Val d’Orcia Tour

Travelling in Val d’Orcia is one unforgettable experience. Your eyes become dazzled by the beauty of the colours of this land, unsurprisingly a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This tour has been created for you to discover the most painted corner of Tuscany, made of enchanted landscapes, tree-lined avenues.
Sunrises and sunsets of extraordinary, unique colours in the world are one great addition when wandering the road from Montepulciano to Montalcino through Pienza, considered one of the most amazing routes of Italy.

Glorious hills covered with vineyards, olive groves, cypress, beech and chestnut trees, ancient medieval houses: this is nothing but the ordinary scenario for the visitor in Val d’Orcia. We are now aiming for one special winery in Montepulciano, where tasting the Vino Nobile of Montepulciano, the first step or our route and a medieval town rich in history as its surroundings. After a good lunch based on wine tasting, fresh, seasonal Tuscan ingredients, we will use some free time to satisfy our curiosity among the alleys of the village.

Our second stop is Pienza, the Renaissance jewel of the Val d’Orcia, a village of fifteenth-century architecture which has a unique charm and a great location, with its majestic Cathedral, located in the central square, and the antique shops selling the today world famous pecorino cheese. In Pienza you will have some free time to enjoy a walk in the romantic streets of the historical center such as Via del Bacio, which offers an unforgettable, magnificent view. Looking out from the balcony along the historical walls surrounding the village will make first time visitors lose their breath, especially when Spring and Summer’s colours have kicked in: your pictures will leave your friends livid with envy. Montalcino, a village that offers many attractions from monuments to sublime wines is our last stop: inserted in one landscape of rare beauty, it boasts a unique surrounding landscape composed by olive groves alternating with vineyards compounds – this is the vine that produces Brunello di Montalcino, a top quality wine that has made this village famous all over the world and here you’ll enjoy the last wine tasting of the day.

Private Tour for couples and small groups
Departure from Poggio Baronti
Visit of Montepulciano
Typical tuscan lunch + wine tasting + visit of a winery
Visit of Pienza
Visit of Montalcino + 3 wine tastings
Return to Poggio Baronti
About 6 hours tour
Languages: Italian, English + French and Spanish on request

The Val d’Orcia, or Valdorcia, is a region of Tuscany, central Italy, which extends from the hills south of Siena to Monte Amiata. Its gentle, cultivated hills are occasionally broken by gullies and by picturesque towns and villages such as Pienza (rebuilt as an “ideal town” in the 15th century under the patronage of Pope Pius II), Radicofani (home to the notorious brigand-hero Ghino di Tacco) and Montalcino (the Brunello di Montalcino is counted among the most prestigious of Italian wines). Its landscape has been depicted in works of art from Renaissance painting to modern photography.

In 2004 the Val d’Orcia was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites under these criteria:

  • Criterion (iv): The Val d’Orcia is an exceptional reflection of the way the landscape was re-written in Renaissance times to reflect the ideals of good governance and to create an aesthetically pleasing pictures.
  • Criterion (vi): The landscape of the Val d’Orcia was celebrated by painters from the Scuola Senese, which flourished during the Renaissance. Images of the Val d’Orcia, and particularly depictions of landscapes where people are depicted as living in harmony with nature, have come to be seen as icons of the Renaissance and have profoundly influenced the development of landscape thinking.

Montepulciano is a medieval and Renaissance hill town and comune in the Italian province of Siena in southern Tuscany. It sits high on a 605-metre (1,985 ft) limestone ridge, 13 kilometres (8 mi) east of Pienza, 70 kilometres (43 mi) southeast of Siena, 124 kilometres (77 mi) southeast of Florence, and 186 kilometres (116 mi) north of Rome by car.

Montepulciano is a major producer of food and drink. Renowned for its pork, cheese, “pici” pasta, lentils, and honey, it is known worldwide for its wine. Connoisseurs consider its Vino Nobile, which should not be confused with varietal wine merely made from the Montepulciano grape, among Italy’s best.

According to legend, it was founded by the Etruscan King Lars Porsena of Chiusi; recent findings prove that a settlement was already in existence in the 4th-3rd centuries BC. In Roman times it was the seat of a garrison guarding the main roads of the area.

