Our visit to Borgo di Castelvecchio, Tuscany: sword in the stone.

We have just made our visit to the Val D’Orcia, in south Tuscany, not far from Siena. I consider this to be one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. Castelvecchio is a great 800 hectare estate - a wildlife reserve - right in the middle, with great sweeping vistas across the clay glulches towards Montepulciano to the east, the “ideal city” of Pienza to the north and Radicofani and Monte Amiata to the west. For over ten years, the proprietors, Simona and Alessandro Gaetani d’Aragona have been running this beautiful place as a pleasure and business destination. It can accommodate 60 plus guests, in the castle and farmhouses; there is a business and conference centre and an equestrian centre; they host weddings and events; they serve delicious food and there is an active farm producing the famous wine “Perignano, “of the one million steps”. It is right here, with the “million steps”, that begins the story of Castelvecchio. For Perignano, a high point on the estate, marks the one millionth step (a canonical pilgrimage distance - approx. 650 km.) on the Francigena route, from the Great St. Bernard Pass. One day, in 1157 AD, Bjarni Brodd-Helgi, a hero from the Icelandic Sagas came on pilgrimage, all the way from the land of ice and fire and as he passed here, heard of certain apparitions of Michael the Archangel. So he went to look for Him and this is how he witnessed how the great Archangel terminated  the saga of Arthur and his knights, by replacing the sword back into the stone - a sword which can still be seen today, 1000 years on…