In the heart of Tuscany Photography Tour
Val d'Orcia Rolling Hills and Medieval Towns
The amazing Val d’Orcia has always been loved for its unique scenarios. A UNESCO's Mankind Heritage Site since 2004, this land probably represents the most successful example of how human interaction with nature can turn into magic and create incredibly beautiful landscapes.
For centuries, painters have been deeply inspired by these gently rolling hills, with their changing colors in the seasons, patchwork of wheat, corn and sunflowers fields, scattered farmhouses and dirt roads lined with cypress trees.
Today, the Val d’Orcia remains one of the most photographed and filmed areas of the world, and its enchanted views have been featured in many famous movies such as Ridley Scott's The Gladiator, Anthony Minghella's The English Patient and Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet.
The best period for visiting and photographing this area is probably from March to June, when the fields are green and dotted with flowers, and trees are blooming. However this place is so impressing that also in less ideal seasons will provide the conditions for unforgettable holidays and photographic tours.
Words simply fail for describing how beautiful this region is. You really have to come and see with your eyes!
Main Shooting Locations
This famous small town atop a hill in the Val d'Orcia is known as the "touchstone of Renaissance urbanism." Pienza was rebuilt from a village called Corsignano, which was the birthplace (in 1405) of Enea Silvio Piccolomini, a Renaissance humanist who later became Pope Pius II. Once he became Pope, Piccolomini had the entire village rebuilt as an ideal Renaissance town.
San Quirico d'Orcia
A lovely, small medieval town in the heart of the Orcia Valley, it still conserves the medieval walls, and two churches from the X and XII century.
Cypress trees of San Quirico
Probably the most photographed bunch of cypress trees in the whole world. This famous circle of trees is just outside of San Quirico, along the national road "Cassia".
Chapel of Vitaleta
Another worldwide famous shooting location, the Chapel of the Madonna of Vitaleta is a rural small church placed atop a hill in the country side between Pienza and San Quirico d'Orcia.
A wonderful medieval town built atop the highest hill of the area, Montalcino's main feature is a perfectly conserved castle/fortress from where the 360 degrees view on the rolling hills of the Orcia Valley view is simply breathtaking.
Abbey of Sant'Antimo
Not far from Montalcino, surrounded by the vineyards of Brunello, the worldwide renown red wine, lies the incredibly old Abbey of Sant'Antimo, founded in the VIII century by Charlemagne. T
Between Pienza and San Quirico, the small hamlet of Bagno Vignoni was built nearby a hot spring. These thermal waters have been used since Roman times. At the heart of the village is the "Square of sources", a wonderful pool built in the 1500, which contains the original source of water that comes from the subterranean aquifer of volcanic origins.
Probably the sweetest spot of the whole Orcia Valley in Tuscany, Italy, from where one can enjoy an extraordinary view on the famous rolling hills, the Mount Amiata and the medieval towns of Pienza, Castiglione and San Quirico. Belvedere is a small hamlet of the municipality of Castiglione d'Orcia, and it is ideally placed at the centre of the Orcia Valley.
Pitigliano is a medieval town in the Maremma area of Tuscany, not far from Val d'Orcia. The town stands on an abrupt tuff butte high above the Olpeta, the Fiora and the Lente rivers.
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Example of a typical
day in the field
Sunrise and early morning
wake up about 30-40 minutes before dawn and with a five minutes transfer by car we will get to the Bevedere, a wonderful spot perfectly situated at the centre of the Orcia Valley. We will shoot grand vistas in the mist at sunrise of the rolling hills with the small hamlets and scattered farm houses typical of this area
rest of the morning
we will spend the rest of the morning scouting the area between San Quirico d'Orcia and Pienza, leaving the beaten path and driving instead on dirt roads and off-track, looking for beautiful spots and stopping everytime we will find a good one.
With a bit of luck we will have a nice encounter with some of the wildlife species living in the area, such as deer and hawks.
Lunch: we will grab a quick lunch at some bar/trattoria in Pienza.
We will spend the afternoon visiting and photographing the many beautiful buildings and churches od this amazing small town, as well as the wonderful views on the surrounding hills one can enjoy from the bastions. Declared world heritage site in 1996 by Unesco, Pienza was rebuilt from a village called Corsignano, which was the birthplace (in 1405) of Enea Silvio Piccolomini, a Renaissance humanist who later became Pope Pius II. Once he became Pope, Piccolomini had the whole village rebuilt as an ideal Renaissance town. Intended as a retreat from Rome, it represents the first application of humanist urban planning concepts, creating an impetus for planning that was adopted in other Italian towns and cities and eventually spread to other European centers.