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, it developed as a religious center under the Lombards. In the 12th century it was repeatedly attacked by the Republic of Siena, which the Poliziani faced with the help of the Perugia and Orvieto, and sometimes Florence, communes. The 14th century was characterized by constant struggles between the local noble families, until the Del Pecora family became rulers of the town. From 1390, Montepulciano was a loyal ally (and later possession) of Florence and, until the mid-16th century, lived a period of splendour with architects such as Antonio da Sangallo the Elder, Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola, Baldassarre Peruzzi, Ippolito Scalza and others, building luxurious residences and other edifices here. In 1559, when Siena was conquered by Florence and Montepulciano lost its strategic role, its importance declined.

After the unification of Italy and the drying of the Val di Chiana, the town remained the most important agricultural centre in the area, while the industrial activities moved mostly next to Chiusi, which was nearer to the railroad being built in that period.

A competitive “barrel race through the city” called the Bravio delle botti has been held on the last Sunday of August since the 14th Century.

The main street of Montepulciano stretches for 1.5 kilometres (0.9 mi) from the Porta al Prato to the Piazza Grande at the top of the hill. The city is renowned for its walkable, car-free nature.

The main landmarks include:

  • The Palazzo Comunale, designed by Michelozzo in the tradition of the Palazzo della Signoria (Palazzo Vecchio) of Florence.
  • Palazzo Tarugi, attributed to Antonio da Sangallo the Elder or Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola. It is entirely in travertine, with a portico which was once open to the public.
  • The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, or the Duomo of Montepulciano, constructed between 1594 and 1680, includes a masterpiece from the Sienese School, a massive Assumption of the Virgin triptych painted by Taddeo di Bartolo in 1401.
  • The church of Santa Maria delle Grazie (late 16th century). It has a simple Mannerist façade with a three-arcade portico. The interior has a single nave, and houses a precious terracotta altar by Andrea della Robbia.
  • The Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Biagio is on the road to Chianciano outside the city. It is a typical 16th century Tuscan edifice, designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Elder on a pre-existing Pieve, between 1518 and 1545. It has a circular (central) plan with a large dome over a terrace and a squared tambour. The exterior, with two bell towers, is built in white travertine.
  • Baroque church of Santa Lucia has an altarpiece by Luca Signorelli.

The walls of the city date to around the 14th century.

Montalcino is a hill town and comune in Tuscany, Italy. It is famous for its Brunello di Montalcino wine.

The town is located to the west of Pienza, close to the Crete Senesi in Val d’Orcia. It is 42 kilometres (26 mi) from Siena, 110 kilometres (68 mi) from Florence and 150 kilometres (93 mi) from Pisa. The Monte Amiata is located nearby.

The hill upon which Montalcino sits has probably been settled since Etruscan times. Its first mention in historical documents in 814 AD suggests there was a church here in the 9th century, most likely built by monks associated with the nearby Abbey of Sant’Antimo. The population grew suddenly in the middle of the tenth century, when people fleeing the nearby town of Roselle took up residence in the town.

The town takes its name from a variety of oak tree that once covered the terrain. The very high site of the town offers stunning views over the Asso, Ombrone and Arbia valleys of Tuscany, dotted with silvery olive orchards, vineyards, fields and villages. The lower slopes of the Montalcino hill itself are dominated by highly productive vines and olive orchards.

During medieval times the city was known for its tanneries and for the shoes and other leather goods that were made from the high-quality leathers that were produced there. As time went by, many medieval hill towns, including Montalcino, went into serious economic decline.

Like many of the medieval towns of Tuscany, Montalcino experienced long periods of peace and often enjoyed a measure of prosperity. This peace and prosperity was, however, interrupted by a number of extremely violent episodes.

During the late Middle Ages it was an independent commune with considerable importance owing to its location on the old Via Francigena, the main road between France and Rome, but increasingly Montalcino came under the sway of the larger and more aggressive city of Siena.

As a satellite of Siena since the Battle of Montaperti in 1260, Montalcino was deeply involved and affected by the conflicts in which Siena became embroiled, particularly in those with the city of Florence in the 14th and 15th centuries, and like many other cities in central and northern Italy, the town was also caught up in the internecine wars between the Ghibellines (supporters of the Holy Roman Empire) and the Guelphs (supporters of the Papacy). Factions from each side controlled the town at various times in the late medieval period.

Once Siena had been conquered by Florence under the rule of the Medici family in 1555, Montalcino held out for almost four years, but ultimately fell to the Florentines, under whose control it remained until the Grand Duchy of Tuscany was amalgamated into a united Italy in 1861.

