In 2004, UNESCO included the Val d'Orcia on its list of World Cultural Landscapes, the first rural area to be honored with this award. This unique countryside between Siena and Grosseto was created by generations of people who cultivated the land. It is the result of colonization by merchants of Siena in the 14th and 15th centuries, which aimed to create an area of efficient agricultural units but also one that was pleasing to the eye. Today, this attention is paid to quality.
Durum wheat (for pasta) is grown here and the very best Italian wines and olive oil are made in this fertile area. This is the land of the famous Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, the Orcia DOC wine and the Terre di Siena PDO extra-virgin olive oil.
The best way to enjoy these and many other products is to visit individual producers directly as well as the towns around the Val d'Orcia. The colonization of the landscape involved creating unique and beautiful settlements for farmers and their families.
Pienza: It’s a superb example of Renaissance architecture. The construction of Pienza started around 1459 on top of the ancient hamlet and took about four years, creating a harmonious 15th-century town. Pienza is a romantic city because of its streets with “lovely” names such as Via dell’Amore (love street) and Via del Bacio (kiss street).
Montalcino: With its magnificent 14th-century fortress, Montalcino gives visitors a glimpse into the medieval military defence strategy, characterized by narrow and steep streets. It was made famous by Brunello, one of the world’s greatest red wines. But Montalcino is also a magnificent city of art.Radicofani: On the southern border of the beautiful nature park of the Val d’Orcia rises one of the most impressive and most scenic medieval fortresses in the whole of Italy.
Bagno Vignoni: “It is a thermal spa arranged and surrounded by buildings and taverns with a chapel in the middle. It has a very beautiful square layout, with the spring divided in two parts and a roof for protecting the infirm.” This pool, no longer used by the public, is a massive basin of steamy water, which forms the main piazza, creating an element of pleasurable surprise. Today, these thermal baths are operated by the town council of San Quirico d'Orcia and offer a wide range of therapies.
Montichiello: a tiny fortified medieval village that still deserves its gothic charm. Following the main road leading to Montichiello from the south you find yourself in front of the most famous cypress lined road of Tuscany
Heading south, you reach Monte Amiata. After driving along curves through the woods you reach Abbadia San Salvatore, which boasts one of the most beautiful and suggestive abbeys in Italy.
Pecorino cheese from Pienza: Pienza is considered the “capital” of pecorino cheese because the little town is situated in the middle of a clayey area, the Val d’Orcia, where sheep pastures are characterized by a series of aromatic herbs that make the milk particularly tasty and aromatic.
Orcia DOC wines: The types of DOC wines worth tasting are Orcia Rosso, Orcia Novello, Orcia Bianco and Orcia Vinsanto. The Orcia Rosso and Orcia Novello are made with 60% of Sangiovese grapes, while the Orcia Bianco contains at least 50% of Trebbiano.
Terre di Siena PDO extra-virgin olive oil: It's an extra-virgin olive oil produced in the hilly territories of the province of Siena. Its color ranges from green to yellow and the taste has some bitter and pungent notes.
Brunello di Montalcino wine: Brunello wine was invented in the 19th century by a group of grape growers who cloned the Sangiovese grape, discovering the Sangiovese Grosso and a wine of great quality and longevity. In fact, it can be aged for a long time (from 10 to 30 years), only improving as the years go by.
Just few kilometres from these famous towns and along the Orcia wine road you will also find the mushrooms of Amiata, the well-known truffles of the Crete Senesi and San Giovanni D'Asso, the cured meats made with Cinta Senese and many delicious dishes made with chestnuts (try the mushroom soup and the Ricciolina cake)