Are you planning a visit to the Val d’Orcia (aka Valdorcia, Orcia Valley) on your Tuscany road trip?
Perhaps you’ve seen a photo of a cluster of cypress trees and you want to recreate it.
Either way, it’s helpful to know some of the basics about traveling to the Val d’Orcia, like:
- Where it is
- Who should visit (or avoid) the Val d’Orcia
- When to visit the Val d’Orcia and how long to stay
- Val d’Orcia towns and villages you should visit
- The best things to see and do in the Val d’Orcia
- Where to eat (& what foods to try!)
- Accommodation options and recommendations
- Transport options for arriving in the Val d’Orcia as well as getting around
I’m happy to share my tips and advice based on over two decades of traveling, working, and living in Italy. I’m based in Tuscany with my husband and three boys and we visit the Val d’Orcia frequently. I also help others plan vacations to the area. So, let’s plan yours!
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Table of Contents
Where is the Val d’Orcia?
The Val d’Orcia (Orcia Valley in Italian) is a valley in Southern Tuscany, in the province of Siena. Very generally, you could say it’s bordered by the Crete Senesi hills (north), Monte Amiata (south), Montepulciano (east) and Montalcino (west).
Distance to the Val d’Orcia (using Pienza) from:
- Florence – 1 hr 30 min (115km)
- Rome – 2 hr 20 min (190km)
- Siena – 1 hr (55km)
Reasons to Visit the Val d’Orcia
If photos of the Val d’Orcia aren’t enough to convince you, here are a few reasons:
- It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site (2004) along with the historic center of Pienza (1996)
- It has some of the most dramatic landscapes in all of Italy – think gently rolling hills that change color depending on the season, driveways lined with cypress trees
- It’s home to some of Italy’s most famous wines
- You’ll find some of Italy’s best hot springs here
- You can have a relaxing stay in an agriturismo
- It’s home to some of the most iconic photos of Italy
Reasons You May Want to Skip the Val d’Orcia
The Val d’Orcia isn’t for everyone. You may want to pass on the valley if:
- You need a lot of nightlife
- You’re not excited about nature and instead prefer city life
- You want your Italian vacation to be full of museums and action
- You don’t want to spend time in a car
- You prefer to travel around Italy using public transport
If this is the case, you should check out some nearby cities like Florence, Lucca, Pisa, Pistoia, and even Siena.
My Favorite Times to Visit the Val d’Orcia
You’ll find a different Val d’Orcia in each season.
Spring – This is my favorite time of year in the Val d’Orcia. The rolling hills are bright green, and you’ll see scattered fields of yellow (rapeseed). It looks like the Microsoft Windows screensaver. You’ll get photo-friendly views of the cypress-lined roads and if you’re like me, you’ll pull over constantly to say hi to the little lambs in the fields! Villages have pretty flower boxes out decorating windowsills and front steps.
Summer – The fields change to a golden yellow, but it’s still gorgeous out. Days are toasty but evenings are lovely for outdoor meals and strolls in the small villages. The villages feel lively, making it my second favorite time of year to visit.
Fall – The fields are brown with tilled earth and hay bales in some places. I avoid hiking during the fall because the mud in the Val d’Orcia is sticky, so you’ll end up with platform hiking boots (and it’s so hard to get off I completely avoid hiking here if it’s rained).
Winter – I love the light in the winter in the Val d’Orcia. We like to visit for day trips in the winter but find the towns can be quiet (and a little boring). If you can visit for Christmas markets, be sure to stop in to see Montepulciano’s (it’s one of our favorites, especially with kids). Keep in mind that in the winter in the Val d’Orcia (and Tuscany countryside in general), accommodations can be chilly and it sometimes feels difficult to find an open restaurant. But during the day it’s often sunny.
How Long to Spend in the Val d’Orcia
In an ideal situation, you’d have 5-7 days to explore the towns, have leisurely meals, and enjoy the views.
However, you can still have a lovely visit in a shorter amount of time. If you can, spend two nights, and have three days. In that time you could visit 1-2 places per day. For example:
Day 1: Arrive in the Val d’Orcia. Visit Pienza and Montepulciano. Spend the night in an agriturismo.
Day 2: Visit Bagno Vignoni (village and hot springs) and Montalcino. Stay in the same agritursimo.
Day 3: Take a cooking class or head out to take photos before continuing on to your next destination.
Finally, you could visit on a day trip. You won’t ‘see it all,’ but you’ll get a taste of the valley and you can always come back! We often visit from Florence on a day trip and it’s a big day but worthwhile.
