Val d'Orcia

Things to see and do in the Valdorcia of Tuscany, Italy 2017

Valdorcia

Accommodation

Crete Senesi

Rocca d'Orcia

Castiglione d'Orcia

Ripa d'Orcia

Val d'Orcia Map

Val d’Orcia  Valdorcia of Tuscany, Italy

The Val d'Orcia is one of several geomorphologically distinctive areas in the large and diverse Region of Tuscany. Each of these areas has its fervent proponents. Many strongly prefer the rounded hills, dense vineyards, olive groves and woods characteristic of the Chianti area, between Florence and Sienna. The Maremma, both the Alta Maremma and the Bassa Maremma, once far off the beaten track and remote from the principal art cities, now draw visitors to their hill towns, thermal springs, Etruscan remains and nature reserves. Visitors enthusiastic for mountain vistas favour the Garfagnano, while the Mugello, home territory of the Medici, is a surprisingly wild area of castles and forests full of interest and within easy reach of Florence. The valleys of the Upper Arno - the Casentino with the Castello di Poppi - and the Upper Tiber Valley (Valtiberina), where Tuscany merges with Umbria, the towns such as Anghiari and Sansepolcro are characterised by their broad river flood plains and precipitous mountainsides. Of all of these, the Val d'Orcia is unique among the areas of Tuscany in having been accorded UNESCO World Heritage Site status and its advocates are perhaps the most fervent of all.

The Val d'Orcia or Valdorcia refers, strictly speaking, to the valley of the river Orcia but in general it refers to the area extending from the hills south of Sienna as far as the Monte Amiata. Nothing could differ more from Chianti, for example. The landscape in and around the Val d'Orcia is characterised by open vistas of ploughed and sown land that stretch over low hills to the horizon, punctuated here and there by clusters or rows of cypresses and umbrella pines, and isolated farmhouses. The crete senesi are areas of badlands that generations of farmers have brought into cultivation. Nothing has been easy here. The volcanic cone of Monte Amiata dominates the southern panorama. An area so attractive to tourists is well-provided with vacation accommodation to match all tastes.


Books about Italy

Tuscany guide books - Val d'Orcia

Montalcino

Montalcino is an archetypical Tuscan hill town with a mediaeval centre packed with fine architecture and a view ranging across the Val d'Orcia from the Siennese hills in the north to Monte Amiata to the south. The fortress of 1361 forms the highest point of the town and dominates the surrounding valleys. Brunello di Montalcino remains one of Italy's best red wines. Beautiful farmhouse accommodations are available throughout the area. More about Montalcino.

Crete Senesi of the Val d'Orcia

Crete Senesi means Siennese clays and refers both to the grey soil known as mattaione and the area of badlands where it outcrops in various parts of the Val d'Orcia. These are the "lunar landscapes" for which the Val d'Orcia is famous, but the attractiveness of the area is tremendously enhanced by the changing seasonal colours of the crops, and the details to be seen under the "big skies" - farmhouses, cypresses and umbrella pines, hay rolls, castle towers, isolated chapels. More about the Crete Senesi.

Val d'Orcia Vacation Accommodations

Val d'Orcia Tour

If you're planning to stay in this beautiful region of southern Tuscany, we strongly recommend the vacation villas, holiday apartments, hotels and Bed and Breakfasts and rooms offered here: Search for Val d'Orcia accommodation.

Pienza

Pienza is one of the gems of Tuscany and should on no account be missed by anyone visiting the Val d'Orcia. Pienza owes its beauty and fame to Enea Silvio Piccolomini who became Pope Pius II in 1458 and immediately set about converting the ancient Castello di Corsignano into a Papal residence in the Renaissance style. Pienza's location in the centre of the Val d'Orcia helps the town to embody the fundamental principle that humanistic architecture attempted to incorporate - the balanced relationship between Man and Nature. More about Pienza .

San Quirico Val d'Orcia

San Quirico Val d'Orcia lies on the northern edge of the Val d'Orcia in a strategic position along the Via Cassia and the Via Francigena. The town is encircled by fortified walls and among the main sights are the Collegiata dei Santi Quirico e Giulitta with its magnificent Romanesque-Gothic doorways, the Misericordia and Santa Maria di Vitaleta churches, the Palazzo Pretorio (town hall) and the Palazzo Chigi. The Horti Leonini gardens are a splendid example of giardini all'italiana, designed in about 1540 by Diomede Leoni. More about San Quirico.

