The Val d’Orcia is a cultural landscape made out of farmlands and fortified villages on hilltops. The landscape as it unfolds nowadays was created by wealthy Siennese merchants in the 14th and 15th centuries. The farms cultivate mainly grains, vines and olives. Rows of cypresses are also a distinctive sight.
The beauty of the area inspired Renaissance painters and early travellers on the Grand Tour alike.
ICOMOS only had meagre praise for this site when it evaluated inscription as a WHS. Not enough detail and no comparisons were supplied by the Italians. There’s also the issue of the City of Pienza, which is considered to be a key part of the Val d’Orcia but was already a WHS in its own right. Both sites should be combined into one.
Visit February 2009
Although the landscape is pretty enough and quintessential Tuscan, this is a poor WHS. It has hills, olive trees and rows of cypresses. And there are still a lot of monumental farms around, although most of them seem to have been turned into Bed&Breakfasts.
My choice of sites to visit in this valley was limited because it was a Monday, the day that almost all sites in Italy that have paid access shut down. So no castles, monasteries, baths or mills for me. I just drove around a bit, taking some lesser roads, on my way to Orvieto (on the Tentative List, see separate review).
My first stop was at Castiglione d'Orcia. This town looks glued to the rocky hill where its built at. There are some nice old stone houses, and narrow streets to lose your way in. Closeby is Rocca d'Orcia, one of the most characteristic fortresses that adorn the hills in the Val d'Orcia.
Along the way there are also frequent signs pointing out the pilgrim's way Via Francigena. I think I encountered one pilgrim: an older man with walking sticks, braving the cold wind but well covered up in rain gear.
More photos can be found in the Picture Gallery
|john booth (New Zealand):|
A large area of rural Tuscany, the Val d'Orcia boasts endless vinyards and olive groves spread over an undulating landscape.
A comfortable way of seeing this area is to take the Treno Natura from Siena on one of its periodic perigrinations - mostly on spring and autumn weekends. At other times the nearest station is at Buonconvento. From here I took buses to Montalcino and to Pienza. From both of these hilltop towns there are extensive views over the landscape.
| Date posted: September 2011|
The Val d'Orcia is about two things for me: beautiful vistas and delicious wines. Staying with friends in a villa outside Siena in May 2004, I had ample opportunity to sample both. The roads in this part of Tuscany provide the archetypal imagery that has made the province famous, and the wines of Montalcino and Montepulciano are experiences in themselves.
Have you been to Val d'Orcia? Share your experiences!
Add your own review