San Quirico D'Orcia view

5 things to see in San Quirico d’Orcia

Take in the sights of a treasure trove in the Val d'Orcia

San Quirico is a walled village situated in the Val d’Orcia, in southern Tuscany, halfway between Pienza and Montalcino. The village has Etruscan origins and is at about 80 kilometres southeast of Florence and about 35 kilometres southeast of Siena. Beginning in the 11th century, the village had a rapid growth due to its proximity with the Via Francigena. Throughout its history, many important figures have passed here, from Emperor Frederick I in 1154 to Charles V’s troops in 1552. It later became part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany under the Medici family.

Streets of San Quirico d'Orcia [Photo Credits: Pug Girl]
Streets of San Quirico d'Orcia [Photo Credits: Pug Girl]

Most of San Quirico’s fortified walls are still standing, so you must leave the car outside the city walls. The main street, via Dante Alighieri, crosses the centre of the village. San Quirico is charming and there are many things to see and do. Here are 5 tips:

Collegiata di San Quirico

Originally, this was an 8th century rural church with a baptismal font rebuilt in the 12th century. It has a Latin cross plan with a single nave and side chapels. In 1663 a choir was added. The main portal has an ornate sandstone sculpture with columns supported by lions. A side portal was added in the 13th century. Most of the interior decoration dates up to the 17th century, while the bell tower was rebuilt between 1798 and 1806. 

Collegiate Church
Collegiate Church - Credit: Gabriele Cantini
The church of Santa Maria Assunta

It's commonly called the church of Santa Maria or Santa Maria ad Hortos, since it was surrounded by gardens that would later become the Horti Leonini. This is a sacred building situated along the Via Francigena. It was probably constructed during the second half of the eleventh century. The simple and evocative travertine building has a single nave with a small apse, crowned with arches and shelves decorated with animal heads figures. The roof is made of wooden trusses and the most significant element is the Via Francigena portal, which has many similarities with the one in Sant Antimo Abbey

Santa Maria Assunta Church
Santa Maria Assunta Church - Credit: Aldo Cavini Benedetti
Horti Leonini

Designed by Diomede Leoni in 1561, this is an example of a symmetrical Italian garden. The area covered by the Horti is 13.824 square meters and is distributed on two levels.
A statue of Cosimo III de' Medici built in 1688 was placed in the centre of the garden. There is also a Rose Garden, which occupies a small space in front of the parish church of Santa Maria, located near the edge of the Horti Leonini. 

Horti Leonini
Horti Leonini - Credit: Alberto Pescucci
San Quirico d’Orcia cypress trees

They are the most photographed trees in the world! The cypress trees are a symbol of Tuscany and, in particular, a Val d’Orcia characteristic. The cypresses of San Quirico d'Orcia are located on a hill overlooking the southern part of the Via Cassia, which crosses the northern part of the municipality of San Quirico d'Orcia. These are two distinct groups of trees, located on isolated hills of modest height, largely devoid of other types of plant life. If you want to find these iconic trees, here are the coordinates: the first group of cypress trees is located at 43 ° 03'45.62 "N 11 ° 33'31.86" E, while the second group is along a dirt road at 43 ° 03'38.99 "N 11 ° 33'30.49" E. 

Cypress trees
Cypress trees - Credit: Antonio Cinotti
Chapel of Madonna of Vitaleta

This is one of the features of the Val d’Orcia and it’s situated just a couple of kilometres outside San Quirico, on a dirt road leading from Pienza to San Quirico d'Orcia. The Chapel (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) is a sacred building located in the rural countryside called Vitaleta. Probably built in late Renaissance, it was redesigned in 1884, inspired by sixteenth-century models. It contained a Madonna statue attributed to Andrea della Robbia. The religious building has a single nave, with the main facade covered in Rapolano stone. It has a small rose window that opens above the portal’s lintel. The side facades are made of stone, like the back of the church, where a bell tower stands.

Madonna di Vitaleta Chapel
Madonna di Vitaleta Chapel - Credit: Serena Puosi
How to reach San Quirico d’Orcia

 

By car: from the north, take the highway A1 Florence - Rome and exit at Firenze Certosa, continuing on the Siena – Florence road. Exit at Siena Sud and follow the Cassia Road, following the signs for Rome until you reach San Quirico d 'Orcia. An alternative is to exit at Valdichiana / Bettolle, continue following the signs for Torrita di Siena and Pienza, and then continue on to S. Quirico d'Orcia. From the south, take the highway A1 Rome – Florence and exit at Chiusi - Chianciano Terme. Then take the SS 146 Road to Chianciano Terme, eventually turning towards San Quirico d'Orcia.

By train: the nearest station is in Buonconvento on the Siena-Grosseto line. An alternative is to get to the Siena train station and then take a TIEMME Siena - Montepulciano/Montalcino bus. Another nearby station is Chiusi - Chianciano Terme on the Rome – Florence line; from here, continue by bus to Montepulciano and then take the Montepulciano – Siena line. Check the Trenitalia website (www.trenitalia.com/).

By bus: Bus TIEMME (www.trainspa.it/) Bus L.F.I. (www.lfi.it/).

By plane: Florence airport (120 km) Perugia airport (95 km) Pisa airport (165 km) Bologna airport (215 km) Rome Fiumicino airport (220 km) You may also be interested in these posts:

Cover image credit: Enrico Pighetti

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