In the heart of Terre di Siena the scenery is stripped bare, accompanied by hills and crevices, the winding river, cypresses that crown hills in isolation or that follow the roads in tidy rows. Forests stand watch over the towns and monuments of exceptional allure, over the vineyards that produce Brunello wine and the other fine wines from this corner of Tuscany. To the west ends the landscape of Monte Amiata, the highest extinct volcano in Italy, but all the hills evoke an unparalleled atmosphere. Because the Val d’Orcia embodies nature.
The river that loaned its name is little more than a stream, dried up for most of the year, or in the summer heat at least, although the autumn rain sets it flowing again with force. Its source is found in the hills between Radicofani and Sarteano before dropping down to the centre of a large basin and gradually bending west over the hills of Pienza, San Quirico, Montalcino and Castiglione. It dodges Amiata, diving down into a wild gorge, and continues among the hills of the Alta Maremma before bursting into the Ombrone.
There is more than the Orcia, of course. Hot spring water gushes forth in Bagno Vignoni and Bagni San Filippo, hot from the heart of the volcano and shaping formations of rare beauty, affording good health for millennia to people who arrive from afar.
Cover image credit: Yann Cœuru