For the past 11 years, Magrit and I have returned to the stunning Val d’Orcia region of Tuscany for a week-long tour of iconic photo opportunities each May. This was the first tour we ever offered and to this day it remains our favorite. We call it our flagship tour.
For the seven nights of this photo tour, we base out of the delightful medieval hill town of Pienza where within a 10- to 45-minute radius we find a plethora of iconic photo opportunities — a true Slow Travel Experience!
A central element for many of the great photographic compositions we can create here aside from the quintessential rolling hills and cypresses is the traditional Tuscan farmhouse. If you look at a detailed regional map of this area you will actually see the farms (“podere” in Italian) listed by their names, such as Podere Belvedere or Podere I Cipressini.
Some of these farmhouses date back to the 1600s. Severe poverty right after WWII forced families in Tuscany to leave their homes and find work in the cities. The old abandoned farmhouses fell into disrepair until the second- and third-generations began moving back into the countryside in the late 70’s early 80’s. The authorities quickly realized that restoration of these old farmhouses needed to be regulated to keep the integrity and harmony of the original architecture and the picturesque landscape intact.
Many of these villas and farmhouses have since been renovated conserving their traditional characteristics and can now be rented as vacation homes or operate as an agriturismo, a working farm that rents out rooms and sells their own farm-fresh products. Examples of these local treats in the Val D’Orcia are the famous Pecorino (a local sheep cheese), the thick round Pici pasta, olives and fantastic grass-green and slightly bitter olive oil, and cured meats.
The most famous and often photographed farmhouse is Il Belvedere, a short 15-minute drive from Pienza. We like to arrive an hour before sunrise around 4:30 am and are always keeping our fingers crossed for atmospheric mist wafting through the valley. This is a well-known photo destination. By the time our morning shoot is over, the sun has come up, and we’re very ready for our first cappuccino, we find ourselves surrounded by countless other photographers who, no doubt, envy our good spots. A compelling reason for claiming our spots so early when it’s still dark out.
These magnificent old farmhouses often feature cypress-lined lanes leading up to the buildings and are surrounded by fields of wheat, olive groves, and vineyards.
The Val d’ Orica region is so spectacular that Ridley Scott chose this area for some scenes in his famous film, The Gladiator. Two farms were briefly featured in the film. Podere Terrapile and Poggio Manzuoli.
Come join us on a photo tour in Tuscany in 2023! We’d love to have you. For more information, click here or contact us.
Another blog post you might enjoy will help you determine if a Photo Tour would be right for you and also gives you a list of some of our favorite books related to travel (for your armchair or for on the road). 🙂 Click here for this article »
|Jim and Magrit have been photographing professionally and traveling in Europe for the past 20 years.|
They started Photography Travel Tours in 2011 with the goal of educating and guiding photographers to some of the most beautiful and iconic scenes in Europe.
The tours are not just about getting great photographs but also have the side benefits of doing so in wonderful environments. Great food, wine, people, and ambiance.
Read more about Jim & Magrit and their wonderful photo tours here: (http://photographytraveltours.com/about/).
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.