The Province of Siena, located in central-southern Tuscany, encompasses some of the most notable and captivating Tuscan territories, including the southern hills of Chianti, Val d’Elsa and Val di Merse, Val d’Arbia, Val di Chiana, and Val d’Orcia, all the way up to the slopes of Monte Amiata. Siena, the province’s capital, is a magnificent city of art with characteristic alleys, wards (Rioni), towers, artisan shops, and historic architecture. The centre is dominated by the shell-shaped Piazza del Campo, which hosts the bi-annual Palio di Siena, horse race, steeped in tradition and fervent emotions and which Siena is known for.
A must-do for all photography enthusiasts. With narrow streets and noble palaces surrounded by majestic landscapes, this elegant city has preserved its valuable historic mediaeval appearance. Explore the streets where architecture, history, and culture collide in a variety of settings, allowing for ample exploration of a wide range of photographic genres.
Immersing oneself in the atmosphere of Siena’s surroundings while travelling through its regions is a magical trip. Travel through a variety of settings, including deep woodlands, historic farms, and clay hills. A rich territory maintaining various Middle Ages remains, springing up along the Via Francigena, the major pilgrimage path to Rome that passed via Val d’Elsa, Siena, and Val d’Orcia. While touring through this area, you’ll see spectacular abbeys like Sant’Antimo, Romanesque parishes (Pievi), and charming tiny towns (Borghi) like San Quirico d’Orcia or San Gimignano that have retained their original appearance to this day.
The Chianti area, located in Tuscany’s heart, between the provinces of Siena and Florence, home to the famous wine, is an alluring part of Tuscany. Host to quieter towns such as Castellina, and dense vineyards, such as those of Radda in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti or Castelnuovo Berardenga. Predominantly composed of wooded hills, the landscape is characterised by grape and olive cultivation. Vast areas of vineyards, olive groves, chestnut, oak and pine woods, ancient castles, churches and isolated abbeys distinguish this lush environment. Travelling along country roads at night it’s probable that you will see deer, pheasants or wild boar.
The scenery south of Siena, heading to the mediaeval centre of Asciano, is dominated by typical Crete clay lands where erosion has left fissures, openings, and cracks resembling a lunar landscape. A stunning landscape, with the massive Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore standing out. The summit of Montalcino, in particular, offers a magnificent view over the Senese hills and the mountains of Amiata. The home of the famed Brunello wine, and the nearby St. Antimo Abbey, a magnificent example of Romanesque-Tuscan design with Lombard influences.
The Val d’Elsa, with its typical villages Colle di Val d’Elsa, Poggibonsi, Monteriggioni, and San Gimignano, is located to the northwest. The “city of towers” because of its numerous towers and tower-houses that provide a distinct skyline and are symbolic of Mediaeval mercantile supremacy. This UNESCO-protected Medieval Borgo has a great cultural legacy, including the magnificent Collegiata (13th century), the Gothic-Romanesque St. Augustine’s Church, and the Palazzo del Popolo – location of the Civic Museum, atop which sits the Torre Grossa (Big Tower).
Travelling west of Siena, we find the Val di Merse, home to fascinating places, including the ruins of the San Galgano Abbey, dating back to the 13th century.
Many additional charming settlements can be found in the Val di Chiana area. Montepulciano is situated on a hill that overlooks the valley. Chianciano Terme is famous for its healing waters that date back to Etruscan times, and it is home to the exquisite Museo Archeologico delle Acque (Archaeological Water Museum). Chiusi is a little town with an Etruscan Museum of increasing importance.
The Val d’Orcia is a UNESCO-protected area of hills and gullies, Tuscan cypress trees, the river, olive gardens, and vineyards. A pristine region where the nature of its agricultural economy is tied to the endurance of its inhabitants, utilising naturally obtained resources and methods, protects man’s relationship with the environment. Numerous wonderful towns remain, from Pienza and San Quirico to Montalcino and Castiglione d’Orcia; Mount Amiata and the solitary Rocca di Radicofani lie to the west. A landscape dotted with rivers, ravines, craggy outcrops, and riverbanks that intertwine until they are lost in the ash colour of the distant Crete.
This province’s magnificent and unique landscapes provide endless photographic potential in a variety of settings, including fourteen natural reserves. The Reserva Lago di Montepulciano, in the province’s south, is home to many rare bird species, as is the Riserva Naturale Lucciola Bella, which offers a breathtaking perspective of Val d’Orcia and Pietraporciana from within a centuries-old beech wood forest.
In Bagni di San Filippo, Bagno Vignoni, Chianciano Terme, Rapolano Terme, and San Casciano dei Bagni, there are various thermal spa centres where you may enjoy pleasant, health-focused stays.
The annual calendar is jam-packed with events and activities. In Piazza Grande Montepulciano the Bruscello is organised, a festival of love stories in the Tuscan tradition, with performers dressed in period clothes narrating on a stage decked with a symbolic tree. The San Giuseppe Festival is celebrated in Torrita di Siena in March, where eight contrade vie for the Palio dei Somari (a donkey race) dressed in 17th century costume.
The famed Bravio delle Botti conflict in August, in which athletes from the contrade compete by pushing large, 176 lb barrels, is a continuation of mediaeval folklore in Montepulciano. Between July and August, the entire village of Monticchiello participates in 10 days of not only horseback riding but also composing and presenting a drama focused on the issues of rural life.
The Mediaeval Barbarossa festival in San Quirico d’Orcia celebrated in June, and the Sagra del Tordo (Thrush Fair) in Montalcino, held in October, are both worth seeing. Finally, on the Feast of the Assumption, Sarteano hosts the famous Giostra del Saracino (The Saracen Joust) on the 15th of August.
Every province of Tuscany has beautiful and unique offerings. If you prepare ahead of time, you can’t go wrong in destinations where you can find everything. If you love food, this is gastronomic nirvana, in many ways, Tuscany embodies the soul of Italy.
The sheer volume of subject matter, combined with a beautiful Mediterranean setting, makes this an ideal location to add and explore a photography session in Italy to your vacation, learn new skills, and create lasting memories from the best photography tours in Tuscany