For the past 10 years, Magrit and I have returned to the Val d’ Orcia region of Tuscany for a week-long photo tour each May. This was the first tour we ever offered and to this day it remains our favorite. We call it our flagship tour.

Il Belvedere farmhouse at sunrise, Tuscany, Italy

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 scenes to photograph — a true Slow Travel Experience!

Due to health reasons, 2 of our clients had to cancel. We now have 2 openings for our favorite photo tour in Tuscany. Come join us! For more information, click here or contact us.

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 agriturismos, which are working farms that rent out rooms and sell 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 cured meats.

I Cipresini just outside of Pienza

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. A compelling reason for claiming our spots so early that it’s still dark out. 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.

The most famous farmhouse in this region is Il Belvedere

Il Belvedere at sunrise with fog

These magnificent old farmhouses often feature cypress-lined lanes leading up to the buildings and are surrounded by fields of wheat, olive groves, and vineyard.

Poggio Covili at sunrise

Poggio Covili is also good photo destination during midday with nice clouds.

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.

Podere Terrapile, Russell Crow’s home in The Gladiator at sunset

Podere Terrapile is the lushest in May, surrounded by bright-green spring wheat.

You can also briefly see Poggio Manzuoli in The Gladiator.

Podere Terrapile from the ramparts of Pienza at sunrise

We have 2 openings for our favorite photo tour in Tuscany. Come join us! We’d love to have you. For more information, click here or contact us.