located in the heart of Tuscany, Italy. Known for its rolling hills dotted with cypress trees, beautiful medieval villages, and varied landscapes, Crete Senese is a paradise for nature lovers, culture enthusiasts, and adventure seekers alike. This enchanting region is situated between the cities of Siena and Arezzo and is named after the distinctive clay soil that covers its hills, giving them a unique reddish-brown color.

List of Places to Visit in Crete Senese

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

  • Museo di Arte Sacra della Val d’Arbia: This museum in Buonconvento houses an impressive collection of sacred art from the 14th to the 19th century, including paintings, sculptures, and liturgical vestments.

  • Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore: Founded in the 14th century, this Benedictine monastery near Asciano is renowned for its beautiful frescoes by famous Renaissance painters like Luca Signorelli and Giovanni Antonio Bazzi.

  • Pieve di Sant’Andrea a Cennano: This Romanesque church near San Gusmè is one of the oldest and most charming in the region, with a beautiful façade, a unique round bell tower, and a stunning 12th-century crypt.

Natural Attractions of Crete Senese: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

  • Crete Senesi Natural Reserve: Covering over 6,000 hectares, this protected park between Asciano and Buonconvento is a playground for hikers, bikers, and nature lovers, with its rolling hills, forests, and streams.

  • Badia Ardenga: This organic farm in Asciano offers visitors the chance to explore the Crete Senese countryside on horseback, go truffle hunting, and taste local wines and cheeses.

  • Monte Oliveto Maggiore: This hill near Chiusure is the highest point in the Crete Senesi region and offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the area, with its characteristic undulating landscape and winding roads.

Hiking/Biking Routes of Crete Senese

  • Ponte d’Arbia to Asciano: This 10-kilometer hike along the Via Francigena trail takes you through the heart of the Crete Senesi region, passing through beautiful medieval villages, rolling hills, and forests.

  • Crete Senesi Loop: This 37-kilometer bike ride from Siena to Asciano and back takes you on a challenging but rewarding journey through some of the most stunning scenery of Tuscany, including vineyards, olive groves, and cypress-lined roads.

Best Things to Do in Crete Senese: Activities and Tours

  • Wine Tasting Tours: The Crete Senesi region is known for its excellent wines, including the famous Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti. Join a guided wine tour to discover the best wineries, learn about the local grape varieties, and taste some exceptional vintages.

  • Cooking Classes: Italian cuisine is one of the most popular in the world, and attending a cooking class in Crete Senese is a great way to learn how to make some of the most delicious local dishes, such as pici pasta, ribollita soup, and cantucci biscuits.

  • Hot Air Balloon Rides: For a truly unforgettable experience, take a hot air balloon ride over the Crete Senesi region and admire the breathtaking views of the hills, valleys, and medieval villages from above.

Week-Long Itinerary for Crete Senese

Day Activities
1 Visit Siena, including the Piazza del Campo, the Siena Cathedral, and the Palazzo Pubblico.
2 Take a guided tour of the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore and its impressive frescoes.
3 Explore the charming medieval village of San Gimignano, famous for its historic towers and world-renowned Vernaccia wine.
4 Go hiking in the Crete Senesi Natural Reserve, including the Via Francigena trail from Ponte d’Arbia to Asciano.
5 Visit the ancient Etruscan town of Cortona, with its magnificent views over the Val di Chiana.
6 Take a hot air balloon ride over the Crete Senesi region and admire the breathtaking views from above.
7 Enjoy a relaxing day in Rapolano Terme, a charming spa town known for its thermal baths and wellness centers.

Food and Drink Scene of Crete Senese

Must-Try Dishes

  • Pici: This thick, handmade pasta is a specialty of the Siena Province, often served with a rich tomato or meat sauce.

  • Ribollita: This hearty vegetable and bread soup is a traditional Tuscan dish, made with cannellini beans, kale, onions, carrots, and celery.

  • Bistecca alla Fiorentina: This thick, juicy steak is a classic of the Tuscan cuisine, usually grilled over an open flame and served simply with olive oil, salt, and lemon.

Local Beverages

  • Brunello di Montalcino: This prestigious red wine is made exclusively from Sangiovese grapes grown in the Montalcino area of Tuscany, famous for its robust flavors and long aging potential.

  • Chianti Classico: This famous red wine is made from a blend of Sangiovese, Canaiolo, and other grape varieties, and is characterized by its fruity aromas, bright acidity, and soft tannins.

  • Vin Santo: This sweet dessert wine is made from dried grapes and aged in small barrels, with a rich, luscious flavor that pairs well with biscotti and other pastries.

Where to Stay in Crete Senese: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

  • Castello di Casole: This luxurious 5-star hotel near Casole d’Elsa is set in a beautifully restored medieval castle, with a spa, a pool, and a Michelin-starred restaurant.

