Val d'Orcia

What to do in San Quirico d’Orcia
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San Quirico d’Orcia, a charming village in the Val d’Orcia

San Quirico d’Orcia is an ancient walled village located in the heart of the beautiful Val d’Orcia, halfway between Pienza and Montalcino. It can be said without fear of denial that San Quirico d’Orcia is one of the most beautiful towns in the whole province of Siena, with several monuments to visit and numerous attractions scattered all around. The central location in the middle of the valley also makes San Quirico an excellent starting point for exploring the whole area. I would say that there are all the premises to insert this village in an itinerary in Val d’Orcia!

Road with cypresses in Val d'Orcia
Photo by Luca Micheli

Historical introduction

According to what is evidenced by some archaeological finds, in the site there was a settlement of Etruscan origin. According to some research it would correspond to the city of Ena that we find mentioned in the Liber Linteius Zagrabiensis.
The current village developed in the early Middle Ages around the ancient parish church of Osenna, in whose place today we find the Collegiata dei santi Quirico e Giulitta. The history and fortunes of San Quirico are largely linked to the position on the Via Francigena route and in fact the village appears among the stages of the itinerary of the Bishop Sigerico (late 10th century) with the name of “Sce Quiric”. In the thirteenth century, San Quirico came under the control of Siena. During the fifteenth century, the Sienese enlarged and remodeled the city walls several times which have largely come down to our times.

Guide to visit San Quirico d’Orcia

Going from north to south the main street of the village, via Dante Alighieri, we find many of the main historical buildings of San Quirico: the Collegiata, Palazzo Chigi Zondadari, theChiesa di San Francesco and the Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta. To these are added the beautiful garden of the Horti Leonini and the walls of which large sections are still preserved and one of the access doors, called Porta dei Cappuccini.

Things to do in San Quirico d’Orcia: the guide

Walking through the main street, via Dante Alighieri, from north to south, you will find the main historical buildings of San Quirico: La Collegiata, Palazzo Chigi, the church of San Francesco (Saint Francis) and church of Santa Maria Assunta.

Collegiata dei Santi Quirico e Giulitta

Ancient parish church documented since the 8th century, the current Collegiata dei Santi Quirico e Giulitta was built between the end of the 12th century and the beginning of the following one. The church has a Latin cross plan and on the outside it is characterized by the presence of three access portals, one more beautiful than the other.

Collegiata dei Santi Quirico e Giulitta in San Quirico d'Orcia
Collegiata dei Santi Quirico e Giulitta (Photo by Zyance / CC BY)

The most important is the one located on the façade, the main portal, in Lombard style, characterized by a round arch adorned with knotted columns resting on stylophor lions. Next to the entrance we find two series of columns, 5 on each side, while the architrave is decorated with a bas-relief with crocodiles (or something very similar); in the lunette of the portal we find a statue representing San Quirico. Also noteworthy are the two portals on the side of the church, in particular the one on the left, attributed to Giovanni Pisano, which has two caryatids standing on lions and a beautiful decoration in the architrave.

Main Portal of the Collegiata
Main Portal (Photo by SailkoCC BY)

The main work in the church is the polyptych of Sano di Pietro, Madonna and Child with four Saints, where the Resurrection and Descent of Christ in Limbo are also represented, the coat of arms of the Municipality of San Quirico and five episodes from the Life of the Madonna. Other works include a fresco from the early 16th century, Madonna della Mela, attributed to Girolamo di Benvenuto and the painting by Rutilio Manetti, Madonna del Rosario that saves a girl from drowning (1610).

Palazzo Chigi Zondadari

Built in the seventeenth century, the Palazzo Chigi Zondadari is now the seat of the municipality. This beautiful Baroque palace stands out for its monumental facade on which two large portals open. Inside there are numerous frescoes by Roman painters.

Just opposite there is also the beautiful Palazzo Pretorio, seat of the Tourist Office, while to its right branches off via Poliziano which leads up to the Porta dei Cappuccini.

