I know a lot of you are here because you have already booked trips to Tuscany. I have never been successful in dissuading people from visiting the 20th most interesting region in Italy and I know I'm not going to change your mind, but I'd like to plant the seed that there are other places in Italy that require attention and support. Maybe you can visit one of them on your next (or this!) trip!
For the few of you who are just researching and haven't landed on a destination, may I suggest going literally anywhere else in Italy? Have you heard of Molise? It's magic. What about Sardinia? There's nothing better. I'm certainly not going to deny the value of the people doing interesting and delicious things in Tuscany, but let's just all agree that there are other places in Italy worth your time and support. Either way, here are some tips for visiting the part of Tuscany that is most frequented by travelers, the Val d’Orcia and surrounding areas.
- Sesti Vineyard: It’s a whole fascinating lunar-calendar-based vineyard. Very cool place.
- Bagno Vignoni & San Quirico: Bagno Vignoni is a small village known for its thermal springs (there’s even water in the center of town). For thousands of years, the waters have attracted visitors for their healing qualities and they bring a sort of beautiful haunted tranquility to the zone. I love eating lunch at Osteria del Leone (Via Dei Mulini). There’s a sort of wacky archeological park in Bagno Vignoni, too, called Parco dei Mulini. Worth a peek if it’s not too hot. After BV, I like popping into San Quirico d’Orcia for a coffee and a stroll. It’s an absolutely stunning village founded in Etruscan times and populated by late medieval/Renaissance churches, palaces, and gardens.
- Pienza: Planned as an “ideal city” by Alberti and embellished by Pope Pius II, Pienza is absolutely gorgeous. La Bandita Townhouse is great for lunch and the gelato at Buon Gusto is probably the best gelato in Tuscany. Check out the Cathedral and the numerous luxurious palaces that put this tiny place on the map thanks to abundant papal patronage.
- La Foce: This super beautiful estate has a great restaurant called Dopolavoro, which serves traditional Tuscan dishes.
- Via Francigena: This ancient pilgrimage route connects Rome with Canterbury and a stretch of it cuts through the Val d’Orcia, the sub-region of Tuscany you are staying in. Pack a lunch and hit the trails for sweeping views over vineyards, medieval villages, and cypress groves. This site can key you into difficulty and possible itineraries (doing the whole thing is a bit ambitious, but a small part is doable with a pack full of water and snacks).