In the case of Montalcino, gradual economic decline has recently been reversed by economic growth due to the increasing popularity of the town’s famous wine Brunello di Montalcino, made from the sangiovese grosso grapes grown within the comune. The number of producers of the wine has grown from only 11 in the 1960s to more than 200 today, producing some 330,000 cases of the Brunello wine annually. Brunello was the first wine to be awarded Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) status. In addition to Brunello di Montalcino, which must be aged five years prior to release, 6 years for the Riserva, Rosso di Montalcino (DOC), made from sangiovese grosso grapes and aged one year, and a variety of Super Tuscan wines are also produced within the comune, as well as the Moscadello sweet white wines for which it was most famous until the development of the Brunello series.

Medieval structures and art: The first walls of the town were built in the 13th century. The fortress, built in 1361 atop the highest point of the town, was designed with a pentagonal layout by the Sienese architects Mino Foresi and Domenico di Feo. The fortress incorporates some of the pre-existing southern walls, the pre-existing structures including the keep of Santo Martini, the San Giovanni tower and an ancient basilica which now serves as the fortress chapel. Though the town itself was eventually conquered, the fortress itself never submitted, an admirable feat, considering the size of the Sienese and Florentine forces that besieged Montalcino at varying intervals.

The narrow, short street leads down from the main gate of the fortress to the Chiesa di Sant’Agostino with its simple 13th-century, Romanesque façade. Adjacent to the church is the former convent, now the Musei Riuniti, both a civic and diocesan museum, housing among its collections: a wooden crucifix by an unknown artist of the Sienese school, two 15th century wooden sculptures, including a Madonna by an anonymous artist,[2] and several terracotta sculptures attributed which to the Della Robbia school. The collection also includes a St Peter and St Paul by Ambrogio Lorenzetti and a Virgin and Child by Simone Martini. There are also modern works from the early 20th century in the museum.

The Duomo (cathedral), dedicated to San Salvatore, was built originally in the 14th Century, but now has a 19th-century Neoclassical façade designed by the Sienese architect Agostino Fantasici.

The Piazza della Principessa Margherita is down the hill from the fortress and Duomo on the via Matteotti. The principal building on the piazza is the former Palazzo dei Priori or Palazzo Comunale (built late 13th, early 14th century), now town hall. The palace is adorned with the coats of arms of the Podesta, once rulers of the city. A tall medieval tower is incorporated into the palazzo. Close by is a Renaissance-style building with six round arches, called La Loggia, for which construction began at the very end of the 14th century and finished in the early 15th, but which has undergone much restoration work over the subsequent centuries.

Montalcino is divided, like most medieval Tuscan cities, into quarters called contrade, Borghetto, Travaglio, Pianello and Ruga, each with their own colors, songs and separate drum rhythms to distinguish them. Twice a year they meet together in a breath taking archery contest under the walls of the Fortezza, conducted in Medieval dress, with lords and ladies of each contrada who accompany the proceedings.

The 13th-century church of San Francesco in the Castlevecchio contrada has undergone several renovations. It contains 16th-century frescoes by Vincenzo Tamagni.

The medieval quarter in Montalcino is denominated as the centro storico (historical center).

In 2010, the Festa Europea Della Musica had its first edition in Montalcino, to promote tourism and the produce, specially wine, of the region. Associated with the Fête de la Musique, created in 1981 in Paris to celebrate music and musicians, the Festa was incorporated into the Italian Minister of Culture’s agenda in 1994, and has since spread across Italy. Celebrated on the 21st of June, the entire town and its “frazioni” become one varicoloured musical tapestry that offsets beautifully the jewel of the territory itself.

Churches, abbey and paleontology site: 
Churches with frescoes of the Sienese School

Italian cuisine is food typical from Italy. It has developed through centuries of social and economic changes, with roots stretching to antiquity.

Italian cuisine is generally characterized by its simplicity, with many dishes having only two to four main ingredients. Italian cooks rely chiefly on the quality of the ingredients rather than on elaborate preparation. Ingredients and dishes vary by region. Many dishes that were once regional, have proliferated with variations throughout the country.

Discover the most famous Italian Cuisine Ingredients:
Pesto, a Ligurian sauce made out of basil, olive oil and pine nuts, and which can be eaten with pasta or other dishes such as soup.

Italian cuisine has a great variety of different ingredients which are commonly used, ranging from fruits, vegetables, sauces, meats, etc. In the North of Italy, fish (such as cod, or baccalà), potatoes, rice, corn (maize), sausages, pork, and different types of cheeses are the most common ingredients. Pasta dishes with use of tomato are spread in all Italy. Italians like their ingredients fresh and subtly seasoned and spiced.

