The Museum of the Ancient Grancia and of Olive Oil in Serre di Rapolano documents
the history of the ancient fortifed farms (grance) which, from the 14th century on, belonged to Siena’s Ospedale di Santa Maria della Scala. These granaries were constructed to oversee the numerous tracts of land that the faithful bequeathed to the Hospital, and to store the agricultural harvest before transporting it to Siena where it would then be used toward charitable ends. The necessity of storing great quantities of produce explains the complexity of the architectural structure of these buildings that incorporated their own granaries, winemaking rooms, wine cellars, olive oil mills, and a series of spaces necessary for the processing and preservation of grain, wine, and oil.
The Grancia of Serre, dating back to the 1200s, was a centre of local agricultural production that managed to ensure a significant proportion of the foodstuffs for the Sienese Hospital. The multiplicity of its functions is reflected in the organization of the museum where strands are symbolically woven together once more from a lengthy period in the history not only of the communities of Rapolano and Serre but also of the entire province of Siena, displayed through collections of ancient tools, photographic images and documents.
Entering the compound, visitors may choose between two itineraries. The first illustrates the historyand overall functions of the grancia with explanatory panels and multimedial stations, bringing to life the workings of this structure and of the System of the Grance of Santa Maria della Scala, including the organization of farms, the infrastructure of the roads back then, and the roles of the people who worked within the system.
The second itinerary, which focuses instead on one particular sector of agriculture, namely the cultivation of olive trees and the production of oil, has been set up using the spaces and machinery of the old olive oil mill. This area contains panels dedicated to the importance of olive trees in Mediterranean culture, illustrating the cycle of production and processing.
The museum also houses an olioteca (oil-tasting centre) where olive oil from Siena’s leading presses may be tasted and purchased.
Il frantoio (olive oil mill): when visitors step close, the olive grinder and olive press light up as the voice of the old olive miller explains the various phases of oil-making.
Museum of the Ancient Grancia and of Olive Oil
Via dell’Antica Grancia, 3 (Loc. Serre di Rapolano)
53040 – Rapolano Terme
Tel. 0577 705055 – 0577 724079 (Ufficio Turistico)
free admission with a free offer for the maintenance of the Museum
Serre di Rapolano still displays the full character of a town suspended in time: in this fiefdom of the Cacciaconti family from the 1220s on, the Church of San Lorenzo houses the tomb of Cacciaconte de’ Cacciaconti, attributed to the Gothic sculptor Agostino di Giovanni. Quarries that punctuate the surrounding countryside have long served as the driving force behind local excavation industries, and have for centuries supplied the travertine used in the construction of well-known architectural landmarks: the Torre del Mangia and the Palazzo Piccolomini in Siena, San Biagio in Montepulciano and the façade of the Cathedral in Pienza. A second source of wealth also comes from underground: hydrothermal springs, already in use at the time of Ancient Rome, were developed into spas in the Middle Ages and have been frequented over the years by such notables as Giuseppe Garibaldi, who came here to treat injuries suffered at Aspromonte. Nearby are gems of towns such as Armaiolo, with its characteristic alleyways often likened to “wrinkles”, along with numerous castles and fortifications (Modanella, Poggio Santa Cecilia) as well as the remains here and there of Etrusco-Roman settlements.