A Unesco heritage site since 1991, Val d'Orcia was considered by Renaissance artists to be the place that most perfectly expresses the balance between Man and Nature. You don’t need a masters in Art History to recognize why. Driving through plowed fields, meadows, woods, towns, gazing at the harmony of colors and landscapes, you’ll be falling for one of the most loved places in the world.
The Val d'Orcia is a destination without time, through winding roads revealing views that take your breath away. A classic journey that you will think about daily, years after your first visit. Here we offer an itinerary for a weekend jaunt- just enough to get you hooked.
Visit PienzaDeclared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, Pienza it is the most renowned village in Val d'Orcia, and probably one of the most photographed places in Italy, embodying the Renaissance utopia of the ideal city. Walking through the town on an autumn or spring day, when the coming and going of international tourism slows, is good for the soul. Discover its alleys with curious names: in a crescendo of levels of passion, there is Via della Fortuna, followed by Via dell’Amore, Via del Bacio and of course ... the Via Buia.
Working up an appetite? Taste the locally- produced delicacies: Pecorino di Pienza, exquisite when paired with chestnut honey from Montalcino and a glass of Chianti. For a snack with a view head to Ilydium. For a full lunch try the Trattoria da Fiorella.
Have a little more time? Here's a secret: visit the hamlet of Monticchiello, along the SP88. In the area you can also see the Quercia delle Checche, one of the most beautiful monumental trees in Tuscany, unfortunately badly damaged.
Illydium: Via Gozzante, 67, 53026 Pienza SI
Trattoria da Fiorella: Via Condotti, 11, 53026 Pienza SI
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Check - inAlbergo Le Terme in Bagno Vignoni sits adjacent to the town’s unique central square, which is entirely occupied by a large sixteenth-century rectangular basin in which sulphurous water flows out of the aquifer at a temperature of 49 ° C. How many villages in the world can boast a thermal water pool smack in the middle of it?
Step out of your hotel in the evening and onto Piazza delle Sorgenti. Witness the natural spectacle of the water vapors that rise like smoke from the basin. Admiring the phenomenon from one of the cafés in the square, or resting on the stone edge of the tub, is a bit like watching a play - millions of particles sinuously disperse into the atmosphere.
Albergo Le Terme: Piazza delle Sorgenti, 13, 53027 Bagno Vignoni di San Quirico d'Orcia SI
Aperitivo hourMore than a bar, Il Barrino is a small lounge where you can listen to good music and live jazz and blues concerts (Thursdays). Not for amateurs: when John Legend passed here on vacation he put down his drink and started singing. The Barrino is the most famous lounge bar in the Val d'Orcia for it’s cocktails by Germana Perini, a young but heavily-awarded master. The selection of spirits and liqueurs includes 60 (!) Gin labels.
Il Barrino: Via del Gorello, 44, 53027 Bagno Vignoni SI
Dine like the localsThe gastronomic heart of Bagno Vignoni is the Osteria del Leone. One of the oldest in the region, and a stop for pilgrims on the Via Francigena, it is lead by young chef Andrea Caporicci. Here he interprets the local flavors in a surprising way: hand-pulled pasta such as Tuscan pici or tagliolini with white truffles. Depending on the season, the menu features panzanella, seared pigeon, wild boar with juniper and bay leaves, organic goat cheeses, pecorino cheeses and other specialties. Do not miss the homemade desserts, and the wine list: over 250 labels, with understandable attention to the great Tuscan reds.
Osteria Del Leone: Via dei Mulini, 3, 53027 Bagno Vignoni SI
Start the day by visiting the Abbey of Sant'AntimoOn the Via Francigena, just nine kilometers from Montepulciano, there is the Abbey of Sant'Antimo which is still inhabited by a community of Benedictine monks loyal to the "ora, lege et labora" rule. This monastic building, built between the 11th and 12th centuries, represents one of the "most significant architectural testimonies of the Romanesque era" in Italy. Indirectly, thanks to this precept, the monks sing mass for travelers. Admission is free: the first praise is held at 7 in the morning while vespers are sung at 7:00pm and 8:00pm.
Abbazia di Sant’Antimo: Localita' S. Antimo, 222, 53024 Castelnuovo dell'Abate SI
Hit the hot springsBetween the Val d’Orcia and Monte Amiata, the baths of S. Filippo are a spa town with sulphurous waters, characterized by limestone deposits that shape the formations of calcium carbonate and waterfalls. But above all, the Bagni di S. Filippo are still wonderfully public. Thermal waters flow from a natural source and carve a particular landscape. The temperature, rather high (around 50 °), allows diving even in winter.
A path through the woods will lead you to "Il Fosso”, where you will bathe with the White Whale. A limestone rock formation that resembles the large mammal encloses the hotsprings. At the base, a series of pools provide a sense of well- being through all seasons.
How to get there? The thermal area of the Fosso Bianco is free. Next to the entrance of Bagni di S. Filippo (paid hot springs) follow the dirt path that leads to the waterfall.
Taste new flavorsAfter a quick shower, check out of your hotel and head down the road to the small town of San Quirico D’Orcia.
Above the remains of the ancient village of Osenna, this is the village that defined the archetype of the Tuscan landscape. Here are the most photographed cypresses in the world. It is also home to our preferred restaurant in the region. No one does the “pinci” pasta with cinghiale (wild boar) sauce better than Trattoria Osenna.
Ristorante Trattoria Osenna San Quirico D’Orcia: Via Dante Alighieri, 42, 53027 San Quirico d'Orcia SI
Wine & Typical ProductsDon’t forget to stop by the Il Fiorino dairy to stock up on Pecorino Toscano DOP.
Podere Le Ripi Cantine was built in the shape of a spiral and boasts the only Brunello bonsai vineyard in the world ... a real gem for wine tastings.
An alternative tour to discover the flavors of the Val d’Orcia is organized by the guys from Vintage Tours, Vespa, Lambrette and vintage car rental companies. Excursions on vehicles, from the 60s, 70s and 80s, to discover the history of Siena, or the wines and typical foods of the Valley.
WellnessThe spa of the Hotel Adler Thermae in San Quirico d’Orcia is beautiful. They offer Ayurveda packages in autumn.
The hilltop hotel called Monteverdi occupies Castiglioncello del Trinoro, a Medieval hamlet only Italy can offer: cobbled streets, stone buildings, a Romanesque church (Sant’Andrea), a gray cat (Pardo) and a panoramic view of the valley. Among the recent innovations of the Monteverdi is the opening of the spa, which uses Santa Maria Novella products and boasts a view of the Val d'Orcia. The treatment not to be missed is water-based: you are immersed in a small tub filled with the water of Sarteano, rich in irons and minerals and scented with lavender salts.
CultureApart from the endless regional festivals waiting to be discovered (porcini mushrooms anyone?), The Nature Train project brings tourists on an adventure through Val d'Orcia on- board a vintage steam train. The railway calendar includes several dates (at least one per month), each combined with a local event. The puffing train invites the rediscovery of the countryside, along little used railway sections. Information: dates and times are to be consulted on the website but it is advisable to ask for confirmation.
The Abbey of San Galgano. A short drive from Val d'Orcia
Editorial credit: Stefano Termanini / Shutterstock.com
Stefano Barzellotti / Shutterstock.com
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Visiting Val d’Orcia: our two day guide
Corso Rossellino, 53026 Pienza SI, Italy