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Val d'Orcia, Val d'Orcia

Tuscany, Italy, Europe: Val D'Orcia
Val d'Orcia
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The open,gently rolling hills of Val d'Orcia, recently named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, are among the most beautiful landscapes in Italy. Take the back roads or, even better, arrange for a guide with the Parco Val d'Orcia for excursions on foot or horseback (Office: 33 Via Dante Alighieri, San Quirico d'Orcia; 39-0577-898-303; To the east, the town of San Quirico d'Orcia, with its Romanesque Collegiata church and the formal Italian gardens of the Horti Leonini (now a publicpark), should not be missed. Three miles to the south, the magical main square of Bagno Vignoni is a medieval thermalpool much appreciated by Lorenzo the Magnificent but no longer open to the public. The Hotel Posta Marcucci (39-0577-887-112; does offer daily entrance to its open-air thermal pool to nonguests, except on Thursdays (nonguests are charged $16; A fortified village ambitiously restructured by Pope Pius II, Pienza is a showcase of grand architecture—the Palazzo Piccolomini, the duomo,and the Palazzo Comunale are all magnificent—and equally grand natural landscapes. Just a couple of miles away is the beautifully preserved medieval hamlet of Montichiello, where the entire population participates in writing, directing,producing, and performing Teatro Povero ("poor theater," or theater of the people) every summer in an outdoor square. Montepulciano, to the east, is another famous wine town, its spiral corso leading steeply up to the town's beautiful Piazza Grande, its architecture a mix of Gothic and Renaissance (the Palazzo Comunale is an example of the transition from one style to the other). On the way out of town, make sure you stop at Sangallo's Chiesa di Madonna di San Biagio, less than a mile outside the city walls and one of the most harmonious architectural creations of the high Renaissance.

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