About 30 miles south of Siena and stretching to Monte Amiata, the spectacular, unspoiled countryside of Tuscany’s Val d’Orcia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, looks like it’s been lifted out of a Renaissance painting. Dotted with farms, cypress trees, olive groves and vineyards, the gently rolling hills and fields offer the quintessential Italian landscape. The area is home to Brunello di Montalcino, one of Italy’s most lauded wines, as well as the Orcia Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC), one of Italy’s best-kept secrets. On top of fantastic wines and scenery, the picturesque towns of Castiglione d’Orcia, Montalcino, Pienza, Radicofani and San Quirico d’Orcia boast artistic and cultural gems, making this destination a wine lover’s paradise. —Kerin O’Keefe
Where To Dine
Offering high-end cuisine made with locally sourced ingredients, Osteria Perillà in Rocca d’Orcia is a must. In scenic Bagno Vignoni, La Bottega di Cacio is perfect for a light lunch of local cheeses, cured meats and a glass of wine. Go to Vineria Le Potazzine in Montalcino for delicious, traditional Tuscan dishes and an extensive wine list of approximately 500 bottles. At La Taverna Banfi, lunch is served under the vaulted arches of a former barrel cellar.
Where To Stay
For luxury digs, choose the stunning, five-star ADLER Thermae Wellness & Spa Resort and enjoy its thermal pools, or stay at the gorgeous Castello di Velona Resort, Thermal Spa & Winery in Montalcino. For country-chic accommodations immersed in Brunello vineyards, opt for one of the impeccably furnished apartments at Borgo Canalicchio di Sopra Wine Relais. Winery accommodations with unbeatable views can be found in one of five spacious apartments at Roberto Mascalloni’s Poggio al Vento estate, a small, organic farm in Castiglione d’Orcia that produces outstanding wine and olive oil.
Val d’Orcia is a haven for walkers and cyclists, with winding roads that meander through the countryside and offer magnificent vistas. The hilltop town of Pienza, nestled between Montalcino and Montepulciano, is the ideal Renaissance town. A day trip should be on every visitor’s to-do list.
Relax in the thermal pool of Terme San Filippo in Bagni San Filippo. If you’re feeling adventurous, there are free outdoor hot springs in the nearby woods just outside of Bagni San Filippo, with a marked path from the main road for easy access.
Where To Taste
Most wineries offer tastings and tours by appointment only. In Montalcino, visit the beautiful Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Estate. Schedule a tour at Biondi Santi to learn more about the family that invented Brunello. Don’t miss a visit and tasting at the majestic Castello Banfi. Donatella Cinelli Colombini’s Casato Prime Donne, the only winery in Italy run entirely by women; pioneering estate Baricci Colombaio Montosoli, located on the slopes of the celebrated Montosoli hillside; and Le Chiuse are all must-see boutique wineries. Be sure to check out Montalcino’s best wine bars, Enoteca Osticcio and Enoteca la Fortezza. For tastings and sweeping views in the Orcia DOC, visit Tenuta Sanoner in Bagno Vignoni, or make an appointment to visit biodynamic producer Podere Forte in Castiglione d’Orcia. In Pienza, visit quintessential Tuscan farm Capitoni.
When To Go
Spring, summer and early fall are the best times to enjoy outdoor activities and tour wine country.
Native grape Sangiovese rules in Val d’Orcia, and it’s the only grape allowed in Brunello di Montalcino and Rosso di Montalcino. Brunellos and Brunello Riservas are among the most ageworthy wines in all of Italy. Classic bottlings combine power and grace that boast violet, wild cherry, baking spice and earthy notes, which become more complex over time. Rosso is less structured and made to be enjoyed young. Situated between the Brunello and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano denominations, Orcia DOC wines must be made with a minimum of 60% Sangiovese, while Orcia Sangiovese DOC offerings must be at least 90% Sangiovese. Some producers blend in international grapes, while others use the native grape Foglia Tonda. The best wines are savory and well structured.
Val d’Orcia Local In The Know
“Take your time in Val d’Orcia to enjoy the beautiful countryside and visit the area’s art centers,” says wine producer Donatella Cinelli Colombini. “Follow the Via Francigena, the road that in the Middle Ages connected Northern Europe with Rome, and discover the traces of those who traveled it before us. Don’t miss Buonconvento’s delightful, walled-in hamlet, the town of San Quirico [d’Orcia] and the hamlet of Bagno Vignoni, the only medieval thermal spa that’s still intact today.”