The cultivated hills
Monte Cetona is an isolated mountain in the extreme south of the province of Siena, between Valdichiana and Val d’Orcia. Once called Monte Piesi, it extends with its northern slopes to Castelluccio di Pienza, near the springs of the Astrone river, and towards the south it reaches San Casciano dei Bagni. There is a magnificent view from the summit (1,148 m) over the Val di Chiana and Val d’Orcia, between Monte Amiata, Radicofani and Lake Trasimeno. The territory of Cetona is therefore dominated by the mountain with a beech forest over 1,000 m above sea level, the oak forests, especially oaks and downy oak, and holm oak in the Belverde area. Lower down, where la Valle dell’Oro (the Golden Valley) marks the border between the forest and the farm, the man-made area begins; the work of human hands, and whose soils have Pliocene origins and are characterised by marine sediments. This hilly area has red, rather fertile and well-moistened land, composed of clayey material, very rich in iron oxides. A fundamental element of the landscape is the cypress, used as an ornament along the avenues and in the vicinity of the houses, although the fundamental crops for the local economy are olive trees, vines and cereals. The olive tree is the classic one from Tuscany with an open, medium height crown, planted in rows. The altitudes, between 350 and 600 m, the distance from the sea, the chemical-physical characteristics of the soil, and the area’s microclimate, which is breezy and has temperatures that are usually never too hot or too cold, ensure a particularly favourable environment for cultivating this tree. The varieties most commonly found in the Cetona hills are Frantoio, Leccino, Muraiolo and Pendolino, which provide olives with fragrant flesh and rich in aromas. The olives harvested between October and November, processed according to strict regulations, produce an excellent extra virgin olive oil: the “Terre di Siena” DOP.
The closely spaced rows of vines are used to make IGT, DOC and DOCG wines, the latter with the denomination “Chianti Colli Senesi”, whose most important grape is Sangiovese.
Cereal crops, particularly wheat, are distributed in the area close to the woods. But the plain is also very important, especially after the reclamation of the Val di Chiana, where maize and sunflower are grown.