Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Many Landscapes of Tuscany: Val d'Orcia

The incredible Val d’Orcia has long been appreciated for its unique landscapes. These rolling hills that extend south from Siena to Monte Amiata were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2004. Cited for its exceptional natural beauty, this territory represents the Renaissance ideals of good governance and harmony with nature, which have set an example for the world of how to achieve and appreciate an aesthetically pleasing landscape. It is no wonder that for centuries painters have been inspired by these gently furrowed hills, with their changing colors, cultivated patchwork fields, scattered dwellings and winding roads lined with cypress trees. Even today, the Val d’Orcia remains one of the most photographed and filmed areas of Tuscany.

Thanks to some of its famous hilltop towns and top quality wines and cheeses, there is probably no one who doesn’t know this place. Perhaps the words Val d’Orcia are not familiar to everyone, but certainly Brunello, Montalcino, Pienza, Pecorino, Montepulciano (although just outside the official border), must ring a bell! 
This is the land of some of Tuscany’s most prized possessions.
Throughout history the location, more or less halfway between Florence and Rome, has made this area very popular. Its strategic position as a crossroads makes it an excellent home base for discovering the jewels of southern Tuscany, including the Maremma coast, and the neighboring regions of Umbria, and Lazio.

Another thing that makes this river valley so special is that it has preserved much of its ancient charm, keeping modernity and mass tourism at a certain distance. This is a place where nature still rules supreme, and those looking to escape from the bustle of city life will find a corner of paradise and tranquility waiting for them.

The sweeping landscapes, charming medieval towns, natural hot spring spas, extraordinary wine and food will astound and embrace you. These exceptional characteristics have given Val d’Orcia its most recent vocation as a luxury destination. Ancient farmhouses have undergone incredible restorations resulting in first-class accommodations for visitors interested in a full-immersion experience. Boutique hotels and spa resorts have been consistently improving, to offer some of the most state-of-the-art facilities in an unparalleled setting. 

While in Val d’Orcia one can do a myriad of things. Nature lovers can hike or bike to their hearts’ delight. History buffs can explore the many churches, monasteries, historic towns and tiny hamlets that will reveal secrets from the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Wine connoisseurs can indulge by visiting some of the world’s most revered vineyards. Foodies can enjoy the growing number of fine dining options which have made this area a center of culinary excellence in Italy

But most of all, visitors can get an authentic taste of Tuscany, where time seems to have remained suspended in order to offer us a glimpse of how life was so long ago.

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