Tuscany  » Vivo d'Orcia Estate
Overview of the Vivo d'Orcia estate
"Vivo d'Orcia is not a place, it is a way of life..." The Castle of Vivo d'Orcia lies in the widespread Orcia valley in southern Tuscany, 2 hours from Florence, 1 hour from Siena, close to such cultural jewels as Pienza, Montalcino and Montepulciano, to name but a few.
The hamlet Vivo D'Orcia lies at an altitude of 900 m above sea level. The particular combination of altitude and meditteranean climate creates an unusual whealth of flora and fauna. Many wild animals such as deer, wild boar and foxes as well as the most deliscious truffles call the Monte Amiata their home.
A pope's refuge: the estate with the impressive castle and the romaneque church reaches back to the 11th century. The humble hermitage was transformed into a sophisticated and well-organised agricultural center when Cardinal Marcello Cervini, later Pope Marcello II, acquired the estate in 1534. The property is still owned by the family today, they spend the summer months in residence as attentive and interesting hosts. Incidentally, their castle was featured in the jan. 2005 issue of THE WORLD OF INTERIORS.
Century old chestnut trees cast thei shade in the gardens of the houses, ideal for al-fresco meals outdoors. Fresh fruit and tomatoes, spicy sausages, homemade pasta and polenta, mushrooms from the woods next door, truffles, and of course the precious local olive oils and wines.
- Abbadia San Salvatore 12 minutes
- Pienza 35 minutes
- Montalcino 45 minutes
- Montepulciano 47 minutes
- Orvieto 1 hour 25 minutes
- Siena 1 hour 30 minutes
- Florence 2 hours
- Rome 2 ½ hours
Activities & Places of interest
- Montepulciano is a graceful Tuscan hill town, best known for its Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, which was being praised by connoisseurs over 200 years ago and can certainly contend with Italy’s best today. The many churches and handsome palazzi, the steep cobbled alleys and vine-trailing stone bastions are essential viewing for anyone venturing south of Siena. On a clear day from the top of the town you have tremendous panoramic views across the countryside, stretching towards Assisi’s Monte Subasio, Monte Amiata, the Val d’Orcia, Pienza, and even the towers of Siena.
- Montalcino is beautifully situated on a hill inhabited since Etruscan times, swathed in vineyards and olive groves. It is a quiet, affluent, attractive town with pretty buildings and flower-filled squares, and many shops selling the Brunello di Montalcino.
- Pienza, the unfinished “utopian” city, was commissioned by Pope Pius II in 1459. In just three years the cathedral, the papal and bishop’s palaces and the central part of the town were completed, but the extensive project ended abruptly when Pius died only two years after the consacration of the cathedral.
- The Val d’Orcia is a wide valley south of Siena through which the old Via Francigena (the chief route linking Rome with the north) used to lead, passing castles and fortified towns, some of them dating back as far as the eighth century. In San Quirico make sure you see the Horti Leonini, an early Renaissance garden, as well as the western door in the city wall and the Collegiata (main church).
- Florence et Rome can be reached by train in one and a half hours from the nearby station Chiusi.
- Monte Oliveto Maggiore Two great treasures are housed in the abbey. Lining the main cloister is a fresco cycle of the life of St Benedict by Luca Signorelli and Il Sodoma. Less famous, less sensational, but perhaps of finer quality, are the wooden intarsia choir stalls by Fra’ Giovanni da Verona. It is home to a dozen monks who specialize in restoring old books, and make wine, honey and olive oil.
- Sant’Anna in Camprena is a rambling monastery on the road between Pienza and San Quirico d’Orcia. A very romantic setting which served as location for the film The English Patient. In the refectory there is a fresco by the renaissance painter Giovanni Antonio Bazzi, known as Il Sodoma.
- Sant’Antimo is surely one of the loveliest Romanesque buildings in all of Italy. It is hard to imagine a more sympathetic combination of architectural grace and natural setting. Originally founded by Charlemagne in 800, the abbey was once home to a prominent Benedictine community. Creamy stone bricks, luminous Volterran alabaster, playful carvings and frescoes of animals give it a peculiarly sunny air. A group of French Cistercian monks now runs the abbey, celebrating Mass with Gregorian chants several times a day.
- Tuscany is famous for its hot springs, belonging to a geothermical system that more or less encircles Monte Amiata, the most spectacular being Saturnia in the south west of the region. Close to Vivo d'Orcia is Bagno Vignoni which has been popular since Etruscan times. St Catherine of Siena is said to have appreciated its therapeutic qualities, as is Lorenzo the Magnificent, whose family built the splendid arcaded pool – a kind of flooded, bubbling piazza, famously used by Tarkovsky for some of the more surreal passages of his film Nostalgia. Bagni San Filippo may go into the books as the world’s smallest thermal spa – a telephone booth, a few old houses, an outdoor spring in the middle of the woods with glistening limestone formations, and one small hotel with a public pool.
- Fashion addicts can splurge out at the famous Prada factory outlet, which lies on to road to Florence.
- Many beautiful signposted walks can be made from Vivo d’Orcia. You will find more information in the houses.
Prepare your trip
Prepare your trip by downloading more info about the estate, the area, sights, shopping facilities, sports, beaches, restaurants and trattorias, wineries and literature references.
Download more info about the estate and the surroundings