Not-To-Miss Val d’Orcia Towns and Villages
Pienza – Pope Pius and Pecorino
Pienza is the imagined ideal town of Pope Pius II. Sampling its famous pecorino di Pienza is a must while in town. Wander the tiny lanes (including some named after love and kisses), and check out the views of the valley. Read more in One Day in Pienza.
Montepulciano – Lively Town with Epic Views
This medieval town perched on a hill overlooking the valley is lively and full of wine shops and wine bars that showcase the local Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Take time to walk the old streets, visit the Piazza Grande, and explore the underground cellars. The valley views can’t be beat! Read more in my guide to Montepulciano.
Bagno Vignoni – A Relaxing Soak in Thermal Waters
One of our favorite villages in Tuscany, and the perfect place to soak in the healing thermal waters. Or, sip on wine next to the main piazza that’s actually a thermal bath (no swimming, but still nice to look at). Read more about Bagno Vignoni.
San Quirico d’Orcia – Authentic Tuscan Village Life
A nice town to visit if you’re tired of looking at souvenir shops and just want to see a ‘real’ town. Take a quick stroll through town. A visit pairs well with nearby Bagno Vignoni.
Montalcino – A Wine Lover’s Delight
Wine lovers should not miss Montalcino! The town is tiny but worth a wander. Stop in at the wine bars and wine shops and try some Brunello di Montalcino. Or, visit one of Montalcino’s vineyards. If you’re in town, you’re so close to the Sant’Antimo Abbey – I always feel more calm after a little bit of time wandering around the grounds. Read more in my guide to Montalcino.
Monticchiello – The Val d’Orcia’s Tiny Treasure
Monticchiello is tiny in size but large in authenticity. Check out the epic countryside views, dine in one of the excellent restaurants, and see the teatro povero if the timing’s right. Read more in my guide to little Monticchiello.
Good To Know: You can also stop in to check out Radicofani and Castiglione d’Orcia, but my favorites are those listed above. And, while not technically in the Val d’Orcia, we also love visiting Buonconvento and Monte Oliveto Maggiore when we’re in the area.
My Favorite Things to See and Do in the Val d’Orcia
Besides checking out the towns and villages of the Val d’Orcia, there’s plenty more to keep you occupied! Here’s what our family likes to do (and the activities we share when friends and family come to visit):
When you see those breathtaking photos and postcards of Tuscany, they’re likely from the Val d’Orcia. This is the land of the cypress trees – in clusters and along driveways and roads. Some of the most famous are the cluster near San Quirico and the lined roads near Monticchiello and La Foce.
Other famous photo subjects include the Vitaleta Chapel, the hilltop villages, and the sheep in the fields.
Learn How Pecorino Cheese is Made
And then eat it!
You can learn about cheese making and see it being made at farms around Pienza, including:
- Ernello’s cheese farm (Famiglia Armellini) – my top pick! Ernello and his family are amazing and they’ll show you how they make the cheese on their small farm and then you can taste it along with the family’s olive oil.
- Podere il Casale – if you don’t want to do the whole cheese making demo, you can also have a picnic on the farm
- Caseificio Cugusi – participate in the cheese tasting, which includes an explanation of how the pecorino is made; or, just enjoy the cheeses as part of your picnic on the farm
Sample Local Wines
If you’re into wines, don’t miss visits to Montepulciano and Montalcino. You can try wines inside the towns in wine shops and at wine bars, or visit some of the vineyards and wineries surrounding the towns. Some of my favorites are (type of wine in parentheses):
- Ciacci Piccolomini (Montalcino)
- Tenuta Torciano (Montalcino)
- Castello Banfi (Montalcino)
- Cantine Innocenti (Montepulciano)
- Poliziano (Montepulciano)
- Palazzo Vecchio (Montepulciano)
This is one of my favorite places to ride and hike in Italy because the landscape is so open and gorgeous. I find myself ‘oohing’ and ‘aaahing’ still, after a couple of decades being active in this valley.
While there are plenty of strade bianche for mountain biking, I’m a bigger fan of the road cycling down here.
You can rent mountain bikes, road bikes, and e-bikes in Montepulciano (best bet) and Pienza. Also check with your accommodation as sometimes they have them (although they probably aren’t as well-maintained as those you can rent).
I always enjoy the roads around Pienza/Montepulciano/Monticchiello/La Foce, but you really can’t go wrong.
Helpful Tip: Keep in mind that it’s hilly(!) so don’t feel shy about renting an e-bike. And, double-check your route with the bike shop or a local if you want to avoid gravel roads.
Francigena, walking on gravel road Monticchiello, walking below Pienza.
Good To Know: You can ride part of the famous Eroica route.
If you’re a hiker – my favorite places to walk in the Val d’Orcia are the gravel roads below Pienza and the gravel road that runs between Pienza, Monticchiello, and Montepulciano.
