30 Ott Val d’Orcia: a weekend through the hills of Tuscany in Italy
by Iván Castelló Serrano from Spain
This is the summary with a selection of my favourite pics of my pre-wedding trip in September 2017 around the hills and vineyards of the small area of Tuscany called Val d’Orcia, with an extension to Crete Senesi, close to Siena. Named Val d’Orcia because of the river Orcia, which crossed the region, this small part of Italy, famous by its wines, is a present to you eyes in every season of the year. I went there in September, when the brown color rules this countryside full of hills crowned by farmhouses. I recommend to rent a car and enjoy the place by going from one town to the other stopping in the panoramic points to appreciate the landscapes.
The trip was programmed by ourselves, departing from Naples to Montepulciano, the place we chose as headquarter for the weekend. The car was a jeep, which was perfect for the kind of floor you can face off in the small paths to find hidden places around the zone (and because it was a rainy forescast).
Previously: Naples to Montepulciano – 380 km, 4 hours.
Day 1 – Montepulciano to Pienza – 15 km, 30 minutes.
Leaving the small town of Montepulciano, where we spent the night, we can admire our first panoramic view from the highway: the “borgo” of Montepulciano crowning the 600-meters hill. This middle ages style town, pretty know by its wines, gives you an idea of the majestic landscapes you could see around the zone.
The highway is full of curves so I would recommend not to exceed the maxium speed allowed. The italian way of driving can exasperate you because they will try to overrun you all the time, but keep calm and enjoy your trip.
When arriving to Pienza, keep in mind that it is another middle ages town, made to walk around on foot, so start thinking about where to park your car (there are parkings in the city center). There in Pienza, you can admire another panoramic view of the Tuscan landsapes. We suffered the mist and, for a while, the streets where invaded by this dense “clouds”, giving a dramatic but beautiful effect.
Day 1 – Pienza to Capella di Vitaleta – 7 km, 15 minutes.
After our visit to Pienza, we got in the car and continued our journey, deciding to visit the small and characteristic Chapel of Vitaleta. This lonely chapel rules the landscape, leading to be one of the most photographed places in Val d’Orcia. You can take a path to go by car to the very same place it is located but I recommend you to find a panoramic view in the highway and admire it from the distance. There is a small entrance with cypresses where we stopped and took several pictures.
Once you get in the car again, you can decide to go to San Quirico d’Orcia, which is really close, but we decided to leave this town for the next day and take the direction to Siena to visit first the Crete Senesi, another zone full of hills crowned by formhouses and cypresses.
Day 1 – Capella di Vitaleta to Crete Senesi – 30 km, 1 hour.
Once you get in the car again, you can decide to go to San Quirico d’Orcia, which is really close, but we decided to leave this town for the next day and take the direction to Siena to visit first the Crete Senesi, another zone full of hills crowned by formhouses and cypresses. Crete senesi are literally ‘Senese clays’, and the distinctive grey colouration of the soil gives the landscape an appearance often described as lunar.
One of the most charming farmhouses is the “Agriturismo Baccoleno” with a snake-like pathway made by cypresses close to Asciano. We made a picnic for lunch with the views of this peculiar landscape.
Day 1 – Crete Senesi to Siena – 35 km, 1 hour.
Siena, like other Tuscan hill towns, is know by its medieval center, cuisine and wines and has been declared UNESCO world heritage site. Once you have parked your car (close to the old downtown), I recommend you to have a get lost in the old medieval street inside the city wall until you arrive to the big Campo Square, where you could find the high tower of Mangia and the Palazzo Publicco. From there you can walk through the streets to find the Cathedral and the Basilica of San Francesco.
Day 1 – Siena to Montepulciano – 66 km, 1,5 hours.
After visiting Siena for a while we decided to go back to our headquarter in Montepulciano, where we had a nice dinner with typical cuisine and the home made wine. I strongly recommend not to drink to much of the home made wine because it is a little bit stronger tan the bottleled one you can find in the wine shop.
Day 2 – Montepulciano to San Quirico d’Orcia – 16 km, 30 minutes.
We woke up and decided to take the way to Montalcino, passing though San Quirico d’Orcia. Before arriving to this charming town, we found another panoramic view, in this case the subject was the farmhouse of “Podere Belvedere”, another hot spot for photographers.
San Quirico d’Orcia is another “borgo” only visited on foot, so after parking your car, you will go upstairs and visit this middle ages town. I will highlight the Collegiate church of Sts. Quiricus and Julietta and the Garden of Lions.
Day 2 – San Quirico d’Orcia to Montalcino – 15 km, 30 minutes.
Our last stop of the journey around Val d’Orcia was Montalcino, another “borgo” crowning the Tuscan landscape (of course, you will need to park your car). After having typical lunch in the Restaurant called Il Moro, where the prices were absolutely fantastic and the service so friendly (we shared some house wine, and a couple plates of pasta), we were looking for an ice cream as dessert. Then we visited the fortress, with amazing panoramic views and decided to drive back home.
An optional part is to visit Castiglione d’Orcia, 15 minutes from San Quirico d’Orcia, where you can see a lonely stronghold that rules the area.
Another worth location to be visited is the “Agroturismo Poggio Covili“, close to Castiglione d’Orcia. If you are a film lover, specially if you like Gladiator, you could see where the “Elyseum” was recorded.
You can read more by Iván Castelló Serrano on ivncastello.com