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Val D\'Orcia

18 The Water Mill Park The water mill park was created to safeguard and better appreciate one of the more important milling complexes in the province. Comprising four water mills, it represented an enormous milling capacity for the Val d’Orcia area, which has always been an area of intense grain cultivation but has always also lacked water, due to its highly impermeable clay soil and the modest altitude of the surrounding hills. Here the steady flow from the hot springs made it possible to mill even in summer, when most mills were left idle because of the low level of the rivers. This complex was in use until the second World War but its abandonment led to rapid deterioration. The milling technique used at Bagno Vignoni is the same found throughout southern Europe, with a horizontal wheel which is locally known as a ritrecine. The technology is relatively simple, with the wheels located below ground level and connected to the grinding stones by means of a vertical mast. The wheels are set in motion by a powerful stream of water from a collection area above. What makes the mills at Bagno Vignoni special is their setting, as they are carved directly into the travertine marble created by the calcium carbonate deposits of the spring water. At present we lack records which might offer details on the construction of these mills, but it is safe to say that such complex and grandiose projects were sponsored by feudal families, and perhaps by the Tignosi family itself, which ruled over Rocca a Tentennano and Bagno Vignoni from the end of the twelfth to the beginning of the thirteenth centuries. They were property of the Sienese republic until its fall in 1559, and in 1676 were passed on to the Chigi Zondadari family and in particular Cardinal Flavio, nephew to Pope Alexander VII. During that period improvements and remodelling were undertaken, including the addition of showering quarters aimed exclusively at enjoyment of the hot spring waters. The mills stopped working about half-way into the 1900s and were bought by the municipality of San Quirico d’Orcia in 1999. That marked the beginning of restoration work, partly funded by the European Union. A water mill at work Giovanni Comi VALDORCIA_INT_ING 30-07-2009 18:48 Pagina 18

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