July 14, 2020
Let the summer begin with a road-trip into one of the best know and more beautiful regions of Italy: my dearest Tuscany!
The world knows it as the region of Florence and Pisa, the land of hills and cypress trees. Not everybody knows that Tuscany has a variety of landscapes and those typical “Tuscan postcards” mainly belongs to a specific area called: Val d’Orcia! I think this is the most spectacular corner of the region and even if you randomly find your-self driving its roads you’ll see ‘lunar’ landscapes, endless hills and romantic farms all over.
Today, with the help of Cignella Villas I could stay in the area and take time to organize a special Photo-tour-guide of the most iconic places of Tuscany, all of them very close this romantic accommodations surrounded by nature and silence; but first things first!
If this guide contributed to inspire your Tuscan trip please share this with your friends and don’t forget to tag @meandtuscany in your Tuscan pictures, I LOVE to see people enjoying the places that I suggested !
Probably the most iconic and Instagrammable straight-cypress-tree-line of the world!
It is set in the area of Castiglione d’Orcia and it is only 15km away from the well-known Bagni di San Filippo!
Don’t get stressed if you need to wait your turn to take a picture here! Everyday people stop just for that.
The cypress-tree has a prevalent role in Tuscany as a decoration for roads and pathways. How-ever it is also a spiritual symbol and it is associated with death (with the most natural and positive meaning); in fact you’ll often see these trees as loyal guardians of the Tuscan’s cemeteries. In this case (and all the others I am going to mention) they cypress lines are there only as a decoration.
If you set “Poggio Covili” on google maps you should be able to find it easily. If not, these are the coordinates: 43.024580, 11.638191
The Cypress trees will always be the protagonists of this land! The road you see is leading to a small little borgo in between Pienza and Montepulciano. It became famous for this iconic serpentine-road that you can shoot from a particular spot. It is really hard to be efficient and describ it in words, that’s why I saved the coordinates in my phone notes. Basically, along the road “sp88” (coming from Pienza and before reaching Monticchiello) there is a little tiny way on the right side of the street: less that one minute and you’ll see the serpentine-like road on your left. Here are the exact coordinates: 43.062028, 11.722854
Here you will find a little chapel literally lost in the countryside and nowadays protected by UNESCO. You’ll be surrounded by an ocean of waving hills, and again you’ll see the Tuscan trees as loyal guardians of this little gem.
It has ancient origins (like more or less everything in Italy ;) ) and it was built on an more antique sanctuary. What you see today is the result of a late restoring in the 17th century. It is set in the area of San Quirico d’Orcia, a village nearby, and one beautiful thing to know is that there are also walking tracks crossing this site.
This site isn’t on a main road, it is signaled by a brown signal on “sp146”; from there you’ll access to a dirt road, after like 3 minutes by car you’ll see a group of parked cars and there is the access to the short way taking to the chapel. Cars aren’t allowed in.
In case you visit Vitaleta on an off season and you are that lucky not to find any parked car ..well..you’ll have to drive slowly and pay attention looking for an anonymous gate on the left! Sorry, I know that it sounds weird, but the small signal they put at the gate entrance isn’t really so easy to see by car if you don’t know the place already! Use the following coordinates for a better guide.
Also, the chapel is at a close contact with a private farm, please just stay about the church and be respectful of other’s property, including the cultivated lands as they are farmers.
Here are the coordinates : 43.070951, 11.634435
The queen picture of all the Tuscan pictures. This perfect skyline, the sun setting right behind it, the framing of an untouched nature creates The Tuscan shot!
You cannot see it from the main road, you’ll only see a nice gate with a signal saying “Baccoleno Agriturismo”. On the left of the gate you’ll shortly climb a little hill and follow the way in the grass left by all the photographers! The top moment for a picture here is the sunset of course, but be prepared to share this wonderful place with many other photographers who arrive early to claim their spot for the perfect shot! Be kind and don’t step into other people’s video or pic! I think early morning could be an option to find your-self alone here, even in the peak season.
Little tip: want to see the yellow flowers? Then visit here in April-May !
Find Baccoleno along the “sp60” right in this spot: 43.201518, 11.590821
Also known as Cipressini (little cypress trees) of UNESCO. This site is really close to the village of San Quirico d’Orcia and nowadays it is a symbol of the Tuscan landscape.
People say that originally they were planted for every new born of the village nearby, in an historical moment in which people were abandoning the countryside to go living in the cities. This is what is left and now under the protection of UNESCO. On the internet you’ll find that this group of trees is mainly useful for bird hunting, but I heard the other version from a local and I am keen on believing that one! Also because things like that still happens today (the village I come from planted a number of cypress trees along a road and entitled them one by one to the new born of a certain year).
