The Val d'Orcia is a magical land bursting with colour and aromas that Tuscany alone has to offer. The Via Francigena runs through here, a pilgrims’ way, past and present, leading to Rome.
The Via Francigena run up and down hills and through dozens of picturesque villages that are worth visiting. Here are a few of those places.
The tour begins in Buonconvento, one of the beautiful towns in Italy (“I Borghi più belli d'Italia”), which deserves a visit. Surrounded by fourteenth-century walls, the main street boasts many cultural, historical and artistic landmarks as well as food and wine stores as far as the Porta Senese.
The focus on accessible tourism isn’t lost on travellers: walks and traditional restaurants in easily accessed pedestrian zones, signposting and descriptions in Braille, Italian and English on the main buildings in the town centre, and accessible museums like the interesting Sacred Art Museum in Val d’Arbia and the Ethnographic Museum of Sienese Sharecropping. The latter offers rare insight into an important historical period of Tuscany’s farming culture.
Time to finally reach the Val d'Orcia! From Buonconvento, head south along the Via Francigena to San Quirico d’Orcia, another wonderful example of medieval urban planning, with its many old buildings including the stunning Collegiata, which can be admired while walking within the walls. The thirteenth-century Ospedale della Scala bears witness to the care and assistance given to the pilgrims and wayfarers of the time.
From San Quirico we drop down to the lovely Bagno Vignoni, a gem in the heart of the Val d’Orcia. Home to a famous bath house, the village extends from the central square consisting of a large tank into which the volcanic thermal water flows, famous since Roman times. After a short walk, stopping in the square is a magical experience.
Another stop in our exploration of the Via Francigena, with amazing hill views, is Castiglione d’Orcia, which like Bagno Vignoni is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The oldest part of the village can be found within the walls: piazza il Vecchietta, reached along a short steep street where people who have difficulty walking might need some help, is surprisingly pretty and is stooped in a timeless atmosphere. Here we find the town hall, medieval buildings and houses. Although not all holidaymakers will be able to walk the cobblestone streets, stopping for a while in piazza il Vecchietta to look and listen brings with it unimaginable pleasure.
This tour is inclusive and accessible despite the hills of the Val d'Orcia. Although the villages boast pedestrianized zones, cars with handicap badges can enter the historic centres and easily reach the main places of interest.