Val D’Orcia is in the southern part of Tuscany. The best way to explore it is by using the route that is now marked as Route 2, but is named “Via Cassia” since the days of the Romans, and leads to Rome to this Day.
The Val D’orcia region includes the towns of Montalcino, San Quirico d’Orcia, Pienza, Castiglione d’Orcia and Radicofani.
The landscape of this area is made of hills, river beds and cypress trees lining country roads. The ancient fortresses on the hill tops add severity and mystery to the image.
Oak woods, olive groves and vineyards where Brunello di Montalcino and other great Tuscan wines are grown cover the hills.
To the west, the view takes in Monte Amiata – the highest ancient volcano in Italy. Val D’Orcia is now protected as an artistic natural and cultural park. Trails, guides, brochures and museums all offer different means of exploring the region.
When you arrive in Radicofani from the south, you see the rolling hills open to greet you. Arriving from the north, the change between the Crete Senesi and the Val d’Orcia area is more subtle. The Ombrone river gives place to a narrower valley, and there are fewer clay ravines.
The hamlets on the hilltops are villages full of history and monuments. More than anything else, Val d’Orcia means nature. The river the valley is named after is little more than a stream for most of the year, and dries up in summer, but in the autumn the rains make it a raging river. It springs in the hills between Radicofani and Sarteano, decends into a wide cultivated valley and then heads west towards Pienza, San Quirico, Montalcino and Castiglione.
In Bagno Vignoni and Bagni San Filippo, thermal waters heated in the heart of the volcano bubble to the surface and form mineral outcroppings of rare beauty.
The Sienese countryside is also famous for its flavors. Apart from the wine – Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montalcino, Orcia DOC – visitors to Val D’orcia may taste, purchase and take back home excuisite olive oil, honey, cheeses and cold meets.
Montalcino was already famous for its red wines in the 1400s. It was Ferruccio Biondi Santi, however, who first had the idea of leaving out the Canaiolo, Ciliegiolo and Colorino grapes which were part of the traditional Chianti recipe, using instead only the Sangiovese variety.
A bottle of the family collection dated 1888 may be considered the first outcome of this experiment. Brunello di Montalcino was among the first Italian wines to be awarded with the DOC appellation in 1966 and with the DOCG appellation in 1980.
The train may be a great means of exploring the Val d’Orcia. Left behind by ordinary traffic in 1994, the line connecting Siena with the stations in Monte Antico and Grosseto via Asciano, Torrenieri and the Asso Valley is currently serviced from spring to autumn by Treno Natura. These trains allow you to appreciate the hills and woodlands, stop off in all the stations and enjoy isolated villages and isolated monuments. Trekkers and bikers may get off in one station, strike out on their own, and then board again later in a different station.
Usually Littorine wagons from the 1950s run this line, but sometimes old third class centoporte wagons with wooden seats are led by a puffing steam locomotive from the beginning of the 1900s.