The essence of Tuscany: Via Francigena & Val d’Orcia - TUS 1
This is a moderately easy tour which is suitable for those who have some experience with walking and a good general physical condition. Through the extensive footpath network of the area, roughly following the traces of the Via Francigena, one of Europe’s most important ‘high ways’ in medieval times, you walk from village to village, a full immersion in the world-famed Tuscan landscape.
It is a perfect introduction to the region and for people who love museums and galleries, Gothic and Romanesque architecture, there is plenty to see and do. You have plenty of time for attraction visits on most days.
You have the time to visit the historic towns of San Gimignano, Colle Val D’Elsa Siena and Montepulciano, and of course all the beautiful medieval villages long the Via Francigena and in the Val d’Orcia: Monteriggioni, already admired by Dante, San Quirico, Buonconvento, Bagno Vignoni and Pienza, arguably the most perfect Renaissance town of Tuscany, as this tour threads together some of the most attractive towns and villages in Tuscany in an eloquent procession.
However the emphasis of the tour is to enjoy the countryside, the rolling vineyards, the poppies in spring and the wild cyclamen in autumn. Most of all, many of the views have changed little for hundreds of years. South of Siena, you head off into a coffee table book Tuscan landscape of gentle hills, tipped by a lonely pine or oak tree while cypresses line the way leading to the distant farmhouses.
At first you walk mainly through forests and vineyards, then through the spectacular rolling hills of the Crete Senesi, with its extensive fields of wheat and sunflowers, and finally the rolling hills of the Val d’Orcia, scattered with picturesque small towns. Walking here is an unforgettable experience!
You spend a night in one of the most beautiful convents of Tuscany at Monte Oliveto Maggiore. This is a typical red brick Monastery where friars of the Benedictine Order still worship. Staying overnight there is a memorable experience. The next historical villages are Buonconvento and Montalcino, surrounded by vineyards of San Giovese grapes, for the famous Brunello wine. Then you enter the Val d’Orcia, a unique landscape scattered with wonderful small towns; San Quirico, Pienza and Bagno Vignoni, with its unique town square: a huge pool of healthy sulphurous water. Our tour finishes in the city of Montepulciano where mediaeval architecture and vineyards line the landscape.
Arrival in Florence and transfer to Colle Val d’Elsa (either by private taxi or public transport), where you settle in at your hotel just below the medieval town centre, known for its perfectly preserved ‘tunnel’ streets and its crystalware. Depending on your arrival time, you could go for a quick visit to the town centre.
Hotel *** – Colle Val d’Elsa
Approx. walking time: 1 h. + sightseeing time
The first day walk takes you at first through the whole historical town centre of Colle Val D’Elsa, perhaps not as famous as other Tuscan towns, but with a very interesting centre. Then you descend into the valley where you pick up one of the supposed routes of the ancient Via Francigena. Along this route, through a pleasant hilly landscape of vineyards and forests you reach the small hamlet of Bibbiano. Another descent brings you down into the valley of the river Foci. Follows a short stretch through the river valley and past an old water mill. Then you start to climb up along a comfortable track up to the beautiful agriturismo, where you will spend the next two nights. Be sure to be there on time, to enjoy its fabulous setting and surroundings, and perhaps its library or swimming pool. For those who want there is also a longer option to walk to here. Dinner at the private restaurant is included tonight.
Agriturismo *** – San Gimignano
Distance: 14 km. Approx. 4 h. walking. Ascent & descent: + 125 m./- 100 m.
After breakfast you begin your walk to San Gimignano, directly from the agriturismo. First make your way up along the ridge to the small hamlets of Ciuciano and San Donato, passing along several old ‘pievi’ (countryside churches) and villa’s and often with wonderful views of the skyline of San Gimignano. This town – sometimes referred to as having the only “skyscrapers” in Tuscany – is an absolute must, a wonderful medieval city with picturesque vineyards, olive and cypress groves on either side. You have time to explore this small romantic old town with towers that remain from medieval times. The town once had 52 of these towers (there are now less than a dozen). Wealthy, prominent families would use the height of these towers to distinguish themselves, and the towers also served to alert the inhabitants of this walled town of approaching friends and foes. Do make a nice stroll along its impressive medieval town walls. In the town itself there are numerous places to enjoy lunch. Then you follow the Via Francigena back to your agriturismo: first to the convent of Monte Oliveto, located on a wide ridge, then down to a small stream, which you have to cross, before you climb back up to your agriturismo. At night you have another good meal at the agriturismo.
