The Val d’Orcia lies in the heart of southern Tuscany. It’s a place of stunning beauty that reflects the true essence of the Chianti region. During the Renaissance, the local landscape was redesigned to maximise its aesthetically pleasing character and reflect the ideals of good governance. |
Man-made structures such as fortified villages and abbeys now blend harmoniously into their surroundings: picture perfect lines of evenly spaced cypress trees tracing the slopes of a hill; farms with pastures for livestock dotted across their hay meadows; and roses intentionally planted amidst the vineyards. In short, Val d’Orcia has retained a remarkably untouched feel, for which it has been awarded a UNESCO World Heritage status.
If you visit the area on a Chianti tour, you are pretty much guaranteed to snap countless postcard-quality photos wherever you go – but here are our recommendations for some of the most picturesque places to visit.
Pope Pius II commissioned Bernardo Rossellino to extend his village in 1459. He dreamed of creating the ideal town by bringing together civil and religious authorities in one central square. Today, the magnificent piazza is still home to these stunning Renaissance palaces and cathedrals.
After soaking up the rich local history and art, make sure to stop and enjoy the panoramic views overlooking the countryside. Bring some of the town’s specialty cheese Pecorino di Pienza and a bottle of Tuscan wine for a romantic sunset picnic.
San Quirico D’Orcia
This ancient walled village likely dates back to Etruscan times. The remains of the Cassero tower, the Pieve, and the Collegiata di San Quirico Church are all great to visit.
Something you won’t want to miss is the sixteenth century Horti Leonini landscape garden. Its exquisitely designed hedges are arranged symmetrically across two levels. Look out for the little rose garden outside the parish church.
Bosco di Cipressi
The Bosco di Cipressi is a truly iconic feature of the Val d’Orcia. No matter the time of year of your Chianti tour, you are sure to snap the perfect photograph of the cypress trees bunched atop the rolling hills. The fields are a luscious green in the springtime, golden come summer, brown in the autumn and a glistening white when snow falls in the winter.
Cappella di Vitaleta
For a moment of pure serenity, head to the Vitaleta Chapel between Pienza and San Quirico d’Orcia. The walk to this small church is worth the time: when you arrive, you are sure to recognise the scene from postcards.
Known for its romantic atmosphere, Bagno Vignoni rose to fame in the Roman era for its thermal waters. The central piazza is unique in that it’s entirely taken up by one large thermal pool. It’s the perfect spot for a dinner date.
Popes, knights and kings alike have all stopped to enjoy the village’s hot springs: simply dip your toes in to join the ancient tradition.
As you can see, Val d’Orcia is a uniquely stunning place in the region of Chianti. Tour-goers won’t quickly forget their time here. When it comes to booking your Chianti tour, using a reputable operator to get the most of your visit is recommended. Having a local guide show you around will make all the difference to the experience.
Mauro Bramante is the Director of WalkAbout Florence, an independent business offering unforgettable tours and excursions around Italy including the best Chianti tour from Florence. Whether you want to ride a Vintage Vespa, try the famous Chianti wine or get cooking with fresh local ingredients, Mauro's company promises excitement, adventure and above all, fun. If you're keen to experience the magic of Italy with the help of some passionate and knowledgeable tour guides, look no further than WalkAbout Florence for your next getaway.
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