Italy's Best Sights: Val d'Orcia
Val d’ Orcia was integrated to the city state of Siena in the 14th and 15th centuries. It forms part of the Siena hinterland that is widely used for agriculture. It was an idealized model of good governance in an eye pleasing landscape.
The landscape’s definitive aesthetics, its flat chalk plains, and fortified settlements are the work of many artists that dedicated their genius to create something the residents of Siena could be proud of.
The landscape exemplifies the human genius of the Renaissance agricultural landscapes. It is an outstanding example of an agrarian and pastoral landscape with effective land management systems. The landscape is dotted with towns and villages, bridges, shrines, inns, abbeys, farmhouses etc.
The farms were cultivated with vegetables, olives, grain vines, fruits etc. Part of the farms area was left for hay farming, pastures for livestock and meadows. The farmers of Siena practiced transhumance through the routes of Meremma and l’Amiata.
The landscape features Cypresses planted along the routes and around the various settlements. It is the cypresses round shape that accentuates the regular rounded shape of the settlements and hills, as well as the dark color that contrast a pale landscape.
The Val d’ Orcia is a World Heritage Site with outstanding cultural value in that its farmhouses and settlements assumed a dominant position in Italy and Europe in development of towns and their hinterlands. The farmhouses architectural elements such as belvederes, loggias, porches, avenues of trees etc. make for a good case study in development of rural setups.
Val d’Orcia and to a large extent Siena, is associated with utopian ideals. Siena represented the commune and Val d’Orcia a models of sustainable rural development. The ideal landscape was drawn by Lorenzetti in Siena’s Town Hall in 1338 – 1340. The painting became a reality when the town of Val d’Orcia was built. It was then immortalized through paintings done by artists such as Sano di Petri and Giovanni di Paolo.
There is no better place in Italy to see the Utopian ideals in Europe than in the historic town of Val d’Orcia. Money and holiday spent here is money and time well spent.