Agriturismo *** – San Gimignano
Distance: 16 km. Approx. 5 h. walking. Ascent & descent: +/- 250 m.
Today you leave the agriturismo, heading for Monteriggioni, defined by Dante as a crown in the landscape. The walk first brings you down into the river valley, and then more or less following the Foci, you reach one of the most wonderful Romanesque churches of Tuscany, la Badia a Conèo. The next stop is Quartaia, followed by Gracciano, once one of the most important wheat towns of Tuscany. Another short stretch brings you to the Badia ad Isola, once an important stop on the medieval Via Francigena, and a very intriguing building. The final destination for today is Monteriggioni, where you’ll have the time for a drink in the square. Then you are picked up by your taxi and transferred to Siena, where you settle in your centrally located hotel, and just a few minutes away from the famous ‘Piazza del Campo’. In the evening you can take a nice stroll into town to have dinner in one of the many nice restaurants, or sip a drink in the ‘Piazza del Campo’.
Hotel *** – Siena
Distance: 20 km. Approx. 5,5 h. walking. Ascent & descent: +/- 100 m.
Optional Extra day: Siena
Take your time to explore Siena, one of Italy’s most beautiful medieval towns. Its heart is the perfect, shell-shaped Piazza del Campo, scene of the Palio, with the Palazzo Pubblico and the nearby Duomo of black-and-white marble. Enough to see and do for a day.
Today you first make a short train journey to Asciano, a beautiful, yet relatively unknown walled town. From here you start your walk in a southern direction. You cross the fascinating hilly region known as the Crete Senesi, a fascinating area of odd-shaped clay hills. In the afternoon you reach the monastery of Monte Oliveto Maggiore, built in the 14th century by the Olivetan monks. Surrounded by a forest of cypresses, this building is famous throughout the world for the frescoes in the courtyard painted by the 15th-century painters Signorelli and Sodoma. The library and church of the convent are architectural masterpieces too. The walk is relatively short so there is time to visit both the charming village of Asciano and the monastery itself. Then you walk the last short stretch and settle in a nearby charming hotel. In the evening you dine at the restaurant on the premises of the hotel.
Hotel *** – Asciano
Distance: 12 km. Approx. 3-4 h. walking. Ascent & descent: + 100 m./- 25 m.
Past the monastery of Monte Oliveto you first walk uphill to the small village of Chiusure, in a commanding position on a ridge, with a wonderful view of the monastery and the whole ‘Crete Senesi’ area. Then you continue your walk, mostly downhill, to Buonconvento, another walled medieval town. Crossing olive tree fields along woodland tracks and so-called ‘strade bianche’ (‘white’ gravel roads), you will eventually reach this small town, where Emperor Henry VII died in 1313. From here you have the possibility of either continuing the walk or taking the bus to San Quirico, where you stay for the next two nights.
Hotel *** – San Quirico
Distance: 12 km. Approx. 3-4 h. walking. Ascent & descent: + 25 m./- 150 m.
You first make an easy stroll along another ‘strada bianca’ to the wonderful Ripa d’Orcia, a small fortified village in a strategic position above the River Orcia. On the other side of the river lies the castle of Rocca d’Orcia and Monte Amiata, a former volcano, symbol of southern Tuscany and important today for its thermal water. You then walk along the banks of the Orcia and reach Bagno Vignoni, which was built in the 13th century to allow Lorenzo de’ Medici and various popes to relax in healthy thermal water. This little village is very peculiar. Indeed, instead of the usual central square, there is a large thermal pool! Especially on cooler days, the effect of the rising steam is incredible. Then you can either take a bus back to San Quirico or walk up the gravel road and past the hamlet of Vignoni to return to San Quirico.
