Ciao! My name is Massi and I’m a 41 year old from Tuscany. My passion for travel was born the first time I flew to London. Since then, I have flown over 100 times and visited 40 countries around the world. Alongside my love for international travel, I also enjoy taking short trips on the road or romantic weekend getaways to amazing places in my country like Val d’Orcia.
From the last days of April to the end of summer, when the colors change, Val d’Orcia is a lovely place. In spring, the tall green grass looks like a sea blown by the wind while in summer, as the wheat ripens and is harvested, there are all shades of yellow/gold in this beautiful Tuscan region.
Val d’Orcia is full of Instagrammable spots, stunning walks and charming villages such as Pienza, Montepulciano, San Quirico d’Orcia and Bagno Vignoni. The gentle hills with all the fields of different colors according to the crops, the winding roads with cypress trees, small chapels and last but not least Val d’Orcia was the set of the film Gladiator with Russell Crowe.
This is where Maximus is at home with the Elysian Fields during the final scenes of Gladiator. There is no better place to drive around in a car or even better on a vespa to discover the area bit by bit. Perhaps the most iconic point is Cipressi di San Quirico d’Orcia. But the spot that gives me the most joy is just outside of Val d’Orcia, in Crete Senesi. The sunset from the road to Podere Baccoleno is one of the most photographed places in Italy.
5 Best Things To Do in Val d’Orcia
1. Discover all the Streets with Cypress Trees
Cipressi di San Quirico d’Orcia is the most famous place but there are more locations to explore if you want to see iconic cypress trees. Monticchiello has a few winding roads dotted with these tall trees, while Farmhouse Poggio Covili and Podere Baccoleno are also must-sees in this regard. Some of the best destinations in Tuscany can be found by driving in your car, without a plan or map, and seeing what you come across.
2. Look for the Places from the Gladiator Movie
Before you embark on your Tuscany trip, make sure you watch the Gladiator film from start to finish. In this movie, when Maximus is injured in the Colosseum and is dreaming about being united with this family (who were murdered), he walks home through a field and he can picture his wife and child in the backdrop. This scene was shot at the foot of Pienza at the Terrapille Farmhouse. You can rent a room here if you would like.
3. Visit the Most Charming Tuscan Villages
Val d’Orcia, and Tuscany in general, has so many villages to explore. Some of the best include: Montepulciano, Pienza and San Quirico d’Orcia. Be sure to check out the Infiorata flowers in Pienza and the geometric gardens of San Quirico d’Orcia. The picturesque hilltop town of Montalcino is another fantastic spot to stop at when driving around the Tuscany region.
4. Rent a Car or Lambretta from Toscana on the Road
Toscana on the Road is the best family-run vehicle rental business in Tuscany, located in Val d’Orcia. By hiring one of their vehicles – be it a vintage car or Lambretta motor scooter – you will be able to cruise around the postcard landscapes, small villages and natural hot springs in style.
5. Soak in the Free Thermal Baths of Val d’Orcia
One unique thing to do in Val d’Orcia is to soak in the hot springs of the “White Whale” in Bagni San Filippo or head to Bagno Vignoni for another natural hot pool. The White Whale is a waterfall that resembles the mouth of a whale. The calcium has constructed this cool rock formation at the base of the thermal spring. This activity can be enjoyed all year round.
2 or 3 Day Val d’Orcia Itinerary
Rent a scooter or a vintage car and explore the internal streets of the towns. An interesting itinerary for two or three days would be: winery outside of Montalcino, lunch in the village, followed by Cipressi di San Quirico d’Orcia in the afternoon. The next day you can check out Bagno Vignoni, the Instagrammable spots at Farmhouse Poggio Covili, then head to Pienza with stops at the Gladiator house, Chapel Vitaleta and the Elysian Fields.
Enjoy an aperitif in Pienza and of course sunset at Podere Baccoleno. The morning after, once you have taken in the sunrise at Podere Belvedere, drive to the White Whale of Bagni San Filippo to bathe in 37°C waters and then have a picnic in the fields of Monticchiello (with their winding roads and cypress trees) and in the afternoon head to Montepulciano.
You should stay overnight in Pienza or Bagno Vignoni which are both centrally located. Other places, such as Montalcino and Montepulciano, are more secluded. Val d’Orcia and the nearby Crete Senesi is a well-kept place that almost looks like a painting. Every field is ideal for a photo shoot. Look for the winding streets with the inevitable cypress trees on display.
Amazing Food & Wine of Val d’Orcia
The wine to try in this region is definitely a red of Montepulciano or some label of Montalcino, maybe visiting a cellar or vineyard. At the end of May every year, for a specific time, there is an event called Cantine Aperte where the most famous cellars open their doors to tourists for wine tastings. I recommend going along if you are in the area during these months.
As far as food is concerned, I suggest that you taste Fiorentina meat or the Lampredotto. It can look a little strange but it’s fabulous nonetheless. Other things to try are croutons with livers, bruschetta with olive oil, ribollita, la panzanella and for dessert be sure to order the divine cantucci e vin santo.
When to Visit Val d’Orcia
Last year in February, I visited Val d’Orcia the day after a heavy snowfall. The contrast between the snow and the hills was incredible. You can certainly have a great time in winter, so don’t be put off by the snow or cold. Even though you can go every day of the year, the best time to visit is between May and September. These months have the most beautiful colors – from green to gold. And the sun makes it perfect for a summer road trip.