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yuliangpang Pienza - A travel report by yuliang
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Pienza,  Italy - flag Italy
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yuliangpang's travel reports

Val d'Orcia-the Place to Forget

  9 votes
Page: 1 2
The Italian region Tuscany lives in a shadow, and this shadow is nothing but its capital Florence. Very few people in this world don't know Florence, but many people do don't know either the name of Tuscany or the fact that Florence is its capital.

Val d'Orcia
Val d'Orcia
Tuscany has more than Florence and Sienna. Val d'Orcia is another product that the region is sparing no efforts to promote. But they are totally different in nature. If we say Florence is the right place for those who have high ambitions to recollect incentives, Val d'Orcia would be an ideal harbor for those who are tired of fame and ambition and just would like to live a peaceful life. Florence is the place to remeber, while Val d'Orcia is the place to forget.

Val d'Orcia is not a specific city, but the whole region around the valley of River Orcia, generally it refers to the area extending from the hills south of Sienna as far as the Monte Amiata. There are many nice small towns around, and to name a few Pienza, Montepulciano, Montalcino, San Quirico Val d'Orcia, Bagno Vignoni.

I visited Val d'Orcia yesterday (November 21, 2008), but for time restrictions I could not finish my list, I only saw Pienza, Montepulciano and San Quirico Val d'Orcia.

1. Pienza

Pienza is probably the most well-known town in Val d'Orcia. Though the whole region of Val d'Orcia was accepted in the list of UNESCO's World Heritage sites in 2004, Pienza succeeded doing this even 8 years before Val d'Orcia. From this perspective, Tuscany has Pienza first, and then Val d'Orcia. But my experience and findings there were a little bit disappointing. It was too small that you could finish it with a quick stroll of half hour. I stayed there around 2 hours, but I walked around the whole town three times. All the must-see places, Duomo(Cathedral), Palazzo Piccolomini, Palazzo Borgia, Palazzo Pubblico, are revovling around Piazza Pio II. The Duomo is quite simple, with a special bell tower of Germanic flavor, and harboring 5 paitings from Sienese school. The Palazzo Pubblico or the Municipal building is also quite impressive. If you ask the best place I like, I have to say it is a road behind the Duomo, called Via del Casello. Best place to make pictures.

Favourite spots:
Val d'Orcia
Val d'Orcia
2. Montepulciano

It was my second visit to Montepulciano, and you may find my previous report about it here, but I still had so many things to add. Among the 39 moments included in the Map Of Montepulciano, several places you can not afford to miss. Piazza Grande, the main square of the town, collects the major buildings, Cattedrale, Palazzo del Comune, Palazzo Contucci as well as Palazzo De'Nobili-Tarugi. The Cattedrale is very specail, it has a very simple facade, made of bricks, without any decoration. There is quite improportionately high bell tower beside, it is very interesting to see the shadow of the tower on the opposite buiding, particularly that of the bell. Montepulciano is full of the sculpture of lions, which makes me believe lion is the symbol of the town. But the most impressive ones I found is the one in a cistern at Piazza Grande and the one above the entrance to Palazzo Comunale. It supposed to be two, now only one is left, but the altar is still there.

What's really great:
Val d'Orcia
Val d'Orcia
Another nice place I found in Montepulciano was Tempio di San Biagio. It was outside of the town and took some time to get there, but it did deserve a visit. It is quite unique among the churches I saw in Italy. It is a typical 16th century Tuscan edifice, has a circular plan with a large dome over a terrace and a square tambour. It is a huge building, you may see it on the road to Pienza, and quite impressive, the white building above an grassland, blue sky as well as yellow trees. But the best position to have a good look at it is on the small road down Chiesa S. Maria dei Servi.

3. San Quirico Val d'Orcia

San Guirico Val d'Orcia was my last stop in Val d'Orcia, but It does not mean it was my least favorite. Actully I put it even before Pienza if I have my own list of favorites. Maybe Pienza does not live up to my high expectation that I got from the travel book, which says "Pienza is the Touchstone of Renaissance Urbanism".

Val d'Orcia
Val d'Orcia
The road from Pienza to San Quirico is even more beautiful than the one from Montepulciano to Pienza. I did not know how strong I felt to stop the car immediately to take some pictures, even it was such a dangerous thing to do because the road was so narrow that only one car was allowed to pass.

San Quirico Val d'Orcia is a walled small town, but it has some great things to see. La Collegiata, the church, is the most impressive thing that I found there. It is quite special, has three doorways and a nice bell tower. You may also find lions there. Piazza del Liberita is another good place to hang around. The church S. Francesco and a garden, Horti Leonini are there.

Val d'Orcia
Val d'Orcia
When I finished San Guirico Val d'Orcia, it was ready 4:30, I did not have time for another nice town nearby, Montalcino. The daytime was very short in the winter time here, and it was already not bright enough to make pictures. Therefore I decided not to visit Montalcino, though it was just 13km far and then I could save some time on the way back.

I like Val d'Orcia in the sunset. The sunshine become extremely soft, which reminds me of the hands of the grandmother with a gentle pat and coaxing you to close eyes and fall asleep. Open vistas of ploughed and sown land stretch over low hills until the end of the horizon, punctuated here and there by rows of cypresses. Some isolated farmhouses stand lonely, but they would provide you a warm and peaceful shelter to stay away from a noisy world and forget the uneasinesses of life.

Val d'Orcia
Val d'Orcia
I did not have time for a big lunch or dinner there, but I did have some piazza in San Quirico Val d'Orcia. I could not remember the name of that place, it was just in Piazza del Liberita. It served as a bar more than a restaurant, but the piazza was very good.

Other recommendations:
Val d'Orcia
Val d'Orcia
1. I do not have much to say about other recommendations, because you can find loads and loads information about the life there. But I may, I would recommend you to stay sometime, or at least a weekend there, because I felt this even much stronger after my second visit than my first one, I was planning another visit with some friends to rent a farmhouse and stay sometime there. You can not run with time there, otherwise you would not really appreciate the nature of Tuscany.

2. The local people in Val d'Orcia are very friendly, they are very glad to help you. But I strongly suggest to use some less well-known towns as the bases to explore the whole region. San Quirico Val d'Orcia is such a place.

Published on Sunday November 23th, 2008

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Sun, Dec 07 2008 - 10:24 AM rating by rangutan

Bit short but still an excellent report.

Tue, Nov 25 2008 - 03:04 PM rating by bineba

This takes me back to when we were staying in a friend's farmhouse in Montisi, just south of Siena. Went to see a lot of the places you mention in you report.

Mon, Nov 24 2008 - 06:02 PM rating by jorgesanchez

I like the way you write about different places in the same report. I use to do the same, disregarding subjets suc as accommodations, restaurants, night life, etc.

Sun, Nov 23 2008 - 07:58 PM rating by robynallen

Good informative report. Great pics

Sun, Nov 23 2008 - 03:59 PM rating by pesu

Nice individual report and absolutely beautiful pics.

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