Again, you’ll see a number of cars parked right in front of it. You can see them very well from the main road “sr2”, precisely here: 43.064239, 11.558381
Just look at this! How incredible is this hot spring?! Truly nature is the best designer of all! One other beautiful thing of this amazing hot spring is that it is completely free. You may don't know that, because of a law of Mussolini's times, all of these natural hot springs must be kept free and available for all. Private businesses can use the waters but never completely close them to the public. The only thing you'll need to pay for is the car-parking. You can actually come here also at night, to enjoy the warmth of these waters when the temperature is nicely chilly. Also a little warning: you'll smell as rotten egg after a bath in here ! Sulfuric waters smell like this. However this is an experience that cannot be missing from your trip in Val d'Orcia.
*Please notice: this picture was taken in 2018 and the water's streams where still coming down from the higher peaks of the "white whale"(the name of that big white stone you see. Nowadays there have been changings so that it is forbidden to climb up there. Please respect the rules and signals for your own safety and to protect the integrity of Tuscany's nature. We are blessed to have such a free spot where everybody can enjoy a beautiful moment, let's respect the rules and keep it clean, thank you !
Please notice: you cannot reach these places by bus or trains! You need to rent a car for this tour. Even if some of them might be on the way of a bus (and just some) I find it not reliable because every city in Tuscany has its own bus system, website, rules and it is very confusing. I can tell this as a local: I had troubles my-self looking for them in the past, I might find bus-timetables but my experience is that I can never trust them; there might be changings or festives that aren’t well communicated (and/or not in English) and you might find yourself very disappointed. Busses and trains are perfect to travel from city to city(and into the cities as well). Every time you’ll want to go in the countryside in Tuscany (and Italy??) I recommend having a car.
Also, all the sites of this list are free and unguarded. Some of them are, or are about, private property, so I recommend to have a respectful behavior for locals and nature. Just take a picture, enjoy the view and go ;)
You want to visit all of this sites in one day? My slow-living Italian heart suffers but..it’s possible ! Just joking guys, the suggestion is –as always- to take 2-3 days to enjoy not only the most imstagrammable places of Tuscany but also the charming villages nearby such as Bagno Vignoni, Pienza, Monticchiello, Montepulciano, Trequanda, Castiglione d’Orcia.
To have a better experience of the area I recommend finding an accommodation in a good position and I suggest Cignella Villas if you are nature lovers as much as I am!
The building is perfectly matched with our countryside. Lots of privacy, no noises AT ALL and a breathtaking view on the whole valley and even further reaching Trasimeno lake (across Tuscany’s borders).
I felt really restored to stop there after a long day of travelling, shooting, visiting, sweating ‘under the Tuscan sun’. The villas are isolated and also perfect for families, with a nice big pool, lavender plants and again a relaxing quiet. I only regret I didn’t stay longer!
Meet Luca, a very gentle host, that can support your days with so many good advices for places, restaurants, car rentals and everything you might need or want to see.
I felt really at ease in those big-ceiling rooms, with a minimal and classy interior décor. Here you’ll have your private kitchen and an access to all the main sites of Val d’Orcia, including the good recommendation for activities such as wine and olive-oil tasting, cheese tasting, cooking classes and more.
Also, here in Tuscany weather can be really hot in summer: those of you who experienced Florence in august might know what I am talking about! Cignella is a little high up on a hill, they have a better fresh air, nicely chilly at night and they are also blessed not to have all those mosquitos that are my biggest trouble in summer.
Here a little extract of my personal diary that I wrote the last day of my stay at Cignella:
“I am sitting on a sofa in my apartment-for-the-week-end right now. In front of me there’s a window opening on a crazy beautiful panorama. I can see the whole Val d’Orcia and more from my seat, and I felt inspired to start writing here. This is when I am proud of leading people to virtually explore this amazing corner of the world and possibly inspire their next road-trip. Here at Cignella there is silence the whole day long, guests are quiet and there is a permanent fresh wind which is the equivalent of a natural fan! After 2 days I really feel like staying longer, because I firmly believe that one needs time to soak in new places.
Days like the Tuscan summer ones make you believe time isn’t just flowing. There’s no rush, nothing really that important to let you perceive pressure.
I think the plans for the day will be some editing, a nice restaurant and a swimming pool break before getting back home. I adored this accommodation in Tuscany and I sincerely wish I can get back or even have such a place that I could call home one day. Yes. That’s how I liked it here.” Francesca - Note to self, Cignella July2020
Cignella Villas Offcial Web Site
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October 20, 2019
Peacefull observer of sunrise and lands waking up. Counting the grapes in the vineyards; saying hi to the animals running down below, having sneak peak in farms and villa like only a bird would do.
All this is Tuscany from a hot-air balloon. The very best way to overlook this amazing land!
September 22, 2019
An accurate description of my latest choices regarding Florence's Typical Restaurants!
In summer 2019 I discovered Trattoria Il Trebbio and Osteria Belle Donne a few steps away from Florence main train station in full city center.
August 13, 2019