Below Pienza is a great option because you can do out-and-back routes – and you’ll appreciate the views on both parts, because on the way back you see the valley and on the way out you see Pienza. You can also do some hiking in fields but be ready to turn back and retrace your steps – sometimes your route will dead end.
The gravel road that runs through Monticchiello is a nice option if you are up for a big hike and have time to stop for lunch in Monticchiello. You can also do an out and back from Pienza or Montepulciano – easier because you don’t have to worry about transport.
Good To Know: You can also walk part of the Via Francigena.
Go on a Road Trip
In order to take in all of the views of the Val d’Orcia, hop in your car! Stop in the villages, seek out photo spots, and find the perfect place to stop and have a picnic.
Soak in Hot Springs
Southern Tuscany is a prime area for hot springs and if you’re visiting the Val d’Orcia, you’ve got a couple of great options – Bagno Vignoni and Bagni San Filippo. If you’re interested in a spa experience, head to Bagno Vignoni. Otherwise, Bagni San Filippo is an excellent choice for enjoying hot springs in nature – don’t miss the Balena Bianca (white whale)!
Stay in an Agriturismo
A classic part of a visit to Tuscany and the Val d’Orcia is spending a night (or two, or five) in an agriturismo. Agriturismi are tradionally farmhouses that have opened up to tourism. It’s even in the name – agri (as in agriculture) + turismo (tourism).
Book a room and settle in to the slow life on a farm. Wander the olive grove in the morning. Pet the house cats. Read an entire book (like War in the Val d’Orcia). Sip the local wines. Watch the sunset. And repeat.
Explore Small Villages
True, there aren’t any big cities in the Val d’Orcia, but if possible, try to add at least one tiny village to your itinerary, like Monticchiello or San Quirico d’Orcia. There’s not much to see or do besides have a meal, stroll the cobblestone streets, or sip on a glass of local red wine. But, that’s the beauty of visiting them.
Climb a Tower
Can’t get enough of the views of the Val d’Orcia? Why not get a little higher up for an even better vista. Our favorite tower climbs in the area are in Montepulciano (especially to see the Christmas market in Piazza Grande) and the fortezza in Montalcino (it’s an easy climb up to the walls and you can sample wines at the enoteca inside when you’re finished).
More Options: Rocca di Tentennano in Rocca d’Orcia or the fortezza (fortress) in Radicofani.
Where and What to Eat in the Val d’Orcia
Val d’Orcia Restaurants To Try
Oh so many! But don’t underestimate a picnic in this part of Tuscany – you can pick up ingredients at a supermarket or little alimentari and have a meal with a view!
Here are some recommendations, in no particular order:
Ristorante Daria (Monticchiello) – Tuscan dishes using local ingredients; have aperitivo at the Daria enoteca before your meal
Il Rossellino (Pienza) – traditional southern Tuscan cooking in a charming piazza (try to sit outdoors)
Podere il Casale or Caseificio Cugusi (countryside) – have a picnic with pecorino cheese
Osteria Acquacheta (Montepulciano) – this is a place to eat beef!
Dopolavoro La Foce (La Foce) – nice place to stop near one of the famous cypress-lined roads; come here if you’re looking for something a little less traditional; unique dishes
Trattoria al Vecchio Forno (San Quirico d’Orcia) – lovely outdoor garden area; traditional Tuscan dishes
Ristorante 13 Gobbi (Montefollonico) – they do the ‘pasta in the cheese wheel’ and I enjoy it every time; in a tiny village; combine it with a visit to Cantine Innocenti
Lupaia (countryside) – my pick for a romantic meal
Get gelato at Buon Gusto Gelateria in Pienza or Sgarbi in Montepulciano.
If you’re looking for fine dining options, check out my post on Tuscany’s Michelin-Star Restaurants.
What to Eat & Drink in the Val d’Orcia
You’ll start to notice a lot of the same ingredients and dishes on menus in the Val d’Orcia:
- Pecorino (sheep’s milk) cheese, perfect for picnics
- Pici pasta, especially with ragù al cinghiale (wild boar sauce)
- Salame di cinghiale (wild boar salami), perfect for picnics
- Prosciutto di cinta senese (cured ham made with a local pig), my kids love this
- Ribollita – bread and veggie soup, perfect on a chilly day
- Panzanella – bread and veggie salad, perfect in the spring or summer
- Gelato – especially in Pienza and Montepulciano – See my Favorite Gelaterie in Tuscany
- Wine – area specialties include Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Vino Rosso di Montepulciano, Brunello di Montalcino, Morellino di Scansano, Orcia DOC
Where to Stay in the Val d’Orcia
Your main options for accommodation are to stay in an agriturismo in the countryside or stay in a hotel or apartment in one of the towns or villages.