San Quirico d'Orcia cosa vedere Palazzo Chigi
Palazzo Chigi (Photo by Sailko / CC BY)

Chiesa di San Francesco

The Chiesa di San Francesco was built between 1867 and 1870 in place of an earlier convent of San Francesco. The church is also known as the Chiesa della Madonna di Vitaleta because inside it contains a terracotta depicting the Annunciate Madonna attributed to Andrea della Robbia which comes from the Cappella della Madonna di Vitaleta. In addition to this important terracotta, you can also admire two polychrome wooden statues of Francesco di Valdambrino (early 15th century), a Crucifix of the Sienese school (first half of the 15th century), the Immaculate Conception and the Preaching of Saint John the Baptist by the Empoli (late 16th century) and the Visitation by Ventura Salimbeni (early 17th century).

Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta

The Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta is a small Romanesque building dating back to the second half of the 11th century. The church is located near one of the city gates along the Via Francigena route. It is no coincidence that it has a beautiful portal on the left side, facing precisely that very important road, while the portal on the facade is much simpler. The interior has a single nave closed by an apse; the whole church is covered with beautiful squared travertine stone.

Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta in San Quirico d'Orcia
Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta (Photo by SailkoCC BY)

Horti Leonini

The Horti Leonini are a beautiful example of an Italian garden. The park was built in the mid-sixteenth century by Diomede Leoni in an area close to the city walls, not far from the Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta. The garden is divided into two areas, a higher natural one and a lower one where the human hand is much more evident.

The lower part is characterized by triangular boxwood beds in the center of which stands a statue of Cosimo III de’ Medici, made by Bartolomeo Mazzuoli. Crossing the whole garden you will reach a staircase that leads to the upper part. Here there is a large lawn bordered by a dense holm oak forest where you can see the remains of a medieval tower which was destroyed during the Second World War. Going down the other side you will finally reach the pretty Rose Garden which is located just behind the Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta.

Things to do in San Quirico d'Orcia: visit the Horti leonini
Horti Leonini

What to see around San Quirico d’Orcia

Cappella della Madonna di Vitaleta

One of the most famous monument of the val d’Orcia is the Cappella della Madonna di Vitaleta. It is a small chapel situated on a hill along the road leading from San Quirico to Pienza. You should definitely take a picture of the chapel!

what to see in san quirico d'orcia Chapel of the Madonna di Vitaleta
Cappella della Madonna di Vitaleta (Photo by Massimo TelòCC BY)

The cypresses

Another famous panoramic view point is located about halfway between San Quirico and Montalcino. Is a group of cypresses isolated in the countryside protagonists of countless photographs.
To reach them (from San Quirico) you must take the Strada Regionale 2 (Regionl Road number 2) for about 6 kilometers.

what to see in san quirico d'orcia Cypresses
Cypresses near San Quirico (Photo by lo.tangeliniCC BY)

Bagno Vignoni

Just south of San Quirico (about 5 km) we find the spa resort of Bagno Vignoni, a more unique than rare place: an authentic jewel of the Val d’Orcia! This picturesque village is characterized by a large pool of thermal water which acts as the main square creating a unique, truly unmissable atmosphere.

Few kilometres beyond Bagno Vignoni, you can visite the “two towers” of the Val d’Orcia: Castiglione d’Orcia and Rocca d’Orcia; finally, to complete the tour, I absolutely recommend that you also visit Radicofani.

Bagno Vignoni in Val d'Orcia
Bagno Vignoni in Val d’Orcia (Photo by Lepo55 / CC BY)

How to get to San Quirico d’Orcia

By car: from north get to Siena taking the raccordo autostradale Firenze-Siena then continue on SR2 till destination.
From south A1 highway till the exit Chiusi/Chianciano Terme, then SP146 in direction of Chianciano, after 6km turn on SP19 and on the right on SP40 in direction of Abbadia San Salvatore; after 10km turn on the right to San Quirico d’Orcia.

By bus: from Siena line 112 or line 54A by Siena Mobilità.

By train: the closest train station is in Buonconvento, from there you have to take a bus, line 112 by Siena Mobilità

La straordinara campagna intorno a San Quirico d'Orcia
The wonderful countryside around San Quirico d’Orcia (Photo by Enrico Pighetti / CC BY)
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