Val d’Orcia, the heart of Tuscany

Photographing in the heart of Tuscany

The amazing rolling hills and villages of the Orcia Valley

 

Val d’Orcia has always been loved for its unique scenarios. A UNESCO’s Mankind Heritage Site since 2004, this land probably represents the most successful example of how human interaction with nature can turn into magic and create incredibly beautiful landscapes.
For centuries, painters have been deeply inspired by these gently rolling hills, with their changing colors in the seasons, patchwork of wheat, corn and sunflowers fields, scattered farmhouses and dirt roads lined with cypress trees.
Today, the Val d’Orcia remains one of the most photographed and filmed areas of the world, and its enchanted views have been featured in many famous movies such as Ridley Scott’s The Gladiator, Anthony Minghella’s The English Patient and Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet.
The best period for visiting and photographing this area is probably from March to June, when the fields are green and dotted with flowers, and trees are blooming. However this place is so impressing that also in less ideal seasons will provide the conditions for unforgettable holidays and photographic tours.
Words simply fail for describing how beautiful this region is. You really have to come and see with your eyes!

*please click on the pictures if you want to see them larger

Rainy clouds above the Chapel of Vitaleta. The Chapel of the Madonna of Vitaleta is a rural small church placed atop a hill in the country side between Pienza and San Quirico d’Orcia. Taken on a windy and rainy early morning at the beginning of May. The ominous sky adds a lot of drama to such an enchanted, small rural scene.

Sunrise on a foggy morning at the Belvedere d’Orcia, probably the sweetest spot for photographers of the whole Orcia Valley, from where one can enjoy an extraordinary view on the famous rolling hills, the Mount Amiata and the medieval towns of Pienza, Castiglione and San Quirico. Belvedere is a small hamlet of the municipality of Castiglione d’Orcia, and it is ideally placed at the centre of the valley. Taken at dawn on a foggy morning at the beginning of May.

Cypress tress aligned along a country road atop a hill nearby San Quirico d’Orcia. Taken on a very foggy morning at the end of April, moments after sunrise.

The rolling hills nearby San Quirico d’Orcia, as seen from the vantage point known as Belvedere d’Orcia, on a misty morning of mid May.

The most photographed bunch of cypress tress in the world is atop a hill not far from San Quirico d’Orcia, a nice medieval town of the Orcia Valley. Taken at dawn at the end of April. I had noticed the clouds were travelling fast in the sky, so I decided to record this motion with a very long exposure, using a 10 stops Neutral Density filter.

Another view of the Vitaleta Chapel, this time photographed on a foggy morning at sunrise.

A closer view of the Belvedere d’Orcia, one of the iconic places of this amazing hills. What you see here in the far background are not clouds, but rather some thick fog and a flank of Mount Amiata shining in the warm light of sunrise.

Stormy clouds approaching an enchanted rural scene of the Orcia Valley. Taken at sunset from the road between San Quirico d’Orcia and Bagno Vignoni.

Piazza Pio II (Pius II Square) is the key point of the beautiful renaissance town of Pienza , declared world heritage site in 1996 by Unesco. Pienza was rebuilt from a village called Corsignano, which was the birthplace (in 1405) of Enea Silvio Piccolomini, a Renaissance humanist who later became Pope Pius II. Once he became Pope, Piccolomini had the entire village rebuilt as an ideal Renaissance town. Intended as a retreat from Rome, it represents the first application of humanist urban planning concepts, creating an impetus for planning that was adopted in other Italian towns and cities and eventually spread to other European centers. Taken on a cold, foggy morning at the beginning of May, this is stitched from seven vertical frames.

The most famous zig-zagging road in the world is at La Foce, a small hamlet not far from Montepulciano.

Another amazing view on the rolling hills –  with the fortress and tower of Radicofani in the distance – can be enjoyed from the bastions of Pienza. Taken at sunrise on an early morning at the end of April.

 

An overcast day in the hills surrounding Monticchiello, just another of the many small towns and villages of the Valley.

Beautiful puffy clouds in the sky above green wheat fields. Taken on a sunny morning at the end of April in the hills surround San Quirico d’Orcia.

A farm house floating in an ocean of fog. Taken from the bastions of Pienza on a very foggy morning at sunrise.

A small pond encircled by beautiful yellow rape flowers, a typical springtime view of the hills between Pienza and Montalcino in Valdorcia, Tuscany, Italy

A lonely oak tree in the green crop fields on the hills nearby Montalcino.

 

The Mount Amiata, visible from everywhere in Val d’Orcia, is a quescient volcano, the highest and largest of Italy. Taken at sunrise from the small hamlet known as La Foce, not far from Montepulciano.


Resources

Italy Photo Workshops - Fine Art Landscape Photography Workshops, Tours and Adventures by Paolo De Faveri
Join me on a fully customizable, off-the-beaten-path, ‘one-on-one’ or small group photo tour in Tuscany. Learn new skills, experiment with advanced techniques, develop your artistic vision, all while enjoying  in the good  company of a qualified local photographer an enthralling outdoor experience in one of the most unique hills region of the world. Paolo De Faveri’s workshops are specifically designed for single participants or small groups of maximum three students, and they are intended for people who looks for intensive, full immersion courses.
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