Rocca d’Orcia

The ruined castle of Rocca di Tentennano in the Val d'Orcia

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Rocca d’Orcia Rocca di Tentennano in the Val d'Orcia

The Rocca d'Orcia, more correctly known as the Rocca di Tentennano, is a fortress standing on a pinnacle high above the Val d'Orcia with the small village of the Rocca d'Orcia just below, and the valley spreading out on all sides. The Rocca is constructed of limestone and, like so many other castles in the area, played a role in the interminable territorial conflicts between Florence and Sienna, and was also a strong point on the Via Francigena, the pilgrim's road leading from Canterbury, through France and Italy, to Rome.

Most of the Rocca was built between 1250 and 1258, but the peak on which it stands was used as a military lookout and defensive point from the 10 C onward. The Rocca is also famous as a refuge of Saint Catherine of Siena in 1377 who was miraculously taught to read and write here. The Saint's writings make reference to this and the Rocca is thus a destination for religious, as well as of military and historical, pilgrims.

The Rocca di Tentennano was abandoned in the early 20 C. The last owners, the Scotto family, donated it to the country and it is now restored and open to the public.

The defense systems of the Rocca di Tentennano were closely integrated with the village of Rocca d'Orcia. The walls of the town contained the entrance courtyard of the fortress, and part of an ancient door is still extant. To visit both Rocca d'Orcia and the Rocca di Tentennano, it is best to park in the area that lies at the foot of the steep slope leading up to the fortress. One can then walk along the cypress-lined hill that leads to the main entrance and afterwards stroll down into the village.

Although structurally much as it was in the days of Siennese military glory, the restoration of the Rocca di Tentennano was carried out in 1975. The views are even more striking here than from the nearby ruined fortress of Castiglione d'Orcia. At the top of the village is the Chiesa di San Simeone which was built in 1200 AD. This ancient church once housed art treasures that were stolen in the 1980s. A cobblestone walk leads from San Simeone through the main part of the village, the Borgo Maestro, and to the Chiesa di Madonna del Palazzo, which is now a private home. Nearby lies the Piazza del Cisterna, a tiny but rich Folk Art Museum, and the ruins of the Palazzo Comunale.

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