Tuesday, 30 April 2013

A steam engine journey through the Val d'Orcia

I'm not sure how many of my readers used to ride in trains pulled by steam engines during their younger days, but whether you did or not, every year during spring and autumn there are excellent opportunities to go on a whole day steam engine journey through the Val d'Orcia. The "Trenonatura" follows a variety of track loops starting in Siena and dropping off its passengers for a few hours at whichever one of the picturesque towns of the Val d'Orcia has some kind of festa or fair in progress on that day.

A steam engine journey through the Val d'Orcia
The Trenonatura steam engine in the the Val d'Orcia
I seized the opportunity last Sunday to travel to San Quirico d'Orcia where they was a not very good wine festival in progress. Actually, the train took us to Torrenieri where a bus was waiting for the short trip to San Quirico. Here some of the passengers went directly into town while the rest of us continued another 3 km to Bagno Vignoni where we were given a tour of the ancient baths and a guided walk back to San Quirico.

Bagno Vignoni in the Val d'Orcia
The ancient baths at Bagno Vignoni in the Val d'Orcia
San Quirico itself is well worth a visit. Although the old town is somewhat disneyfied - a rare thing in Tuscany - it is the location of a virtually untouched Romanesque church, the Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta di San Quirico, and also of the famous Collegiata di San Quirico, a Romanesque church with a hint of the gothic in its beautifully decorated "portale di mezzogiorno". If the church is open, there is wonderful marquetry and a fine 15 C Siennese polyptych inside. San Quirico is well-provided with restaurants, making it a pleasant place for lunch.

Collegiata di San Quirico
The Collegiata di San Quirico
The locomotive refills with water at Monte Antico where there is plenty of time to take pictures of the engine as it manoeuvers to attach to the other end of the train. The carriages are for the most part Third Class and dating from before WW II. The seats are wooden and remarkably comfortable. Just remember to close the windows as you go through tunnels. The drivers are licensed steam engine drivers and this is work for them, but the people helping out and giving informative talks during the trip are all enthusiastic and knowledgeable volunteers.

These excursions are great value for money but, of course, they need to be booked a couple of weeks in advance. We set out from Siena at 9 am and were back in Siena by 6.46 pm, meaning that this is an easy one day excursion from Borgo di Vagli.

More about the Trenonatura.

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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