  • Agriturismo Il Rigo: This charming farmhouse near San Quirico d’Orcia offers comfortable rooms, excellent homemade breakfast, and a scenic location surrounded by olive groves and vineyards.

  • Villa Cicolina: This elegant country villa in Montepulciano has spacious rooms, panoramic views of the countryside, and a beautiful outdoor pool and garden area.

What to Buy in Crete Senese: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

  • Pecorino Cheese: Made from sheep’s milk and aged for varying periods, Pecorino cheese is famous in Tuscany for its intense, savory flavor and versatility in cooking.

  • Olive Oil: The Crete Senesi region produces some of the best extra-virgin olive oil in Italy, with a fruity and robust flavor that is perfect for salads, pasta, and grilled meats.

  • Handmade Ceramics: The beautiful pottery and ceramics of the Capezzano Pianore village near Crete Senesi are renowned for their unique designs and colors, making them perfect souvenirs to bring back home.

Local Culture and Customs of Crete Senese

The people of Crete Senese are proud of their heritage and traditions, which are deeply rooted in the history and culture of Tuscany. Visitors should respect the local customs and manners, such as dressing conservatively when visiting churches or religious sites, greeting people with a smile and a handshake, and saying “buongiorno” or “buonasera” to everyone you meet.

Best Time to Visit Crete Senese

The best time to visit Crete Senese is during the spring and autumn months, from April to early June and from September to October. During this time, the weather is mild and pleasant, with fewer crowds and lower prices than in the summer months. However, visitors can also enjoy the region’s beauty in winter, with its unique winter landscapes and cozy fireside restaurants and cafes.

Do’s and Don’ts of Crete Senese


  • Try the local cuisine and wines, especially the Pici pasta and the Brunello di Montalcino wine.

  • Respect the local culture and customs, such as greeting people with a smile and dressing conservatively when visiting churches or religious sites.

  • Explore the beautiful hilltop villages of the Crete Senesi region, like San Gimignano, Pienza, and Montepulciano.


  • Litter or damage the natural environment of the Crete Senesi region.

  • Be loud or disruptive in public places, especially at night.

  • Wear revealing or inappropriate clothing when visiting churches or religious sites.

Safety and Health

Safety in Crete Senese

The Crete Senesi region is one of the safest places in Italy, with low crime rates and friendly, welcoming people. Visitors should be aware of their surroundings and avoid carrying large amounts of cash or valuables in crowded areas. It is also advisable to use authorized taxis and public transport, especially at night.

Health in Crete Senese

The Crete Senesi region has excellent healthcare facilities, including hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies, both public and private. Visitors are advised to have comprehensive health insurance before traveling to Italy and to bring any necessary medication or medical equipment with them. In case of emergency, call 118 (emergency medical service) or ask for the nearest hospital or clinic.

Getting to Crete Senese: Transportation Options and Logistics

Airports Near Crete Senese

The nearest international airports to Crete Senese are:

  • Florence Airport (FLR), located approximately 80 kilometers to the north.
  • Pisa International Airport (PSA), located approximately 130 kilometers to the west.

Bus Stations Near Crete Senese

The main bus station in Siena connects the city with other parts of Tuscany and Italy, including Florence, Rome, and Milan. From Siena, visitors can take local buses or taxis to reach the Crete Senesi region, or rent a car and drive on their own.

Other Options

Visitors can also reach Crete Senese by train, with regular connections to Siena or Chiusure from major Italian cities like Florence, Rome, and Milan. Alternatively, it is possible to rent a car and explore the region at your own pace, driving on the scenic roads that run through the hills and valleys.

How to Get Around in Crete Senese

The best way to get around Crete Senese is by car or bike, as public transportation in the region can be limited. Visitors can rent a car or bike in Siena or other nearby towns, or join a guided tour to explore the area. Some of the most scenic roads in Crete Senese include the SP 102 and the SS73, both of which offer breathtaking views of the landscape.

Where to Go Next from Crete Senese: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

  • Florence: The capital of Tuscany and one of the most beautiful cities in Italy, with a rich cultural heritage, stunning architecture, and world-class museums like the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia.

  • Cinque Terre: This stunning coastal area in Liguria is famous for its colorful houses, picturesque harbors, and hiking trails that connect its five villages.

  • Rome: The eternal city and the capital of Italy, with its iconic landmarks like the Colosseum, the Vatican, and the Trevi Fountain.


Crete Senese is a hidden gem of Tuscany, a region that offers a unique blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and culinary traditions. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing escape in the countryside or an adventurous journey through the rolling hills, Crete Senese has something for everyone. Plan your trip today and discover the magic of this enchanting corner of Italy.