Val d’Orcia is a large countryside located in the province of Siena, in Tuscany. Crossed by the river Orcia, which gives it its name, it is characterized by wonderful landscapes and by various towns of medieval origin, two of which are well known: Pienza and Montalcino. Pienza is an architectural jewel known as the “Ideal City”: a Renaissance city designed by Pius II, the great humanist pope, where the splendid PiccolominiPalace is also worth a visit. Montalcino, on the other hand, is dominated by the 14th century fortress from which you can enjoy a unique panorama and is famous for its wine: Brunello di Montalcino.
The entire area is now a protected park and was recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2004. The absolute protagonist of Val d’Orcia is in fact a still uncontaminated and beautiful nature, with ever-changing colors depending on the various seasons .
Medieval castles, sinuous hills, ancient towns, beautiful farmhouses, isolated villas, avenues of cypresses, fabulous vineyards and olive groves and gold-colored wheat fields: these are just some of the elements that the amazing landscapes of Val d’Orcia provide.
You can also relax in one of the many thermal baths in the area, come the one in Bagno Vignoni or Bagni di San Filippo.
The characteristic tree of the area is the cypress, while the typical food and wine specialties of Val d’Orcia are the “Pici”, the Cinta Senese cured meats, the Pecorino di Pienza (renowned and exquisite sheep’s cheese, produced with the milk of only grown animals and raised in the surrounding hills), extra virgin olive oil, saffron, mushrooms, chestnuts, truffles, Brunello di Montalcino wine and the new denomination of the DOC Orcia wine. Orcia DOC, in fact, is one of the new entries in the long list of internationally recognized wines produced in Tuscany, thanks to the official denomination acquired on February 14, 2000. The numerous remains of Etruscan and Roman artefacts related to wine and the cultivation of vines in the area testify that Val d’Orcia boasts a long tradition in the production of renowned and quality wines.
Sunrise at San Quirico d’Orcia, Val d’Orcia, Tuscany, Italy. (foto © Shaiith / Shutterstock.com)
Along the Via Cassia (the ancient Roman road) you will find yourself exactly on the ancient Via Francigena, the road traveled by pilgrims heading to Rome, which also passed through the “Crete Senesi” area. This area is characterized by clayey hills that form a surreal-looking landscape, often described as “lunar”. We then meet Buonconvento, a small fortified medieval town considered one of the “most beautiful towns in Italy”; once it was one of the places where pilgrims stopped along the Via Francigena and an important commercial area.
We then reach Montalcino, the homeland of Brunello wine. You enter the city from the old fortress of the 14th century: to visit the inside of the castle, climbing on the ramparts to admire the beautiful panorama; then, continue to the historic center, where the ancient clock tower stands out.
Also to be admired is the beautiful and evocative Abbey of Saint Antimo, one of the best examples of medieval monastic architecture, where you can still hear the beautiful Gregorian chants during mass.
The next stop is San Quirico, another medieval town also located along the Via Francigena. Worth seeing is the Collegiate Church of Santi Quirico and Giulietta and the “Horti Leonini” gardens.
You can also make a short detour to visit the charming town of Montichiello. This small fortified medieval town is located south of Pienza from where you can admire other panoramic views over the valley and its typical streets dotted with cypresses.
Last but not least, we also have the mighty Fortress of Radicofani, which has stood for more than a thousand years above the village of the same name. Built on the top of an imposing 896-meter cliff, it dominates the entire area among Mount Cetona, Val d’Orcia and Mount Amiata. The castle is linked to a character: Ghino di Tacco. In 1297 the famous “gentleman bandit” took possession of the castle and made it, for several years, the base for his raids: a sort of local Robin Hood. The castle now houses a museum with archaeological finds from the Etruscan age to the sixteenth century and the long history of the fortress is reconstructed. Spectacular is the scenery that can be enjoyed by reaching the top of the tower from where the gaze is lost on the hills of the Val d’Orcia.
Text: Luca @ Italien.blog
View of the town of Montalcino, in the Val d’Orcia, Unesco World Heritage Site, Tuscany, Italy. (foto © Shutterstock.com)