Murlo and the Hermitage of Montespecchio in Tuscany, Italy

Val di Merse







San Galgano


Castello di Murlo

Castello di Murlo

Murlo is a formerly castellated village located on a densely forested hill that dominates the valley of the Crevole, SW of Sienna, on the border between the Val di Merse, to which it belongs, and the Crete Senesi area of Val d’Arbia. Murlo looks out onto the valley of the Ombrone and Montalcino.

Murlo is possibly of Etruscan origin since Etruscan artifacts and remains have been uncovered at nearby Poggio Civitate and Poggio Aguzzo. There is evidence that the current human population harbours genes in common with ancient Etruscan DNA suggesting a high degree of isolation over the past two thousand years.

The castle of Murlo dates to the 12 C when it was the main centre of the Fief of the Bishops of Sienna. The layout as seen today is a result of reconstruction carried out at the end of the 16 C after the fall of the Siennese Republic to the Florentines. The castle walls have been converted into small dwellings surrounding the Bishop’s Palace, which today houses the Archaeological Museum, and the cathedral. There are two access gates to the castle. Construction of houses making use of outer castle walls is a quite common feature of Tuscan vernacular architecture - see for example Castello di Tocchi. Montefioralle, Tignano and Vertine in Chianti provide two further good examples.


Murlo on its hilltop

main piazza of Murlo

Piazza of Murlo

Murlo forms an excellent home base for tourists planning to visit important historical and artistic centres in Tuscany. Sienna can be reached in only 20 minutes by car, Florence or the coast in roughly an hour, and Montalcino, Pienza, Sant'Antimo and San Galgano in 30 minutes.

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Arches in Murlo

The village of Vescovado is near Murlo and was formed by the merger of the two villages of Andica and Tinoni which were still separate at the beginning of the 19 C. The church in Vescovado houses a 1475 painting by Benvenuto di Giovanni depicting the Virgin Enthroned with Saints.

Eremo di Montespecchio Montepescini -
the Ruined Hermitage of Montespecchio

The hermitage of Montespecchio is a place of great beauty, despite being reduced to little more than a ruin. The remains of the building are located in dense forest near Murlo. The alternation in colours between the dark green Vallerano marble and valuable pink marble are still vivid even today. One can see the remains of part of the perimeter walls interrupted by thin, arched lancet windows and the collapsed barrel vault with traces of the pilasters and capitals that supported the arch of the nave. The Eremo was one of the largest Augustinian structures of its time and its construction dates back to the 13 C. In 1449, one of the final stages of the definition of Augustinian observance took place here. By the 17 C, the precarious condition of the building forced the last of the religious to move and it eventually fell into ruin.

Hermitage of Montespecchio

Eremo di Montespecchio Montepescini

Ruins of the Hermitage of Montespecchio

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