Montepulciano, Montalcino, and Pienza are in the Crete Sienese, literally the “Sienese Clay Hills,” a terrain of lone farmhouses and pointy cypress trees in a stark landscape of golden rolling hills, planted with wheat, fava beans, and sunflowers. You’ll get a nice sense of the Crete Sienese on the drive between the three towns on SP 146. This is another face of Tuscany, quite different from the vineyard-clad hills of Chianti country; at times the countryside seems forsaken, almost like the surface of the moon.

Famous Spa Town En Route to Chiusi

Take the SS146 about 7km (4 1/3 miles) southeast out of Montepulciano to Chianciano Terme (tel. 0578-68-111;, one of Italy's most famous spas. You can drink the thermal mineral waters of Acqua Santa, Piazza Martiri Perugini (tel. 0578-68-411), supposedly to clean out your liver. Those of Acqua Sillene, Piazza Marconi (tel. 0578-68-551), are used for thermal and mud baths and other treatments. The cold springs of Acqua Fucoli, Piazza Martiri Perugini (tel. 0578-68-411; are usually drunk in the afternoon (allegedly to clean out the digestive system). Apparently, it takes 12 days to see any real benefits from taking the waters. For details about spa packages, call the helpful tourist office, Piazza Italia 67, Chianciano Terme (tel. 0578-671-122;

The modern spa town and the Old Town are of the same comune but really separate communities, about 2km (just over 1 mile) apart, connected only by an umbilical cord of serviceable hotels called Viale della Libertà. Old Chianciano is compact, with a "lived-in" feel, if a little unremarkable, although it possesses genuine links to Nobel Literature Laureate Luigi Pirandello, who set a couple of his tales here. There are fine views over the Valdichiana from Via Casini, in the shadow of a Medici-built clock tower. The Museo della Collegiata, Piazzolina dei Soldati (tel. 0578-30-378; open Apr–Oct 10am–12pm, 4pm–7pm), has some good Sienese panel paintings from the 13th to the 18th centuries. Ring the bell for the custodian.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.