I’m Francesca: an Italian girl who loves city breaks, road trips and hidden gems – like the incredible villages of Val d’Orcia. I work as a teacher in a middle high school in Rome, where I was born and raised. I graduated with a degree in architecture and worked for an engineering company, before deciding to start teaching technical drawing.
My passion for travel started when I was a kid, wandering around Italy with my parents. City breaks in Italy and Europe are great for people with a full time job like myself – there are so many cool places that can be visited in just two or three days. When I have more time, I love going on road trips to discover a region as much as I can. I don’t like overcrowded places and touristy destinations, so I try to find secret spots wherever I go.
A Wonderful 3-Day Trip to Val d’Orcia
Tuscany is a huge Italian region full of off-the-beaten-path destinations. I had been there several times before my most recent trip, as it’s close to Rome. The area I visited this time around is called Val d’Orcia and it’s located in the southern province of Siena. I went there some years ago to attend a friend’s wedding but didn’t have enough time to explore the area, therefore decided to come back to visit it properly. My goal was to do the trip at the end of June to enjoy the landscape of golden wheat fields. This was my itinerary:
- Day 1: Montepulciano, Pienza, Campi Elisi (Gladiator Movie Set)
- Day 2: Farmhouse Poggio Covili (Cypress Tree Alley), Bagno Vignoni, San Quirico d’Orcia, Chapel Vitaleta, Agriturismo Baccoleno, Montalcino
- Day 3: Bagni San Filippo (Natural Hot Springs), Abbey of Saint Galgano
Val d’Orcia is the best place to immerse yourself in the quintessence of the Tuscan countryside. If you like epic views over the hills, quaint villages stuck in time, delicious food and red wines this is the right travel destination for you.
The landscape is characterized by wheat fields on rolling hills (green in spring and gold in summer with plenty of tumbleweeds) and cypress trees, which is the typical tree in Tuscany. The food is simply delicious. You should try the cured meats, handmade pasta, cheese, bruschetta and soups.
Every village in Val d’Orcia offers its own red wine – which are some of the most exquisite wines in the entire world. All of these little villages look picturesque with their cobblestone alleys and golden brick stone houses.
Best Villages to Visit in Val d’Orcia
Montepulciano is a medieval town renowned for its cultural heritage and exceptional wine. You can visit some fantastic local wine cellars like Cantina Ercolani and taste the Nobile di Montepulciano red wine.
The ideal city of the Italian Renaissance came true in this magnificent village – a jewel within Italy’s Val d’Orcia region. Designed by Pope Pius II, its layout and architecture exude elegance. The city is also known for pecorino cheese.
3. Bagno Vignoni
Bagno Vignoni’s town square was built around a pool of thermal waters that bubble up from below the surface. This therapeutic oasis offers relaxation amidst gorgeous landscapes, offering a serene retreat in Val d’Orcia.
4. San Quirico d’Orcia
San Quirico d’Orcia’s historic walls, alluring streets and ancient churches resonate with history. The Collegiate Church and Horti Leonini gardens are highlights, providing a glimpse into the town’s cultural and natural beauty.
Montalcino is mostly famous for its Brunello wine, served at classy vineyards and wine cellars – although the medieval hilltop town also boasts enchanting alleys, a formidable fortress and sweeping vistas.
My Favorite Village in Val d’Orcia
The best of the Val d’Orcia villages for me is Bagno Vignoni. I think it’s such a unique place. Renaissance buildings made with golden brick stones overlook a large pool of thermal waters in the central square. It looks like a postcard.
There are also several structures, like Hotel Posta Marcucci, which are dedicated to thermal baths and treatments. Moreover, you can bathe in the natural hot springs of Parco dei Mulini: a park running along the slope of the hill from Bagno Vignoni to the valley below.
Parco dei Mulini is essentially a network of canals blessed by an abundance of hot spring waters and bathing here is totally free of charge. I definitely recommend this experience if you visit Bagno Vignoni. Just don’t forget to bring your swimsuit and towel.
How to Immerse in Tuscan Culture
The best way to experience the authentic local culture of the Val d’Orcia villages is through food and wine. Both are really important in Italian culture. There are several tours you can book – via Airbnb experiences for example – which allow you to walk along farms or vineyards while learning about different herbs and plants, visit wine cellars and taste Tuscan wines and olive oil, learn how to make fresh pasta, and meet some locals and learn about their daily lives while they show you their villages.
What Food to Try in the Villages of Val d’Orcia
- Pici all’aglione or al ragu, strozzapreti, pappardelle (handmade pasta)
- Ribollita, acqua cotta, pappa al pomodoro (soups)
- Fagioli all’uccelletto (beans)
- Scottiglia di cinghiale, buglione, stracotto, Chianina steak (meats)
- Finocchiona, buristo, arista salata, lardo, prosciutto di cinta senese (cured meats)
- Pecorino di Pienza (cheese)
- Tagliere with different kinds of bruschetta, cheese and cured meats
- Panforte, ricciarelli, cantucci with vin santo (sweets)
- Local wines: Brunello di Montalcino, Nobile di Montepulciano, Chianti Senese, Super Tuscany, D.O.C. Orcia, Vin Santo.
Tips for Visiting Val d’Orcia
Hiring your own car in Val d’Orcia is the best way to get around in my opinion, as many beautiful spots are hidden in the countryside and there is no reliable public transport. If you are short on time, booking a tour from Florence or Siena could be a good option as well.
Regular parking slots are only available in the villages. If the lines are blue, remember to check if you have to pay for a ticket. In the countryside there are no regular slots – so you have to be creative with parking and leave your car along the main road, dirt roads or some spaces that look like a rest stop.
The prices for accommodation, food, etc. are aligned with the Italian average. The best months to go are May and June, because April can be rainy. If you go in summer, prepare for high temperatures – bring a hat and some sunscreen if you are not used to it. Anyway, it’s not humid and there is always a nice breeze in the countryside.
Visiting the villages of Val d’Orcia offers travelers a harmonious blend of medieval architecture, artistic heritage and rolling landscapes. From Montepulciano’s wine to Pienza’s style, each village leaves you with memories that will last a lifetime.