The first image that comes to our mind when we think about Tuscany is its unique landscape. The countryside with its green smooth hills and the soft curves lining the horizon with its isolated cypress trees. Well, believe me Val d'Orcia is way better than any possible image that could come to your mind!
Val d'Orcia is the valley in Tuscany which extends from the hills south of Siena to Monte Amiata and it's the place where nature perfectly matches the aesthetics of Renaissance Art. A mix of beauty and breathtaking landscapes where the characteristic cultivated hills are sometimes broken by picturesque towns, villages, farmhouses, abbeys, inns, shrines and bridges. In fact, thanks to the crossing of the "Francigena Road" in this area large cities never developed, leaving the place to little abbeys and small villages once populated by pilgrims. The Francigena Road is the ancient road connecting Rome with Canterbury that in medieval times was an important pilgrimage route, and even today it continues to be walked and travelled.
The Valdorcia valley is also known for the beauty of its little towns and villages such as: Castiglione d'Orcia, Montalcino (also the birthplace of Brunello wine) and Pienza also known for the typical Renaissance layout and architecture wanted by Pope Pious II. Other little towns that deserve a visit are: Radicofani, San Quirico d'Orcia, Monticchiello, Rocca d'Orcia, Montenero d'Orcia and San Giovanni D'Asso, a natural brigde between Crete Senesi and Valdorcia also famous for its tasty tartufo marzuolo.
Hot springs fans will find their heaven in Bagno Vignoni, Bagni San Filippo and Vivo d'Orcia. Last but not least, in the Val d'Orcia there are exceptional food and wines: even more red Montalcino wines than those mentioned above, DOC Orcia wine, pecorino cheese from Pienza, olive oil and saffron.
We are not susprised that The New York Times describes its beauty (even during winter time as specified in one of my previous posts), but especially by the fact that this valley in 2004 was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. This international badge of recognition was awarded for Val d’Orcia's "exceptional reflection of the way the landscape was re-written in Renaissance times to reflect the ideals of good governance and to create an aesthetically pleasing pictures" and for the way "The landscape of the Val d’Orcia was celebrated by painters from the Scuola Senese, which flourished during the Renaissance".
A few Valdorcia must do's:
1. Visit! - Chapel of TheMadonna di Vitaleta situated in Vitaleta near San Quirico d'Orcia. The statue of the Madonna was bought in 1553 in a small "bottega" of Florence. The Architect Giuseppe Partini renewed the interior of this tiny Chapel in 1884. Definitely this is one of the most photographed Chapel, probably for its unconventional and enjoyable location. - Sant'Antimo Abbey located in Castelnuovo dell'Abate (Siena). It's one of the oldest and most important architectural sites of Tuscan Romanic times.
2. Do!One of these bike Tour itineraries: - From Pienza to Montepulciano (Length: 30 km) - La pace di Sant’Antimo (Length: 27 km) - Il fascino di Bagno Vignoni e Pienza (Length: 29 km) - Traversata della Val d’Orcia (Length: 80 km)
3. Participate! - Infiorata of Pienza: takes place during Corpus Domini day (this year the 3rd of June), locals design a path in the town roads. Between the flowers path religious shapes and hearts are designed. Flower paths are meant to guide the band and the religious procession. During this event a fresh lovely scent of flowers invades the town of Pienza. - Olive Oil Feast at San Quirico d'Orcia: during the first week end of December for the San Quirico's "olio novo" presentation, local restaurants prepare traditional cuisine and recipes. Along the little town roads local olive oil producers offer "olio novo" bruschette to visitors. - Medieval Feast at Bagno Vignoni: during the last week of June Ladies and Knights in medioeval clothes welcome visitors with local products, ancient games and shows. - “Sagra della Val d’Arbia” in Buonconvento: a special event that mixes music, art, sport and food. Locals talk about this event all year long! Everyone advised me to go there this year (from September 18th to 26th).
This post was written by Erica Donolato (aka TuscanyTunes, usually events and music editor for the social media team) you can find me here! Thanks to Barbara for hosting me in her blog and during a day trip Around Tuscany!