We will leave from Pienza about one hour before sunset heading to the Chapel of Vitaleta, a small rural church placed atop a hill in the country side between Pienza and San Quirico d'Orcia. We will shoot the sun setting behind the hills from this enchanted country scenario.
Requirements, prices and other useful information about this workshop
Details and Requirements - Key Features
Number of students per workshop: minimum 1, maximum 3 students
Duration*: minimum 2, maximum 5 days
4 days is the recommended length, as it is indeed the ideal timeframe for putting
together a very effective itinerary, and it still allows enough free time
for a few good image processing/image critiquing sessions.
*upon request the maximum duration can be extended up to 7 days. Please inquire for prices.
Year around, with the exclusion of August because temperatures are too hot and the area is overcrowded by tourists.
Particularly scenic in September and October when fall foliage colours reach their peak.
Very easy. Most of the shooting locations are directly accessible by car. A few of them require short walks of no more than a few hundred meters one way on dirt roads and/or easy trails, with little or no elevation gain.
- full time in-the-field tutoring and instructions
- at least one image processing class (min. 2 hours) per workshop
- all travel costs from the B&B to the shooting locations and back (fuel, tolls, tickets, etc.)
What's not included
- Travel costs for reaching the accommodation
- hotels/B&B rates
- entrance fees (if any)
- meals and beverages
- lodging costs of the instructor.
All participants must be in possession of a valid Health and Accident Insurance with repatriation cover.
Key Skills You Will Learn
- build a strong technical background
- learn how to frame effective compositions
- recognize how the quality of the light, the time of the day and weather conditions can play
in your favour for producing strong images with higher artistic content
- learn when and how use filters
- understand how and when breaking the rules can be helpful for creating images of more impact
- learn how to pre-visualize, compose and shoot panoramas
- learn how to pre-visualize, compose and shoot very long exposures with the help of strong ND filters
- advanced techniques of image processing with the most common software tools such as Photoshop and Lightroom
Prices, Payment and Cancellation Policy
Low season (approx. from October to mid April)
*a discount applies for groups of 2 or 3 photographers:
2 photographers pay each one 75% of the base rates above,
3 photographers pay 65% of the base rates.
** VAT (Valued Added Tax) is not applicable - and it will not be charged - for businesses and/or companies from outside the European Union
A deposit of 35-40% of the total amount is due at the moment of the reservation,
this is required to secure your place at the workshop.
The final balance payment is due no later than 15 days before the beginning of the workshop.
Bank Transfer, Credit Cards, Paypal
If you cancel within 60 days before the workshop start, you will be refunded the deposit
minus 100,00 € as administrative fee.
No refund will be issued for cancellations received with 60 days or less remaining
before the workshop starting date.
Please note that there is no exception to this policy. For this reason it is strongly recommended to purchase refundable plane/train tickets only and endow yourself with a trip cancellation insurance.
All cancellation request must be in writing.
There are many agriturismoes and bed & brekfasts in this area, here are my favourite:
- Agriturismo Fonte Bertusi in Pienza
- Agriturismo Castello La Grancia in Pienza
Prices: 80-150 € per night depending on season, continental breakfast included
Clothes and Accessories
Weather in Tuscany is already very good and temperatures are mild since the beginning of Spring, it may rain often but with short showers. Here's a list of the most common items you should always wear/have with you for outdoor activities:
- comfortarble walking shoes
- wind/rain proof jacket
- a warm pullover
- sun glasses
- Head lamps and batteries
Camera Gear - Recommended Equipment
- Dslr camera
- Camera user's manual
- Wide angle to normal zoom lens, at least 24/70 mm on a full frame sensor, the equivalent on cropped sensors. Ideally one 16/35 mm and a 28/70 mm
- Long tele zoom lens - 70/200mm is enough, 300mm is recommended
- Enough storage cards for at least 16 GB
- Extra Camera batteries
- Photography backpacks come in handy to protect the equipment if it rains and to facilitate transfers from a shooting location to another
- polarizer filter
- a set of Graduated ND filters, at least a 2 and a 3 stops (it is ideal to have all the range from 1 to 4 stops)
- ND filters for long exposures, ideally one 10 stops and one 6 stop
- remote (or cable) switch
- for the image processing session, a laptop with Photoshop CS3 or newer and Lightroom 3.x or newer
About your Photography Instructor
Ciao! My name is Paolo.
I have been a full-time professional landscape, nature, travel and architecture photographer since 2007. Since then, I have planned and led hundreds of private one-to-one and small groups photo workshops and tours in some of the best looking regions and cities of Italy and France.
My pictures have appeared in calendars, books, travel magazines, brochures and as wall art in offices, hotels, restaurants and corporate venues. For more info please click here