In Northern Italy though there are many kinds of stuffed pasta, polenta and risotto are equally popular if not more so. Ligurian ingredients include several types of fish and seafood dishes; basil (found in pesto), nuts and olive oil are very common. In Emilia-Romagna, common ingredients include ham (prosciutto), sausage (cotechino), different sorts of salami, truffles, grana, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and tomatoes (Bolognese sauce or ragù).

Olive oil is the most commonly used vegetable fat in Italian cooking, and as the basis for sauces, often replaces animal fats of butter or lard.

Traditional Central Italian cuisine uses ingredients such as tomatoes, all kinds of meat, fish, and pecorino cheese. In Tuscany pasta (especially pappardelle) is traditionally served with meat sauce (including game meat). Finally, in Southern Italy, tomatoes – fresh or cooked into tomato sauce – peppers, olives and olive oil, garlic, artichokes, oranges, ricotta cheese, eggplants, zucchini, certain types of fish (anchovies, sardines and tuna), and capers are important components to the local cuisine.

Italian cuisine is also well known (and well regarded) for its use of a diverse variety of pasta. Pasta include noodles in various lengths, widths and shapes. Distinguished on shapes they are named—penne, maccheroni, spaghetti, linguine, fusilli, lasagne and many more varieties that are filled with other ingredients like ravioli and tortellini.

The word pasta is also used to refer to dishes in which pasta products are a primary ingredient. It is usually served with sauce. There are hundreds of different shapes of pasta with at least locally recognized names.

Examples include spaghetti (thin rods), rigatoni (tubes or cylinders), fusilli (swirls), and lasagne (sheets). Dumplings, like gnocchi (made with potatoes or pumpkin) and noodles like spätzle, are sometimes considered pasta. They are both traditional in parts of Italy.
Pasta is categorized in two basic styles: dried and fresh. Dried pasta made without eggs can be stored for up to two years under ideal conditions, while fresh pasta will keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator. Pasta is generally cooked by boiling. Under Italian law, dry pasta (pasta secca) can only be made from durum wheat flour or durum wheat semolina, and is more commonly used in Southern Italy compared to their Northern counterparts, who traditionally prefer the fresh egg variety.

Durum flour and durum semolina have a yellow tinge in color. Italian pasta is traditionally cooked al dente (Italian: firm to the bite, meaning not too soft). Outside Italy, dry pasta is frequently made from other types of flour, but this yields a softer product that cannot be cooked al dente. There are many types of wheat flour with varying gluten and protein levels depending on variety of grain used.

Particular varieties of pasta may also use other grains and milling methods to make the flour, as specified by law. Some pasta varieties, such as pizzoccheri, are made from buckwheat flour. Fresh pasta may include eggs (pasta all’uovo ‘egg pasta’). Whole wheat pasta has become increasingly popular because of its supposed health benefits over pasta made from refined flour.

Regional variation: Each area has its own specialties, primarily at a regional level, but also at provincial level. The differences can come from a bordering country (such as France or Austria), whether a region is close to the sea or the mountains, and economics. Italian cuisine is also seasonal with priority placed on the use of fresh produce.

Discover the most famous Tuscan Cuisine Products:
Simplicity is central to the Tuscan cuisine. Legumes, bread, cheese, vegetables, mushrooms and fresh fruit are used. A good example would be ribollita, a notable Tuscan soup whose name literally means “reboiled”. Like most Tuscan cuisine, the soup has peasant origins.

It was originally made by reheating (i.e. reboiling) the leftover minestrone or vegetable soup from the previous day. There are many variations but the main ingredients always include leftover bread, cannellini beans and inexpensive vegetables such as carrot, cabbage, beans, silverbeet, cavolo nero (Tuscan kale), onion and olive oil.

A regional Tuscan pasta known as pici resembles thick, grainy-surfaced spaghetti, and is often rolled by hand. White truffles from San Miniato appear in October and November. High-quality beef, used for the traditional Florentine steak, come from the Chianina cattle breed of the Chiana Valley and the Maremmana from Maremma.

Pork is also produced. The region is well-known also for its rich game, especially wild boar, hare, fallow deer, roe deer and pheasant that often are used to prepare pappardelle dishes. Regional desserts include panforte (prepared with honey, fruits and nuts), ricciarelli (biscuits made using an almond base with sugar, honey and egg white), and cavallucci (cookies made with almonds, candied fruits, coriander, flour, honey). Well-known regional wines include Brunello di Montalcino, Carmignano, Chianti, Morellino di Scansano, Parrina, Sassicaia, Vernaccia di San Gimignano.

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