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Between the provinces of Siena and Grosseto, in southern Tuscany, lies the Val d’Orcia.

It takes its name from the Orcia river and is known for its pristine and evocative nature, with ever-changing colours depending on the season.

It dominates with its medieval castles, winding hills, characteristic farmhouses, ancient villages, long cypress avenues, vineyards and olive groves, and wheat fields. Unique morphological features that contribute to the region’s harmonious landscapes.

The Val d’Orcia Park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2004, recognised for its natural, artistic and cultural value, and “excellent state of preservation of the landscape, as produced by intelligent anthropisation, which has had a significant influence on many Renaissance artists”.

What to see in the Val d’Orcia

A land of rare beauty, rich in history, nature and tradition.

Let’s find out what to absolutely see in Val d’Orcia:

  • The Chapel of Vitaleta: the Chapel of the Madonna di Vitaleta, one of the most photographed tourist destinations, is located halfway between Pienza and San Quirico d’Orcia. It a late Renaissance-era UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was internally and externally rebuilt in 1884 after being damaged by an earthquake;
  • Tentennano Fortress: a medieval tower that dominates the village of Rocca d’Orcia. It is the only unconquered fortress in the Val d’Orcia. It has multiple walls, is built from local limestone, and has a castle-like design. It currently serves as a venue for temporary exhibitions;
  • Sant’Antimo Abbey: it is near Montalcino and is one of Tuscany’s most exquisite Romanesque churches. The monastic complex was built between 781 and the 12th century AD. It features a Carolingian Chapel, chapter house, cloister, abbey church, bell tower and apse. It guarded the Sant’Antimo Crucifix, now on display in the Museums of Montalcino;
  • The cypress trees: these are the quintessential symbol of the Val d’Orcia and the perfect backdrop for a selfie. Near Torrenieri, don’t miss the small group of cypress trees on a hillock overlooking a section of Via Cassia;
  • Spedaletto Castle: an ancient refuge for wayfarers and pilgrims making their way along Via Francigena, the castle was a grange and fortified farm. Today, it is an agritourism.

Val d’Orcia Natural Park

The Val d’Orcia Natural and Cultural Park was created to safeguard the valley’s artistic and natural heritage, and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site as a cultural landscape since 2004. It includes the towns of Castiglione d’Orcia, Montalcino, Pienza, Radicofani and San Quirico d’Orcia.

The aim of the park is to promote environmentally friendly tourism while enhancing all aspects of historical, artistic, natural and cultural heritage. Hence the walking tours that can be taken along the historic Via Francigena from Pienza to the village of Montichiello, along the Bagno Vignoni loop, or along the ancient Cassia from Torrenieri.

It is abundant in iconic hills and countryside illustrating how man and nature interact through cultivated fields, vineyards, dirt roads, farmhouses and cypresses.

The park also includes two ancient thermal baths: Bagno Vignoni with its Piazza delle Sorgenti and Bagni San Filippo, with the Fosso Bianco, the large limestone deposit in the woods.

The most beautiful landscapes of the Val d’Orcia

The Val d’Orcia offers a variety of sights to see, appreciate, and capture on camera.

Let’s discover the most beautiful ones:

  • Via dell’Amore in Pienza: this is a characteristic alleyway found in the village of Pienza. What makes it special is that it opens onto the breathtaking panorama of the Val d’Orcia. The best view is from Via del Casello;
  • Chapel of the Madonna di Vitaleta: the postcard par excellence of the entire Val d’Orcia. It is a small church perched atop a hill among the typical cypress trees;
  • Winding roads with cypress trees: cypress trees and winding roads are two of photographers’ favourite subjects. You shouldn’t miss those of Montichiello and La Foce;
  • Piazza di Bagno Vignoni: unique to its kind, it is more of a large pool collecting the thermal waters flowing from Bagno Vignoni, than an actual piazza. It is a magical, romantic and picturesque place;
  • The cypress forest: a characteristic cypress forest near San Quirico d’Orcia.

The medieval villages of the Val d’Orcia

The villages of the Val d’Orcia are rich in history, customs, nature, and culture.

Let’s see which ones you shouldn’t miss:

  • Pienza: a small jewel tucked away in the hills. With its beautiful square, ancient buildings, narrow streets to explore and historical notes, it leaves a lasting impression. We explore the village strolling through its alleys, taking in the scenery from the panoramic terraces and tasting the local delicacy, the renowned Pecorino cheese;
  • Castiglione d’Orcia: the village first appears in documents from 714; it was initially ruled by the Aldobrandeschi, then by Siena and the Salimbeni family. Several sites of historical and cultural interest can be found in the city’s historic centre: Piazza Vecchietta, the Palazzo del Comune, Church of Santa Maria Maddalena, Church of Saints Stefano and Degna, the Sala d’Arte San Giovanni, the Tentennano Fortress;
  • San Quirico d’Orcia: a village with ancient, most likely Etruscan origins. The fortresses, collegiate church, parish church, Cassero tower ruins, and the Horti Leonini public gardens are all worth visiting;
  • Bagno Vignoni: one of the most evocative locations in all of the Val d’Orcia. The town’s most important feature is its central square, which is but a sizeable pool into which the thermal spring water flows. Besides the old town and Piazza delle Sorgenti, the Parco Naturale dei Mulini and the ancient Roman baths are also worthwhile stops;
  • Montalcino: a town rich in art and history. It has medieval origins and features a military layout with a network of narrow, steeply sloping streets. The Nobile di Montepulciano wine originates from here. Worth visiting: the Fortress, the Town Hall Tower, the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art, the Church of Sant’Agostino, the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Soccorso and Sant’Egidio;
  • Monticchiello: a medieval village par excellence and a fraction of Pienza. It stands atop a hill, is encircled by strong walls and is criss-crossed by narrow alleys. One should not pass up a visit to the picturesque church of Saints Leonardo and Cristoforo. A 1960s project called “Teatro Povero” is absolutely unique to its kind. Monticchiello doesn’t have a theatre. It was therefore decided to create one in the square, a form of entertainment involving all the locals as actors and spectators. A performance is staged here every year in the summer, with the theme determined by the local community.

The Wine Route

The Wine Route was established in 2003 and is based at the foot of the Tentennano Fortress of Castiglione d’Orcia. It includes the territories of Abbadia San Salvatore, Bianconvento Castiglione d’Orcia, Chianciano Terme, Montalcino, Pienza, Radicofani, San Casciano dei Bagni, San Giovanni d’Asso, San Quirico d’Orcia, Sarteano, Torrita di Siena and Trequanda. It was created with the intention of promoting not only wine, but also the best local products in general. A goal pursued through cellar tours, strolls through the vineyards, wine, olive oil, cured meat and local cheese tastings, visits to small art villages and craft workshops.