If you're planning a vacation to Italy, the region of Tuscany is a must-stop travel hot spot that you need to visit during your trip as it's known for its landscapes, traditions and rich history! While you search for Tuscany villas for rent to accommodate your stay, you might be wondering where to start your sight-seeing vacation once you get settled. While you could certainly traverse through the popular Tuscan cities of Florence or Pisa, you may want to take the road less traveled and start your adventure in the scenic valley area south of Montepulciano.
Most tourists know Montepulciano for its highly rated red wine, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, however, traveling through the beautiful hills of Montepulciano will truly take your Italian vacation to another level. This part of the Tuscan region, scattered with small, well-preserved medieval villages, enormous fortresses and ancient thermal springs, remains unaltered and mostly unaffected by mass tourism. On top of that, restaurant prices throughout the valley are consistently modest. With that said, it's worth spending the day in the area and Parker Villas has a great suggested itinerary you can follow starting in Montepulciano!
An Unforgettable Adventure
First, head toward the village of Pienza, which is the unforgettable pastoral setting for the film "The English Patient", by taking the SS146, known as one of the most scenic drives in Tuscany. The valley between Montepulciano and Pienza is scattered with herds of sheep and famed for its Pecorino cheese. For anyone visiting in the Fall, make sure to experience the Fiera del Cacio, a cheese festival, which takes place in Pienza on the first Sunday.
If you continue west to San Quirico d'Orcia you'll come across a lively pedestrian thoroughfare lined with restaurants, cafes, wine shops and boutiques. It's the perfect place to stop for lunch and pick up souvenirs of locally made herbal soaps and lotions. If you are there during the third weekend in June make sure to attend the Festa del Barbarossa, a festival with a medieval costume procession through the village ending at the Horti Leonini Italianate gardens, where neighborhoods compete in archery and flag throwing.
Arriving at the Thermal Spas & Hot Springs
A 10-minute drive south leads to the sleepy medieval gem of Bagno Vignoni and a Roman-era thermal bath occupying the main square that's bordered by a few small shops and restaurants. During the Renaissance, this became a popular resort thanks to Lorenzo il Magnifico who came here to bathe in the medicinal water as the thermal water rises up 3200 feet to reach the surface at a temperature of 125 degrees F. The parking area for the village, beside the ruins of a 12th century mill, has a phenomenal view across the entire valley. Be sure to stop and take pictures of the breathtaking scenery!
Our next recommended stop is a small village called Bagno San Filippo that features hot spring pools, waterfalls and calcified formations. This spot was frequented by the Etruscans and made into a resort area by the Romans. Visitors are able to swim under the waterfalls and in the natural spring pools, so bring your bathing suit if you want to take a dip. If you want get the most out of this little village, the "Terme San Filippo" is a hotel spa offering day passes, skincare treatments and products made from the springs' curative waters.
Continue the southern scenic loop across the valley toward the medieval village of Cetona, a perfect stop for a coffee or gelato at one of the cafes aligning the charming town square. Fun fact: Giorgio Armani has a summer residence in the area. When not searching for the elite, visit the Mount Cetona Archaeological Park (open July - September), home of the prehistoric Belvedere caves.
From Cetona, pick up the Chiusi exit on the A1 highway, which is a short 15-minute drive away, to head back home to your Tuscan villa in Montepulciano. If you don't get a chance to visit Tuscany this summer, you can still plan your trip for the fall because there's still plenty to see and do!
If you are traveling in late fall, don’t worry. There are plenty of the medieval festivals the area is known for:
- The Sagra del Fungo e Castagna, is the feast of the mushroom and the chestnut, which takes place on the 2nd and 3rd weekends of October in Vivo d'Orcia. Food stands offer mushrooms dishes, roasted chestnuts and jams.
- The Sagra del Marrone is the feast of the chestnut in Campligia d'Orcia, held on the last Sunday in October. The village's three neighborhoods compete against one another in decorating, performing arts and food. Visitors walk through each area to judge their favorites and cast a ballot to decide the winner, who is announced that evening.
- The white truffle festival in San Giovanni d'Asso takes place on the 2nd and 3rd weekends in November, to highlight the truffle season, which runs from September through December. The town has an imposing castle that houses the Museo del Tartufo, which is open on weekends.
Are you ready to plan your vacation by finding the perfect Tuscany villa for rent so you can experience everything Italy has to offer? Search for villas or apartments in Tuscany with Parker Villas today!