Hiking in the Tuscan hills is a dream for many. But the reality is not quite so easy. Read on to find two of our favorite hikes in the Val d’Orcia that give you a real sense of the beauty of Tuscany.
When we were first putting together our Small Group Tour of Tuscany we knew we wanted to have a couple of nice hikes available to our guests. During our research we found several that sounded great and narrowed it down to two.
In October of 2017 the ETC team took a practice trip to the area to scope out all our planned activities. We ate at family restaurants, visited our Tuscan villa, met our guides, and toured Brunello wineries.
We also tried our hikes and did not like them at all. They either were not as picturesque as described or hard to follow and difficult to find the trailhead. We had to reconsider.
After some more research we found two more hikes that were much better and we tried them out before our first guests arrived. Here are the hikes we shared with them on our Tuscany Tour.
Tuscany Hike 1 | Rocca d’Orcia to Bagno Vignoni
Our first hike is from the top of Rocca d’Orcia down to Bagno Vignoni. There is a parking lot just outside of town where we park and walk up into the medieval village.
This past year there were very interesting and lovely sculptures made out of a wire mesh scattered about town. We also discovered a Michelin starred restaurant, Osteria Perillà, we peaked into but haven’t tried yet. There is a fortress tower at the top of the hill and from there you can look onto the neighboring village of Castiglione d’Orcia.
After exploring the village you head down hill toward Bagno Vignoni. The trail is well marked and winds its way through vineyards, farmyards, and open pastoral fields. The views are stunning. The walk is about 4 km down to the Orcia river and is almost all downhill.
After crossing the river you find yourself at the bottom of the thermal springs that flow down from Bagno Vignoni. You walk up paths past a series of pools that get warmer the closer you get to their source. Depending on the weather, families will be taking a dip in some of these pools.
Enjoy Bagno Vignoni
Once you make it to the top you’ll find the village of Bagno Vignoni with cute shops, tasty restaurants, and the Albergo Le Terme, a spa where you can enjoy the thermal waters and spa treatments. Our favorite spots to enjoy lunch are Il Loggiato with its vaulted ceilings hidden beneath the bookstore and the Michelin recommended Osteria del Leone.
This is our first full day of our Tuscany Tour and a good way to stretch your legs! After a nice afternoon in the village we head back to the villa for a cooking class. It’s a great way to begin an amazing week.
Bagno Vignoni Circular Route Hike
It is possible to do this hike as a circular route. We did this to test it and decided it was too much for the tour but we had a great time! We started in Bagno Vignoni and hiked the route just described in reverse. In Rocca d’Orcia we had a light lunch at Il Cerchio delle Streghe, the only place open at the time.
We then left the village from the other side and made our way down to the river taking the more western route. This one is not marked very well and we got confused/lost a couple times. Still, we were beginning to think this was the more beautiful route and were thinking this is how we would go with our guests…until we hit the river!
What looked like a bridge on Google Maps ended up being a ford. Even that was unclear as the water was pretty high and we couldn’t see the path. But turning around meant at least an hour back to the top of Rocca d’Orcia. I finally discovered the ford with my feet and slowly worked my way across with no gear. Once I discovered I could get across I came back for the girls and our backpacks etc. It ended up being a highlight of our trip but not something we would want our guests to have to do. This is why we do practice trips!
The rest of the hike follows the Orcia river back to Bagno Vignoni. It really is a gorgeous hike and the whole circular route takes about 3 hours.
Tuscany Hike 2 | Pienza
Our second hike is in the hills surrounding Pienza. We visit a wonderful organic sheep farm called Podere il Casale that specializes in pecorino cheese. They also make wine, grow their own organic vegetables, and run a very successful restaurant.
After a tour of the farm and a hearty lunch featuring their pecorino cheeses and other produce from the farm we head out on our trek to Pienza. The walk leads us through the farm and down amongst the fertile landscape surrounding medieval village. Part of the walk follows the Via Francigena, the ancient pilgrimage between France and Rome. In the spring poppies and wildflowers surround you as farmers tend their fields and work the vines.
The path takes you through a valley pass with some very steep hills to trek up. However, you are rewarded with stunning views of Pienza you will not get any other way. And once you make the final climb into the village your prize is one of the most beautiful hill towns in all of Tuscany. There are numerous shops to scout out, several restaurants and bistros to enjoy a glass of wine and the views over the Val d’Orcia are amazing.
Pienza Circular Route Hike
The walk is about 4.5 km but if you wanted to make a day of it start in Pienza and hike to postcard perfect Montichiello. There are several routes you could take to make it a circular route that would be 12-14 km in total. I can’t think of a better place to spend a day than walking on a beautiful sunny day through the rolling hills of the Val d’Orcia between the Tuscan villages of Montichiello and Pienza.
We think the Val d’Orcia is one of the most beautiful spots in Italy. With world-class wines, delicious Tuscan restaurants, and warm friendly people, it is the perfect place to come for a visit. We hope you can join us for our Small Group Tour of Tuscany.
Are you planning a trip somewhere in Europe? We can help with that! Remember that we are always available to you and your friends and family for custom trip planning to Europe. We also still have spots available on our small group trip to Tuscany in May and our small group trip to Piedmont in October 2019! Would you like to join us? You can always reach Betsy at email@example.com. We would love to help you make your travel dreams to Europe come true!