A hike in Val d’Orcia amongst the poppies and spectacular views is relaxing despite the heat. The endless rolling hills of Tuscany, a patchwork of vineyards, olive groves, and fields of hay ready to be baled is an inspirational sight.
Val d’Orcia is is in the Southern part Tuscany past Siena.
The area is home to delightful medieval villages like Bagno Vignoni, Pienza, San Quirico d’Orcia, Castiglione d’Orcia with views across the valley to the hilltop town of Montalcino famous for its full bodied Brunello wine.
Our hike was to start at San Quirico d’Orcia, but we sneaked in a quick stop at Pienza in time to catch them decorating the main street with ginestra (broom) petals for the Corpus Domini celebration later that day. A welcome touch of normality in a town that attracts many tourists.
Fortunately the Val d’Orcia is far enough away to avoid the mass tourism intrusion that is a constant battle in the bigger cities like Florence and Pisa and more accessible coastal areas like the Cinque Terre.
We move on to San Quirico d’Orcia, the lesser known neighboring village which has it’s own attractions – the medieval Cathedral which incorporates an earlier 8th Century parish church and an example of a plague door next to the main entrance used to take out dead bodies in the superstitious hope the disease would leave with the body.
Some local humour at the central cafe with a sign – “We organize recovery courses for teetotalers” and the inviting fragrance of jasmine draws us into the beautiful linen ware shop.
Our local environmental guide calls us out as after all we are here to hike to the hot Springs of Bagno Vignoni. The hike take us up and down dale through vineyards, woods and hay fields, surrounded by magnificent views at every climb: a full immersion in Nature relatively unchanged for centuries.
It reminds me of hearing tourists respond to their limo driver when asked were they going to San Gimignano and Siena – “Yes San Gimignano, Siena and Tuscany!” The limo driver rolled his eyes and politely led them to the car…..during the day he would have to explain that Tuscany is the whole region. Yet if an area depicts Tuscany as tourists picture it, it would have to be the scenery of Val d’Orcia.
It’s an area I know well having stayed at Bagno Vignoni on tour with many of you and continue to visit regularly to see dear old friends, Isabella and artist Enrico Paolucci.
While it’s still Spring, the day is hot and the sound of Hot Springs is not too enticing but then our guide knows of the pools below the village where the water is a little cooler and it’s to be our lunch spot.
The village of Bagno Vignoni remains magic and a popular place for locals and tourists all year round.
The view of Castiglione d’Orcia dominates and there is a sense of peace and freedom……before hike back!