Villa Ambra

Tra Valdorcia e Valdichiana


DAY I: in Val d'Orcia between Pienza and Bagni San Filippo

First stop on a ten-day exploration of Tuscany

It is always difficult to choose what to see in Tuscany, a region full of attractions and possibilities. To help you, we have prepared an itinerary for a day in Val d’Orcia, between Pienza and Bagni San Filippo.

The day begins at Podere della Bruciata with a breakfast of local raw materials. Cakes, coffee, jams, honey, cold cuts and cheeses: here’s everything you need for a 0 km breakfast.
We then leave for Pienza.

Pienza: between history and cinema

Pienza cannot be overlooked when choosing what to see in Tuscany. To reach it we take the road that passes through Monticchiello to see one of the most beautiful and most photographed landscapes in the whole region.
Once we arrive, we can leave the car in one of the free car parks outside the walls – reaching the center on foot will take little time.

We thus reach Piazza Pio II, the heart of the town which takes its name from the Pope who gave life to the town in 1400. All the main points of interest overlook this square: in front of us the Duomo, on our right Palazzo Piccolomini, on our left Palazzo Borgia.
Piazza, Duomo and Palazzo Piccolomini were the sets of the Rai TV series I Medici. If you have seen the drama, try to recognize the scenes filmed in Pienza!

The Duomo or Cathedral of the Assumption, with free entry, brings with it influences from various architectural styles and houses altarpieces by the most famous Sienese artists of the time. Near the apse some cracks can be observed on the wall and floor: the sign of the collapse of the building, partially built on the shifting ground of the hill. The Crypt of San Giovanni is also part of the Cathedral. Accessible from an external entrance on the left side, it contains illuminated pages from the 15th century, Flemish tapestries from the 16th and the galleries of the labyrinth of the Cathedral.
Entrance is paid (2 euros) but in June 2020 it is closed for security reasons (it is still worth checking if we are already there!).

Palazzo Piccolomini, once a papal residence, has a beautiful suspended garden inside, from which it is possible to observe the entire Val d’Orcia. Unfortunately, the Palace is closed until the end of the Covid-19 emergency.
Palazzo Borgia, in its diocesan museum, houses medieval and modern works of art. It is open from Friday to Monday from 10.30am to 6.00pm and entry costs €4.50 (or €3.00 reduced).

Just outside the center is the ancient Pieve di Corsignano, reachable on foot in less than ten minutes. Here we can find the baptismal font where Pius II was baptized and a rare original representation of the serpent Regulus, a Roman deity.
The finale of Gladiator was also filmed in the fields right below the church: just follow the dirt road that descends into the countryside below the Parish Church and you will find yourself on the set of the film!

After this immersion in history (and film sets) we can head to Bagni San Filippo.

A lunch in the Tuscan tradition

In Bagni San Filippo we will bathe in the natural spa but, first, we need to find a place to have lunch.
We leave the car at the paid car park near the free spa and walk towards Osteria lo Spugnone, a typical and familiar place that will offer us traditional Tuscan dishes with local products. The restaurant, closed on Tuesdays, is open for lunch from 12.30 to 14.30.
Once lunch is over, we are ready for a swim in the thermal waters.

The natural spas of Bagni San Filippo

You can’t ask yourself what to see in Tuscany without including the Bagni San Filippo spa in the answer. We can reach them on foot in a few minutes from the Osteria, following the signposted path to the Fosso Bianco.

These natural hot water pools are free to enter. The first ones we encounter are shallow and, for this reason, the water is warm. If we are looking for higher temperatures, we continue along the path until we reach the so-called White Whale: a waterfall of thermal waters has created a limestone formation that resembles the mouth of a whale. The amount of water flowing down from the source often changes, as does its path. This is why the spectacle we find is always different in appearance and colours.
Going even further we will reach numerous pools with even warmer water. All the thermal pools are inside a lush forest, in a natural, wild and fascinating environment.

The waters of Bagni San Filippo have analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. At the bottom of the tanks we can also find rich deposits of thermal mud, excellent for face and body masks (and we can use it for free!).

Given the isolated place where the spa is located, it will be a good idea to bring everything you need with you. For those who suffer from low blood pressure, it is a good idea to also have a fruit juice or dessert with you to eat after the bath to get some sugar back.

The road back

At this point we can take the road back. We pass through La Foce, so as to enjoy different but no less fascinating landscapes.
Once we reach Podere della Bruciata, we will be able to enjoy a country-style aperitif: local food with wine or red vermouth of our own production.
Thus we end the day in a quiet atmosphere, ready to start again the next day.

What to see in Tuscany? It’s a question with many answers. We’ve found enough to fill a day, but we’ll be bringing you more soon. After Pienza and Bagni San Filippo, we will discover other Tuscan wonders together.