Hotel *** – San Quirico
Distance: 8 km. Approx. 2,5 h. walking. Ascent & descent: + 75 m./- 50 m.
Optional Extra day: Roundwalk Montalcino – Sant’Antimo
This walk starts from Montalcino, the highest and one of the most scenic villages of the area. It takes you partly through the vineyards, and partly through the more forested landscape south of Montalcino. The goal of the walk is to reach the stunning Abbey of Sant’Antimo (Abbazia di Sant’Antimo), “one of the finest Romanesque religious buildings in Italy.” The church dates from the 12th century and is built in a picture-perfect setting, in a large valley with views of the hill town Castelnuovo dell’Abate, rolling hills covered in olive groves and vineyards, and wild forests.
Hotel *** – San Quirico
Distance: 12,5 km. Approx. 3,5-4 h. walking. Ascent & descent: + 150 m./- 350 m.
Today you walk from San Quirico to Pienza, a small, perfectly laid-out Renaissance town. You leave San Quirico in an eastern direction through the medieval town gate. The route mainly follows so-called strade bianche through the archetypal Tuscan landscape. Around lunchtime you reach the wonderful Renaissance town of Pienza, where you have time to look around and perhaps visit the beautiful museum, inside the Palace of Pope Pius II. Pienza is often described as the “ideal city” or the “utopian city”. It is certainly one of the best planned Renaissance towns, where a model of ideal living and government was attempted. It represented the utopia of the “civitas“, based on the concept of a town able to satisfy the needs of a peaceful and hardworking population. Pienza’s location in the centre of the Val d’Orcia, a wonderfully harmonious valley, helps the town to embody the fundamental principle that humanistic architecture attempted to create: a balanced relationship between Man and Nature. After your visit you take the local bus to Montepulciano, where you settle in at a nice welcoming hotel, just below the main square.
Hotel *** – Montepulciano
Distance: 8 km. Approx. 2,5 h. walking. Ascent & descent: + 75 m./- 50 m.
After breakfast you walk down the medieval alleys of Montepulciano to the impressive Chiesa di San Biagio, a 16th-Century church nestled on the edge of the village walls, overlooking the winding valley below. From here you commence the walk into the picturesque valley and through vineyards and olive groves, past pastel-coloured villas and across rolling hills. This is a morning of delightful Tuscan scenery, enjoyed and experienced at its best – on foot. You then reach the peaceful village of Montichiello, where you can enjoy a flavoursome lunch under the welcome shade of creeping grapevines with a stunning view out over Montichiello’s ancient village gateway. After lunch you can either continue the walk and reach the wonderful Renaissance town of Pienza, or join the locals on a short local bus ride back to Montepulciano and enjoy a sightseeing tour of its labyrinthine maze of alleyways and imposing defensive walls. The rest of the afternoon you are free to explore and perhaps shop among Montepulciano’s classy boutiques.
Hotel *** – Montepulciano
Distance: 14 km. Approx. 4-5 h. walking. Ascent & descent: + 250 m./- 350 m.
End of the tour. From Montepulciano it’s easy to return to either Rome or Florence.
ACCOMMODATION & MEALS
All nights are spent in beautiful, characteristic family-run hotels (generally 3-star; 4/5-star on request) and beautiful agriturismos. All rooms have en-suite facilities.
Most accommodations are on a B&B basis. Only in the agriturismo (2 nights) and the hotel near the monastery of Monte Oliveto (1 night) are you on a half-board basis; the other nights you will be free to organise your evening meal. You can either eat at the premises of the hotel (on some occasions) or choose from the wide choice of restaurants in the area. Your accommodation holder can give you good tips.
No picnic lunches are included in the tour price, but these can be prepared for you by the accommodation holders, or materials for picnics can be purchased in the villages where you’ll be staying. On some occasions you have the option of having your lunch in a restaurant along the way.
It is possible to upgrade this tour, staying in more luxurious 4-star hotels (except for the agriturismo in San Gimignano – which is already 4-star level). Upgraded accommodation in Pienza is also available as an alternative to the hotel in Montepulciano.
