The Val d'Orcia is a cultural landscape made out of farmlands and fortified villages on hilltops.
The landscape as it unfolds nowadays was created by wealthy Siennese merchants in the 14th and 15th centuries. The farms cultivate mainly grains, vines and olives. Rows of cypresses are also a distinctive sight.
The beauty of the area inspired Renaissance painters and early travellers on the Grand Tour alike.
ICOMOS only had meagre praise for this site when it evaluated inscription as a WHS. Not enough detail and no comparisons were supplied by the Italians. There's also the issue of the City of Pienza, which is considered to be a key part of the Val d'Orcia but was already a WHS in its own right. Both sites should be combined into one.
Visit February 2009
Although the landscape is pretty enough and quintessential Tuscan, this is a poor WHS. It has hills, olive trees and rows of cypresses. And there are still a lot of monumental farms around, although most of them seem to have been turned into Bed&Breakfasts.
My choice of sites to visit in this valley was limited because it was a Monday, the day that almost all sites in Italy that have paid access shut down. So no castles, monasteries, baths or mills for me. I just drove around a bit, taking some lesser roads, on my way to Orvieto (on the Tentative List, see separate review).
My first stop was at Castiglione d'Orcia. This town looks glued to the rocky hill where its built at. There are some nice old stone houses, and narrow streets to lose your way in. Closeby is Rocca d'Orcia, one of the most characteristic fortresses that adorn the hills in the Val d'Orcia.
Along the way there are also frequent signs pointing out the pilgrim's way Via Francigena. I think I encountered one pilgrim: an older man with walking sticks, braving the cold wind but well covered up in rain gear.
Tsunami - January 2017
I've visited several villages in Val d'Orcia WHS as recently as last year, but my favorite is Bagno Vignoni, which I visited in 1997.
This village is known in Italy today for its high-end spa, but it was also the main setting for the Russian filmmaking giant Andrei Tarkovsky's masterpiece Nostalgia (1983).
Nostalgia was directed by Tarkovsky but was written by him and Tonino Guerra, perhaps the world's greatest screen writer of his generation and one of the top Italian poets, who took Tarkovsky around Tuscany for location hunting for the movie.
This photo of the main square of the village, which is filled with water from a nearby hot spring, was taken by me 20 years ago and has been converted to a digital photo.
It was prohibited to get in the water when I was there, but people had supposedly gathered in the water to chitchat for centuries, as you can see in Nostalgia, just like they have been doing at any other squares in Europe.
The water at the square was consequently used as a metaphor for human condition to a devastating effect in the movie.
Apparently, Val d'Orcia inspires artists even today.
Clyde - August 2013
I visited this WHS in August 2013 and decided to take it easy to be able to enjoy the panoramic views, tiny villages, wineries and good food. I decided to base myself in San Quirico d'Orcia which is central to most interesting sites in the valley. I visited several places such as Castiglione d'Orcia, Rocca d'Orcia, Montalcino, Monticchiello, Montepulciano, La Foce, Chianciano Terme, Bagno Vignoni, Bagni San Filippo, etc. There is truly something for everyone here: food, wine, medievil cities, churches, art, thermal baths, hiking, photogenic landscapes, etc. I used to think that this WHS is rather redundant since Pienza is already inscribed on its own but I have come to think that it really deserves its status as a WHS and it really has an OUV if only you give it enough time to impress!
john booth - September 2011
A large area of rural Tuscany, the Val d'Orcia boasts endless vinyards and olive groves spread over an undulating landscape.
A comfortable way of seeing this area is to take the Treno Natura from Siena on one of its periodic perigrinations - mostly on spring and autumn weekends. At other times the nearest station is at Buonconvento. From here I took buses to Montalcino and to Pienza. From both of these hilltop towns there are extensive views over the landscape.
The Val d'Orcia is about two things for me: beautiful vistas and delicious wines. Staying with friends in a villa outside Siena in May 2004, I had ample opportunity to sample both. The roads in this part of Tuscany provide the archetypal imagery that has made the province famous, and the wines of Montalcino and Montepulciano are experiences in themselves.
Share your experiences!
Have you been to Val d'Orcia? Click here to add your own review.
Full name: Val d'Orcia
2004 - InscribedReasons for inscription
The site has 15 connections. Show all
- Contiguous National Sites With Pienza
- Via Francigena Via Francigena and its associated abbeys, inns, shrines, bridges etc are explicitly included in this WHS
- Built in the 14th century Landscape was made in the 14th century (AB)
- Tourist Treks Via Francigena (Pilgrims Route to Rome)
WHS on Other Lists
World Heritage Process
- Associative Cultural Landscape Cultural Landscape & criterion vi: Images of the Val d'Orcia, and particularly depictions of landscapes where people are depicted as living in harmony with nature, have come to be seen as icons of the Renaissance and have profoundly influenced the development of landscape thinking (AB ev)
- Recommended for combination by AB "Pienza a key part of the Val d'Orcia is already a WHS and will become surrounded by the Val d'Orcia if it is inscribed. Consideration should be given to combining the 2 sites" (ICOMOS)
- WHS with enclave Totally surrounds the city of Pienza (which is inscribed in its own right)