View of Val D'Orcia from Montalcino
Italy

Val D’Orcia: what to see in Italy’s most idyllic landscape

Feel like you need an escape trip from the frenzy of city life? Val D’Orcia, Italy‘s most idyllic landscape is surely the perfect destination for you! A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2004, Val D’Orcia’s stunning agricultural scenery will help you relive the often-lost harmonic relationship between man and nature.

Scattered across this valley, you’ll find historical medieval towns, vineyards, as well as hot springs. Therefore, Val D’Orcia is ideal for a road trip or a wine tasting experience.

Farm fields

5 must-see spots in Val D’Orcia

The famous “Cipressini” of San Quirico D’Orcia

Cipressi of San Quirico D'Orcia

Cypress trees are the iconic symbol of Val D’Orcia. They dot this beautiful valley and adorn roads and the entrances of farmhouses and properties.

It was the Etruscans who imported cypress trees from the Anatolian region and used them as an ornament near tombs. Since then, cypress trees have become a picturesque feature of Val D’Orcia and Tuscany.

The “Cipressini” of San Quirico D’Orcia stand out against the surrounding landscape of farm land. And they offer you a glimpse of Italy’s most idyllic and uncontaminated scenery. Interesting fact: A group of hunters planted these trees to create a small ecosystem and attract birds.

Cipressi of San Quirico D'Orcia

If you continue up the hill, you’ll come across another group of cypresses in the shape of a circle. This circle of cypresses is one of the valley’s most drone-photographed spots.

The Gladiator’s “Campi Elisi”

The fields of the Gladiator

Have you ever watched the movie “The Gladiator”? Then, you’ll surely remember the very last scene where Maximus is finally reunited with his family in the Elysian Fields of the afterlife.

This iconic scene was set in the grain fields near Pienza. To reach them, you need to follow the signs for “Pieve di Corsignano”. Once you get to the church, continue on foot through the path going down the hill.

After reenacting the Gladiator’s last scene, go for a stroll through Pienza. The town center of the “City of Pius”, whose original name was Corsignano, has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996.

Bagni San Filippo

The Balena Bianca of Bagni San Filippo
Balena Bianca

The landscape of Val D’Orcia may, at times, seem coarse and dry. Yet, the valley is home to a few famous thermal springs. Bagni San Filippo is one of them.

This spa town hides one of the most gorgeous outdoor springs of Tuscany and they are entirely free! The springs consist of limestone waterfalls and small hot water pools surrounded by trees. You can sit in one of the many pools and relax. Soak in the nature around you and regenerate your body in the thermal water.

Make sure to spot the Balena Bianca (White Whale). This is a stunning waterfall whose shape looks like the mouth of a whale!

Monticchiello

View from Monticchiello

If you are looking for an authentic medieval hamlet experience, then you should definitely pay a visit to Monticchiello. Built at the top of a hill, Monticchiello was turned into a stronghold to defend Siena and encircled with sturdy walls in the early XIII century. From there, you can enjoy a mesmerizing view over the valley.

Alleys of Monticchiello

Monticchiello is truly a gem of Val D’Orcia. Get lost in its tiny, picturesque alleys and you’ll suddenly feel like you traveled back in time. This small medieval town is the perfect spot to capture enchanting views.

Montalcino

View of Montalcino

Globally renowned because of its red wine, Brunello di Montalcino, this beautiful town sits on top of a group of hills overlooking Val D’Orcia. Along its streets, you’ll find plenty of souvenir and art shops, cafes, restaurants and wine bars.

Some of the main landmarks of the town are the medieval fortress and the town hall’s clock tower. Not too far of a drive from Montalcino, you can also visit the Abbey of Sant’Antimo, a Romanesque building surrounded by vineyards and still inhabited by a community of monks of the Olivetan Benedictine order.

Abbey of Sant'Antimo
Abbey of Sant’Antimo

Unfortunately, we didn’t have the chance to stop for a wine tasting experience in one of the many wineries in the area. But if you are looking for an authentic wine tasting experience, a winery is your best (although a bit more pricey) option.

Visiting Val D’Orcia during the Covid-19 pandemic

Most of the places we visited were outdoor. Therefore, we were able to safely social distance and were careful to avoid crowded areas. At the moment, in order to enter indoor places in Italy, you need to wear a mask and show proof of your Green Pass. I was vaccinated in the US, but I could easily use my CDC vaccine card in place of the Italian digital Green Pass.

In any case, before traveling, make sure to check all of the health requirements and regulations on official government websites.

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