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY
Moderately easy (2-3): Mostly easy walks, but with nonetheless some walking uphill, sometimes on paths with rough surfaces. On some days extensions or shortcuts are possible.
Fitness: High standard of fitness is not necessary but clients should be able to walk for up to 5 hours a day in hot sun on dusty or stony tracks.
N.B. During Summer, due to the heat, the level of difficulty of this tour definitely increases. We do therefore not recommend to book this tour from about 14th July until 20th August.
FOOTPATHS & WAYMARKING
Footpaths: Most paths are relatively well maintained; on many occasions you’ll follow so-called strade bianche (un-surfaced roads), easy to follow and very unlikely to get overgrown (we continuously check our routes – please help us by providing you feedback on the quality of the paths).
Waymarking: A large part of the route is waymarked , but on some occasions we have found more interesting routes than those actually waymarked; therefore it is necessary to follow the route descriptions provided together with the maps. With these it is always possible to find your route
- 1 night Hotel in Colle Val d’Elsa*** – BB
- 2 nights Agriturismo in San Gimignano*** – HB
- 1 night in Siena*** – BB
- 1 night in Monte Oliveto – HB
- 2 nights in San Quirico d’Orcia*** – BB
- 2 nights in Montepulciano*** – BB
- Extensive route notes, with description of the route & tourist information
- Maps at 1 : 25.000 scale
- GPS tracks for each day
- 24/7 assistance
- Luggage transport
- Private transfers as specified
- Departure taxes
- Travel Insurance
- Tourist tax
- Drinks and meals not mentioned in the itinerary
- Optional additional tours or activities
- Items of personal nature
ARRIVAL & DEPARTURE
Arrival: The tour starts in COLLE VAL D’ELSA, connected with FLORENCE by a frequent bus service.
A taxi pick-up service can be arranged either from Florence (hotel, airport or train station), or from Pisa (airport).
Departure: The tour ends in MONTEPULCIANO. A frequent bus service can bring you to one of the nearest train stations (Montepulciano and Chiusi), from where there are regular trains to both Rome and Florence. Upon request a taxi service is available to bring you directly to your next destination.
|15 November 2022 - 14 March 2023||- - -||- - -||- - -||CONTACT US|
|You can book this tour with a minimum of 1 person.|
|There are a very limited number of available places on these dates. Immediate booking is recommended.|
|Availability and prices on request.|
- Prices are per person and based on the season within which the first night of the tour falls.
- Prices are based on 2 people sharing double or twin accommodation. Single rooms (double rooms – single) are available on most trips however the supplements listed apply.
- If you are travelling alone then on some trips (which include taxi transfers) a ‘Solo Traveller Supplement’ will be applied instead of the normal single supplement.
- Prices are expressed in Euro’s. There will never be a currency surcharge.
- Actual exchange rates: GB £ - US $ - CAN $ - CHF - DKK - SEK - NOK - Other currencies.
It is possible to include some extra nights in your tour, in any of the accommodations ‘en route’. For those who have never been in Siena an extra day here is strongly recommended.
At the beginning or the end of the tour there is the opportunity to visit Florence. The tour can easily be extended with a few days there. Also in ROME several good accommodations are available. Details and prices on request.
The tour can also be extended with a few days on a beautiful agriturismo, for some relax in the countryside. Several superb accommodations are available. Details & prices on request.
PREMIERE INN’ LUXURY VERSION
A luxury version of this tour is also available, with stays in the most authentic luxury hotels of the area. We can offer you a large selection of ‘Premiere Inns’, very good hotels, some among the world’s best hotels, as acclaimed from Condé Nast Traveler, Travel+Leisure and many others.
Genius Loci Travel, as the leading adventure travel company in Italy, can book your room in any hotel you could dream of!
SHORTER & LONGER VERSIONS
A shorter, 8-day version of this tour, which includes both the area North, as well the area South of Siena, is also available.
Also other shorter versions of this tour are available. These tours feature either the area of San Gimignano & Siena, or the Val d’Orcia. See also our other Tuscany tours !
Possible extensions: Rome, Florence, and why not: Umbria ! Prices on request.