What you choose depends on your goals and situation. Some things you may want to consider:
- Do you need a car?
- Do you want to be within walking distance of restaurants?
- Do you want a swimming pool?
- Do you need a kitchen?
- When are you visiting (summer, winter)?
I think the ideal place to stay is in an agriturismo, but a town stay can be more convenient and interesting, depending on when you’re visiting (and what your travel style and goals are).
I’ll list a few options for each:
Agriturismo / Countryside Stays
Agriturismo Il Rigo – One of my favorite countryside stays in Italy. Nothing fancy – just epic views of the Val d’Orcia, delicious food, and kind hosts. Good base for walks on the strade bianche in the valley, and it’s a quick drive to San Quirico and Bagno Vignoni. You can also take a cooking class.
Lupaia – Boutique hotel with stunning views. Sip Montepulciano wines while looking out at the vineyards their grapes come from. This is where I want my husband to take me on a romantic weekend trip (Matteo, are you reading this?).
Castello di Velona – Pure luxury with one of my favorite views ever from the swimming pool area (you won’t want to leave). You can also soak in the hot spring bath. Modern interiors.
Agriturismo Le Ragnaie – Stylish and elegant, with epic views and a pool – and you’re just outside Montalcino.
Agriturismo Casalpiano – family-friendly agriturismo with pool and casual Tuscan-style rooms and apartments.
Agriturismo La Fonte – classic Tuscan agriturismo with apartments; pool has gorgeous views; on-site restaurant (worth visiting even if you’re not staying here)
Villa La Fonte all’Opio – great for families – plenty of green space for running around, fenced pool area; country views
Altesino Suites – Wine lovers will recognize the name. Yes, you can stay on the estate. Simple Tuscan-style interiors in the apartments. Good option if you want to do some of your own cooking.
Castello Banfi – famous for its wine, but it also has an incredible luxury property.
In Town Hotels / Apartments
B&B Daria – A quiet space in the tiny village of Monticchiello. Rooms, common areas, and outdoor spaces are lovingly decorated. This is a place to relax and rejuvenate.
Albergo Le Terme – If you want a base in Bagno Vignoni but plan on spending a lot of time out and about exploring, you’ll love this simple hotel in town (with spa and thermal bath).
Hotel Posta Marcucci – Elegant, historic hotel in Bagno Vignoni. You can use the thermal pools and the spa – or sit in a lounge chair and enjoy the views. Relaxing, romantic, and I find it to be very quiet (so if you have energetic kids like mine you may want to pass on this place).
Giardino Segreto Pienza – I’ve stayed here on quick trips to Pienza and appreciate that it’s right in town. Simple, casual furnishings, a little garden outside the rooms, and sweet owners.
La Bandita Townhouse – Chic in-town rooms on a tiny lane in Pienza. If you like a more modern room (and aren’t so into the Tuscan countryside décor) then this place is for you. Not to be confused with La Bandita (in the valley, closed in 2023).
La Chiusa – I’ve stayed here quite a few times and appreciate the casual feel and that it’s a quick walk into the tiny hamlet of Montefollonico. I love sitting on the walls in front in the evening and enjoying the views. There’s also a nice cooking class here.
Transport to and Around the Val d’Orcia
Driving in the Val d’Orcia
The best way to get to and around the Val d’Orcia is with your own car. If you’re not interested in driving, you can also get a private driver (NCC – noleggio con conducente).
I don’t recommend trying to visit Val d’Orcia with public transportation – you’ll spend your entire time traveling or waiting for transport.
Good To Know: If you really don’t want to drive, you could also take a taxi (or get a private driver) to your accommodation and either move around on foot, by taxi, or by bicycle. This option works if you’re planning on having a relaxing stay and don’t need to move around to see a lot during your visit.
Helpful Tip: One of my all time favorite roads is near here – the road that goes through the Crete Senesi from Taverna d’Arbia to Asciano. I call it the ‘roller coaster road’ – it’s got a lot of ups and downs as it winds through the ‘clay hills’ of Siena, past cypress-lined drives, rolling hills, and grazing sheep. It’s at its best in the spring when the hills are bright green.
Val d’Orcia Tuscany FAQ
Don’t drive up to Monte Amiata expecting amazing views – it’s a wooded area. There’s not really anything to see or do up top, but if you love chestnuts, visit in the fall to collect them!
If you’re a cyclist, it’s a fun climb up!
You can walk the main street in 5 minutes, but the beauty of the village lies in wandering and taking in the little side streets and alleys. I’d allow at least a couple of hours for exploring and stopping for a meal or glass of wine.