The romantic farmhouses of Tuscany
Every year for over a decade, Magrit and I have journeyed back to the beautiful Val d’Orcia for one or two week-long photo tours in the spring to photograph the stunning landscapes and romantic farmhouses of Tuscany. This was our inaugural tour and has since become our favorite, what we call our “flagship tour.”
Pienza, our favorite Tuscan hill town
During our seven nights in the area, we call the charming medieval hill town of Pienza our home base. Within a 10-45 minute radius, we discover an abundance of iconic scenes to capture, making this a true Slow Travel Experience.
Farmhouses of Tuscany are our “heroes”
If you were to examine a detailed regional map of the area, you would find the farms (“podere” in Italian) listed by their names, such as Podere Belvedere or Podere I Cipressini. These traditional farmhouses are an essential element in many of our photographic compositions in addition to the quintessential rolling hills and lanes or groupings of cypress trees. These buildings offer a focal point — what we call a “hero” or a “star” in a composition.
From poverty to prosperity
Some of these farmhouses of Tuscany date back to the 1600s. Due to extreme poverty after WWII, many families in Tuscany left their homes and sought work in the cities. The old, deserted farmhouses fell into disrepair until the second and third generations began returning to the countryside in the late 70s and early 80s.
To preserve the original architecture and picturesque landscape, regulations were put in place for the old farmhouses. Many of these villas and farmhouses have been renovated while keeping their traditional characteristics intact. They can now be rented as vacation homes or operate as agriturismos (or “agriturismi” in Italian), which are working farms that rent out rooms and sell their own farm-fresh products.
The taste of Val D’Orcia
The Val D’Orcia offers many local treats, such as the famous Pecorino, a local sheep cheese, the thick round Pici pasta, olives, and cured meats. A selection of good wines is a fairly new addition to the local cuisine. If you get a chance, try toasted Tuscan bread rubbed with garlic, doused with the local grass-green and slightly bitter olive oil, and sprinkled with coarse sea salt.
Il Belvedere in early morning mist
Il Belvedere is the most famous and often photographed farmhouse, located just a short 15-minute drive from Pienza. We arrive an hour before sunrise to capture the perfect image, hoping for atmospheric mist wafting through the valley. This popular photo destination is swamped with countless other photographers by the time the morning shoot is over but because our group arrives so early, we claim the best spot.
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.
A famous farmhouse in Tuscany, home of “The Gladiator”
The region of Val d’Orica boasts picturesque landscapes of wheat fields, olive groves, and vineyards. It’s no wonder Ridley Scott chose this stunning area to film some scenes for his iconic movie, The Gladiator. In the film, you can catch a glimpse of two farms, Podere Terrapile and Poggio Manzuoli. This is now another spot in the Val D’Orcia that we visit very early in the morning as Instagrammers have discovered it and overrun it during the day and evening. A bald spot in the meadow above the famous farmhouse marks the perfect spot for selfie enthusiasts.