By Carol Coller
Summer has come to the town of Torrita di Siena with the sunshine, heat and the promise of activities for residents and visitors alike. Here they will have the opportunity to spend a pleasant afternoon enjoying an aperitif and strolling Torrita’s historic streets, visiting the churches and admiring the views in nearby Montefollonico or spending an evening of music amid the ancient walls which have kept watch for centuries over the Valdichiana Senese.
Torrita, once called “Turrita”, is first mentioned in a document dated 1037 where it is listed as the property of the Benedictine Abbey of Sant’Antimo near Montalcino. As a fortified town with a surrounding wall and four towers, it later served as a military outpost for the defense of Siena’s border with neighboring Montepulciano. Later still, the town held Florentine ambitions at bay until it finally fell to the imperial forces of Charles the First in 1554 and the entire area passed into the Florentine Grand duchy.
In the 19th century Torrita enjoyed a florid period of growth both as an rich center for agricultural products – cereals, olive oil, cheese, wine and mulberries (used in the production of silk) – and for the production of wood furniture which is still produced by the modern town.
Torrita today, part of the province of Siena, gives visitors the opportunity to take part in the life of a typical Tuscan town with its Medieval atmosphere and works of art, but also with some interesting offerings for this summer. After the difficult past year, things are coming alive again with the nationally renowned musical event, the Torrita Blues Festival. The 33rd edition of the Torrita Blues Festival will take place July 2nd and 3rd with headliners ‘Joe Bastianich and La Terza Classe’, and ‘Neil Black and the Healers’ along with other talented musical artists.
Torrita’s traditional “Palio dei Somari”, an entertaining (and emotionally charged) annual tournament race on donkeys where the most captivating and evocative feature is the historic parade composed of about 300 participants in costume. This normally falls on the first Sunday after March 19th, the Feast of St. Joseph. This year the event was cancelled due to the pandemic, but health conditions permitting, the Palio could be rescheduled by the end of the year. You can keep up to date on the programming of the event by consulting the website www.paliodeisomari.it.
For the lovers of walks in the countryside, there is the “Sentiero del Vin Santo” or the Vinsanto Trail, a trail recalling the Medieval route which linked the castles of Torrita and Montefollonico and has recently been restored. The seven-kilometer trail allows visitors to admire the natural beauty typical of the area and, stopping in one of the 5 rest areas, they can also read the panels for historical information about the sites and about the production of the sweet Vinsanto wine, so typical of this corner of Tuscany, and of the history of the area. It is open to walkers, cyclists, and horseback riders.
The link between Montefollonico and the Vinsanto is, in fact, a solid one, to the point that the hamlet is referred to as “the Village of Vinsanto”. The production of the precious, sweet wine is also celebrated with an event which is traditionally held on the weekend nearest December 8th, and takes its name from the ritual phrase which usually accompanies a glass, offered parsimoniously precisely because of its value, “Would you like a drop of Vin Santo?
More ambitious hikers may like to note Torrita’s position as a stopping point on the ancient Etruscan-Roman Road the Via Lauretana, which in Tuscany extends from Cortona to Siena. As such, this year the city is one of the comunes where a series of guided visits are planned as part of the project “Lauretana Toscana”.
On a more relaxing note, one might stop for a lunch or dinner at one of the many restaurants to try some of the typical food products of Torrita which include Chianina beef, “pici” pasta, the salamis of the “Cinta Senese” pork, pecorino cheese, the artisanal beer produced by a local brewer and naturally – “dulcis in fundo” – a taste of the golden local Vinsanto.
There are plenty of reasons to visit this generous and welcoming town and the nearby Montefollonico, and this summer Torrita di Siena is opening its doors to all those looking for an authentic Tuscan experience through history, outdoor adventures, and music. See you there!
For a bit of inspiration visit the website www.torritadisienaliving.it or contact the tourist office directly in Piazza Matteotti / Tel. (+39) 388 6525977 / to organize a tour of the town or book an experience to discover the territory.