Bagno Vignoni

Bagno Vignoni (sometimes Bagni Vignoni) is famous for its thermal baths. It was popular with the Romans (and probably the Etruscans) and rose to prominence again during the middle ages because of the proximity of the Via Francigena, the north-south pilgrimage route through the Italian peninsula. The ancient square pool at the centre of Bagno Vignoni is no longer in public use, but the scene is extremely attractive, with old stone buildings surrounding the pool on all sides. Today, the modern thermal baths are operated by the municipality of San Quirico d'Orcia and offer a wide range of therapies, including mud baths, for arthritis and rheumatism. More about Bagno Vignoni.

Abbazia di Sant'Antimo

Sant'Antimo is an active monastic church dating from 1118 and located just a few kilometers from Montalcino. This is one of the most beautiful Romanesque-Lombard churches in existence and its location is equally beautiful. Gregorian chant is sung by the monks several times a day and a visit to the church should be timed to coincide with a service if at all possible. More about Sant'Antimo.

Rocca d'Orcia

Rocca d'Orcia is the higher and better preserved of two huge, neighbouring castles that guarded the main NS road through the Val d'Orcia - the other is Castiglione d'Orcia just a few hundred meters away. The Rocca has been restored and is open to the public. Aside from its military architecture, the main attraction for visitors is the panoramic view in every direction over some of the most famous landscape in Italy. More about Rocca d'Orcia.

Villa La Foce

Villa La Foce, its gardens and 3,500 acre estate are the creation of the popular historian Iris Origo and her husband Antonio Origo. The Origos employed the talented English architect Cecil Pinsent to design the gardens which are now one of the most important and best kept early twentieth-century gardens in Italy. The Villa itself was built in the late 15th century as a hostel for pilgrims and merchants traveling on the via Francigena. Today the estate is run by the Origo daughters, Benedetta and Donata, and is open to the public one day a week. More about Villa La Foce.

Monte Amiata

Monte Amiata, which last erupted about 180,000 years ago, is the highest volcano in Tuscany and marks the southern limit of the Val d'Orcia. It continues to fuel many thermal springs around its base, including the hot water bathing centres of Bagno Vignoni and Bagno S. Filippo. There is bathing year round at the swimming pools that make use of thermal water directly from the springs, and if you prefer to swim in a more natural environment, there is the "gora" below Bagno Vignoni, or the "Fosso Bianco" in Bagno S. Filippo. More about Monte Amiata.

Abbadia di San Salvatore

Abbadia San Salvatore is a Benedictine abbey that was immensely rich and powerful, enjoyed numerous privileges under the protection of Popes and Emperors, and exercised feudal jurisdiction over much of southern Tuscany. It was founded in 743 by the Lombard king, Ratchis, on the spot where he saw a vision. At the peak of its power in 1035, the abbey was rebuilt and reconsecrated by Abbot Winizzo. After a period of decline, it fell under the dominion of Sienna in 1347, and was incorporated into the Medici state in 1559. More about Abbadia San Salvatore.

Ferrovia Val d'Orcia Treno Natura

Treno Natura at Murlo station

Val d'Orcia Vintage Train Excursions

A steam engine and a vintage diesel railcar are used for excursions from Siena into the Val d'Orcia, usually coinciding with a festival at the destination or opportunities for seasonal activities such as chestnut collecting. There are also regular full day circuits from Siena to Monte Antico and back by a different route. If your visit coincides with one of these rides, the opportunity is NOT TO BE MISSED! More information about steam train tours of the Val d'Orcia.

Ferrovia Val d'Orcia

Montalceto Viaduct

Castiglione d'Orcia

Castiglione d'Orcia castle forms a pair with the Rocca d'Orcia on the other side of the main mediaeval road into Tuscany from the south. It is more ruinous than its twin but the village itself is attractive, with a small sloping piazza, and excellent photographs of the Rocca d'Orcia may be taken from atop the Rocca of Castiglione d'Orcia. More about Castiglione d'Orcia.

ripa_dorcia.jpg (107834 bytes)

Ripa d'Orcia is a castellated village with a large keep at its centre. Along with the two neighbouring Roccas, it played an important role in the struggles for power between the Siennese Republic and ever changing alliances of powerful families. A great many of the original mediaeval features of this castle have been preserved in part because it has remained the property of the same family since the 17 C and was restored in a conservative manner at the end of the 19 C. Following WW II, most of its properties were partitioned and the castle now offers tourist accommodation. More about Castello Ripa d'Orcia.

Monte Oliveto Maggiore

Monte Oliveto Maggiore is a large Benedictine monastery located in the Crete Senesi. Its buildings, which are mostly of red brick, are conspicuous against the grey clayey and sandy soil. The cloister is famous for the series of frescoes illustrating scenes from the legend of St. Benedict begun by Luca Signorelli (1497–1498) and completed by il Sodoma (1502 or 1505). The church and library contain fine inlaid woodwork by Fra Giovanni da Verona. More about Monte Oliveto Maggiore.

Val d'Orcia landscape

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