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SIENA Specials - Out of town - The Chianti Hills - Monte Calvo, Monte Luco and Monte San Michele

Considered the true heart of Tuscany, Chianti is an area that lies between Florence and Siena. This region of Italy is famed throughout the world for its quality wine, oil and rolling countryside that has been featured so many times in films through the decades.

The more mountainous sections of Chianti, towards Arezzo and Siena and along the Arno basin, remain largely unknown to tourists, however. With its vast pine forests and windswept uplands, this area is also rich in monasteries and abbeys such as Montescalari, Badia a Montemuro, the Abbey of San Michele, Badia a Coltibuono, Badia a Ruoti, the Monastery of Ombrone and Badia di San Salvatore alla Berardenga.

The San Michele-Querciabella geological formation extends for some 30 kilometres south of Monte Moggino and includes Montescalari, Monte Domini, San Michele, Badiaccia, Querciabella, Monte Maione, Badia a Coltibuono and Montegrossi. With its 892 metre-high peak, the Monte San Michele is the highest point in the whole of Chianti. After Coltibuono the terrain rises once more to 800 metres above sea level, towards Monte Calvo and Monte Luco, to then drop dramatically at San Gusmè towards the Crete Senesi.

The whole of Monte San Michele is a natural reserve. Within the reserve there are the remains of an ancient abbey of the Vallombrosa order. At little over 800 metres above sea level, Monte Calvo and Monte Luco are covered by thick woods and Mediterranean scrub. Directly beneath the summit of Monte Luco stands the hamlet of Montefienali, within the area administered by Gaiole in Chianti. The castle of Monte Luco that stands above the village is now in ruins but was once at the centre of the long and bloody struggle between Siena and Florence. Monte Calvo, with its abundance of country villas, is another area that was frequently contended between these two powers.

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