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Crete Senesi

Just south of Siena is the intriguing and distinctive semi-desert landscape of the Crete, which break up the enchanting green landscape of this part of Tuscany. This area was made famous by the Battle of Montaperti between the Florentines and the Sienese in 1260, which took place here. Not far away there is source of the Borra spring, which is marked by a block of travertine. These sulphurous waters are said to have been used by the Romans for their undoubted therapeutic properties. These waters, together with the travertine quarry, are the principal economic resource of Rapolano Terme. It is also well-worth making a visit to the atmospheric complex of the Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore, which was founded in 1313 by Giovanni Tolomei; surrounded by centuries-old cypresses, it dominates the landscape of the Crete. Besides the many works of art there, the abbey also has a library of forty thousand antique books, testimony to the cultural and artistic importance of the abbey between the 15th and the 16th century. The small town of Asciano, in the heart of the Crete, still has many of its old medieval palaces, including the Palazzo del Podestà, Casa Cortoli, and various towers, including the guard towers of the outer walls, which now lie inside the modern-day town. Asciano has many unusual mixed Romanesque and Gothic architectural forms which are of considerable interest.