PLACES OF INTEREST
The following is a summary of some of the historic towns and places of interest near us at Belsentiero, both in the Val d’Orcia and nearby. Each are worth visiting in their own right or combining together as part of a day trip. Distances are as per Google.
Distance: 500 metres
This is our local village, dating back to the 900s. It is very small, but has a café, a restaurant, a grocery store, a bakery, a general dealer (tabaccherie) and an ATM. Its the perfect place to take a stroll in the mornings, or to unwind at the local café (bar) for an aperitivo after a day of sight-seeing. For the more adventurous you can climb to the top of the rocca with its bell-tower and spectacular views of the Val d’Orcia. Campiglia is famous for its chestnuts and every last Sunday in October is worth visiting for the local chestnut festival.
Bagni San Filippo
Distance: 5 Km
This small spa town close to us is famous for its thermal spring which feeds into the local river, creating hot pools. It's popularity is due to the setting within the forest and the calciferous rock formations that have formed over many years.
Distance: 13 Km
The town of Castiglione d'Orcia is famous for its two castle towers which were part of the defensive structures of the area in the Middle Ages. Originally built and owned by the Salimbeni family who were the feudal lords of the area, the town later came under the control of the Republic of Siena in the 15th century.
Abbadia San Salvatore
Abbadia is a historic town founded in the 800s by the Lombard king Ratchis when he passed through the area, as an abbey. In its day this abbey controlled a large territory in the region and was very powerful. The crypt of the monastic church in the town, which dates back to the period of its founding, is well worth visiting. At one point the church also housed one of the oldest surviving bibles in the world, until this was moved to a museum in Florence.
Distance: 16 Km
Bagno Vignoi is a small medieval spa town, famous since the Roman times for its curative waters. It’s a great place to go for a spa-day, but also has a good gelateria and herborista (pharmacy selling products made using local herbs).
La Foce Gardens
Distance: 17 Km
The estate of La Foce is famous throughout the region for the role it played in bringing modern agriculture to the Val d’Orcia and the positive impact its original owners, Iris Origo together with her husband, had in the region. Her war diaries and other books have been widely acclaimed. Today La Foce is popular for its gardens which can be visited at specific times.
Distance: 19 Km
San Quirico is a beautiful medieval village in the Val d’Orcia with the Collegiate church of San Quirico a popular attraction. It also has a number of very good restaurants. Every year in May the Mille Miglia vintage car rally passes through San Quirico.
Distance: 20 Km
Radicofani is a medieval village with a great fortress at the top of the hill where it is based. From the fortress you have some of the best 360 degree views in the whole of the Val d’Orcia. It was built in a strategic position to guard the main road to Rome, the Francigena, the pilgrim route of the Middle Ages. It was also the home, for a period, of Ghino di Tacco, “The Robin Hood” of Italy who is mentioned by Dante.
Distance: 24 Km
Monte Amiata is the highest mountain in southern Tuscany (at 1,738 metres) and is an extinct volcano. It was considered to be a holy mountain by the Etruscans. Today the summit has a small ski resort (in winter snow is common at the top), as well as the Croce del Monte Amiata, a big iron cross built at the behest of Pope Leone XIII. The drive up is well worth it, due to the beautiful beech forest (the largest in southern Europe) through which one passes.
Distance: 25 Km
Pienza lies in the middle of the Val d’Orcia and is a town that was re-built by Pope Pius II to celebrate his birth place. This re-build included the first application of Renaissance humanist urban planning principles, which later spread throughout Europe. As such it is a beautiful town to visit with its travertine buildings and views of the val d’Orcia onto Mont Amiata. As you walk into the town you will immediately smell the pecorino cheese from all the cheese shops.
Distance: 28 Km
Montepulciano is one of my favourite hill towns. It is truly beautiful but be prepared to walk up some fairly steep medieval streets! It has numerous enoteche (wine shops) selling wine from the region. In some of these it it possible to explore the underground cellars which the town is famed for. On the last Sunday in August Montepulciano hosts its annual Bravio delle Botti (or wine barrel rolling) festival, a real treat!
Distance: 32 Km
Montalcino is the centre of the Brunello wine region in the north-western corner of the Val d’Orcia. The town is dominated by the Fortezza (fortress) which also contains a very good enoteca at which you can taste some of the best wines from the Brunello. A good place to stop for lunch when doing wine tastings in the region.