Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Visiting the Val d'Orcia from Borgo di Vagli

Many Fractional Owners at Borgo di Vagli, our restored Tuscan hamlet, comment to me that one of their favourite day excursions is visiting the Val d'Orcia from Borgo di Vagli. For those who haven't visited this fascinating area, I think I can safely say that the Val d'Orcia is one of the most popular areas of Tuscany for visitors to this part of Italy. The iconic wide-sky, sweeping landscapes, the beautiful hilltop towns, the italianate gardens, the art and the culinary specialities and wine all make the Val d'Orcia an area of inexhaustible interest. Depending on when you're here, there are also some great folkloric festivals to be enjoyed. Here I'll indicate just a few of the aspects of the Val d'Orcia that draw me back there again and again. From Borgo di Vagli to Pienza, which is well into the Val d'Orcia, takes just over an hour (43 miles). To Montepulciano, which is in the Val di Chiana but on the same route to Pienza, takes about 50 minutes (30 miles).

Iconic scene in the Val d'Orcia of Tuscany, Italy
Iconic scene in the Val d'Orcia of Tuscany, Italy
Towns and villages characterised by particularly beautiful architecture and a charming ambience:
  • Pienza - hometown of the Piccolomini Pope, Pius II, an amazing Renaissance man who created this exquisite Humanist town near his birthplace. Pienza is a perfect case study of what a powerful family can do for its own locality. Pius II brought the best architect – Rosselino, definitively inspired by Leon Battista Alberti  – and most the renowned artists of the time to work at Pienza. No one can miss the huge “gap” between the splendour of the main piazza, the church and the Piccolomini Palace itself and the rest of the very simple, humble village.
  • Montalcino and the nearby Abbey of Sant'Antimo where Mass is celebrated with Gregorian chant.
  • San Quirico and neaby Bagno Vignoni, a thermal bathing area enclosed in a beautiful Italian square and dating back at least to the Romans.
  • The large Benedictine monastery of Monte Oliveto Maggiore located in the Crete Senesi and frescoed during the Renaissance by Sodoma and Fra’ Paolo Novelli.
  • Montepulciano, not in the Val d'Orcia but often included in an excursion to the valley.
Formal gardens in the Italian style
A pecorino shop in Pienza, Val d'Orcia, Tuscany
A pecorino shop in Pienza, Val d'Orcia, Tuscany
Gastronomy and wine:
Castles - because of its strategic position, the Val d'Orcia is the location of numerous picturesque castles, among them being Rocca d'Orcia, Castiglione d'Orcia and Ripa d'Orcia.

More about the sights of the Val d'Orcia.

Borgo di Vagli restored mediaeval hamlet in Tuscany
Borgo di Vagli has been authentically restored as a Tuscan vacation hamlet. The residences can be bought in the form of fractional ownerships, making a holiday home in Tuscany possible at modest cost.

Fulvio Di Rosa
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