Photographing Tuscany | La Bella Toscana
Now, that traveling in Europe is possible again, we can’t wait to return to one of our favorite location (not just once, but twice in 2022) — romantic Tuscany and especially the magnificent Val d’Orcia — idyllic land of cypresses, rolling hills and big skies.
Whether you’re looking forward to your self-guided tour of this beautiful part of the world or you want us to guide you to the best shooting locations and local cuisine experiences, we hope that you’ll find this article helpful and interesting.
Tuscany is where it all started for us. Numerous visits to “our” charming cobblestoned village of Pienza in our favorite area of Tuscany finally lead to the idea of sharing the experience with other passionate photographers back in 2009. Our first photo tour was born and Tuscany is still our flagship tour, the place we love and return to each year for more crimson-colored poppies, glowing canola fields, and photogenic rustic farmhouses and hill towns.
Our base in Tuscany is the small village of Pienza in the magnificent Val d’Orcia. Pienza makes a great central location for photographers with countless iconic photo ops reachable within a radius of a 30-minute drive along windy roads. Below you see Pienza on the horizon surrounded by fields of golden blooming canola fields in May photographed from the valley below .
Pienza is situated between other more famous but less intimate and more touristed medieval hill towns: Montalcino and San Quirico are just a few miles to the west and Montepulciano to the east — all wonderful places to visit and photograph.
The town itself is a fun place for photographers to roam and explore. You’ll find beautiful architectural details, churches and chapels, grand Renaissance palaces and crumbling buildings with doors and windows surrounded by terra-cotta pots overflowing with flowers. Small charming shops sell all imaginable types of pecorino (the famous local sheep cheese), hand painted ceramics, purses made from buttery leather, and handwoven linens. We love the wonderful local cafés and restaurants and the simple but tasty cuisine they offer. There’s nothing more relaxing than sitting in front of Paolo’s Café close to the medieval ramparts overlooking the beautiful Val d’ Orcia with a tasty cappuccino and a slice of Torta di Nonna (or a glass of full-bodied Brunello) next to you — quintessential Tuscany!
The old farm houses in the valley all have been given names long ago, the farm of Belvedere being the most famous one. We don’t tire of shooting this scene again and again from different vantage points early in the morning. Watching and photographing the fog slowly moving across the valley and then the sun rise over Belvedere is an epic experience (once you’ve got yourself up at 4:00 am). The amazing images and the great cappuccino that awaits you later at our charming hotel make it definitely worth the effort.
This famous grove of cypresses is another location we return to every year. You never know what kind of conditions you will encounter but it’s always amazing. One of our very first tour clients aptly called this location his “cathedral.”
Especially later in the day during the magical Blue Hour you can find wonderful compositions as shown in this image of the little chapel of Vitaleta. This photo was taken after the moon had risen but the sun had not completely set yet, infusing the scene with an otherworldly glow. The Photographer’s Ephemeris will give you exact dates and times for shooting this unusual phenomenon.
But not only groves or lines of cypresses are a fascination subject matter for photography. A lone tree can be just as stunning and make a great compositional element. The “Tree of Trees” is a not very well-known location and it took us quite some time to find it (Google Maps to the rescue!) — another spot we love to return to and share with our clients. The farmer who owns the filed and this 200-years-od oak tree lovingly refers to the tree as his “plant.”
In Tuscany, we have also visited and loved the region of Chianti as well Florence and the picturesque town of Siena with its shell-shaped main square and the Duomo, a cathedral famous for its facade with stripes of white and greenish-black marble. However, we strongly recommend that you try and visit there during the shoulder seasons. Both cities are mobbed with tourists in the summer which doesn’t allow much room for making photographs — selfies would be your best bet.
Flying into Pisa and renting a car is the best way to explore Tuscany (short of joining us on a photo tour). Drivers are actually not as crazy as you might expect. However, watch out for speed limits and streets you’re not supposed to drive on in towns and cities or a ticket might await you when you get home. We’ve had out fair share of surprises.
Tuscany is romantic and enchanting and Pienza and the Val d’Orcia are especially rich in photo locations. Opportunities abound for architectural and landscape photography as well as street photography providing a rich and unforgettable experience for any photographer. Contact us by clicking here if you’re interested in joining us and a small group of equally passionate photographers. We’d love to have you!
In 2022, we offer 2 trips to Tuscany.
• May 9 to 16, 2022 (7 nights) — only 1 space remaining
• June 5 to 12, 2022 (7 nights)
For all 2022 and 2023 photo tours with Jim and Magrit Nilsen of Photography Travel Tours, click here. »
|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.