“Val d’Orcia”, the Southern Tuscan Countryside

A month or so ago Jim told me that him and Pasquale would be heading to Montalcino for “Benvenuto Brunello” on 21 November and asked if I’d like to go with them. Pasquale owns a local restaurant and is a wine sommelier. Jim and Pasquale love to talk about wine, shop for wine, and drink wine. At this event they would be tasting the recent releases of Brunello di Montalcino, considered to be amongst the best wine of Italy. Nope… no interest in a 2.5-hour drive there, tasting a bunch of wine, then a 2.5-hour drive back all in the same day.

Two days before the big event, Jim asked again. He suggested that it would be helpful to have a “designated driver” but I protested – they don’t actually drink the wine; they taste it then spit it out. (Hence my lack of interest in attending.) But then Jim said that they would still be absorbing some of the alcohol into their system and they planned to taste a lot of wine. So, I agreed to go. And I started planning some places where I could drive to see some of the beautiful scenery of southern Tuscany known as “Val d’Orcia”.

At 5:45am Pasquale came to our house, I got into the backseat and tried to make a bed in the back of a Mini Cooper. 2.5 hours later I woke up as we were close to Montalcino and was excited to see fog (oh, cool pictures!). Then realized that there was A LOT of fog. Perhaps I would get some cool pictures later in the morning?

We had breakfast and coffee, they headed to their wine tasting which started at 9am (another reason for my lack of interest in attending) and I took off for a leisurely morning of driving around the countryside to look for beautiful scenery. I stopped about 3 minutes later and took my first pictures – with the edge of Montalcino on a hill top and layers of fog. Perhaps it was going to be a good day after all!

Montalcino with layers of fog

And a few minutes later, I took a picture of showing all of Montalcino with some wispy fog.

Montalcino, famous hilltop Tuscan town

In the meantime, Jim and Pasquale stopped for another coffee and had the opportunity to enjoy the foggy valley.

My first destination was Cappella della Madonna di Vitaleta, a small chapel in the countryside. This is one of the locations that photographers love and I was inspired from pictures like this and this and this. Although it was longish walk to get there (which sounded painful with my bad right knee), one of the pages showed a great spot where a photographer with a long lens could get great views. Not happening with this fog, so I prepared myself for the 15-minute walk and was “welcomed” by a gate that made it clear that you were to walk and not drive to the peaceful chapel.

Within a few minutes I found myself on a dirt “road” with plowed fields on both sides covered in fog. And no people anywhere to be seen. It was a little eerie…

And then I finally reached my destination, but it did not look like the pristine “inspiration” photos that I saw. We are talking major constructions!

So, I spent some time, played with some different compositions, and came up with a few nice pictures of the chapel with a foggy, dreamy feeling. On the way back, I did see two different couples who were likely envisioning the perfect Instagram shot. I just gave them an update on how much further and let them discover the construction on their own.

Cappella della Madonna di Vitaleta (rear)
Cappella della Madonna di Vitaleta (front)

I then proceeded to drive around the countryside stopping often to take pictures of the beautiful landscape. There were so many beautiful scenes… it really was so lovely to just take them all in. Here are a few more shots that I took – click for full size.

I planned to head to the Abbey of Sant’Antimo. Jim and I had seen it twice before, even attending one of the services where the monks chant throughout the mass. But this morning I had made too many stops, so I needed to head back to Montalcino to meet Jim and Pasquale. Here are a few pictures from those prior trips.

Abbey of Sant’Antimo in 2014, another foggy day
Abbey of Sant’Antimo in 2015, on a sunny day

I headed back to Montalcino and found Jim and Pasquale. They had tasting 60 wines! We started the long drive home and they chatted about this wine and that wine. Until they fell quiet and rested. The day was a success – they enjoyed many of their old favorites, each discovered a few new ones, and noted those that they did not like.

We look forward to more visits to Montalcino, hopefully for a longer stay next time!

4 thoughts on ““Val d’Orcia”, the Southern Tuscan Countryside

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