1. "Tuscany"'s Meaning
Now, let’s talk a bit about this Val d’Orcia: the word “Val” in italian means “valley”, so basically means Orcia Valley. Orcia is the name of the river that flows through it. This is the valley that lies in between three towns: Pienza, San Quirico d’Orcia and Montalcino. Pienza, the first town that you will find coming from the highway, is the smallest of the three, but arguably the most beautiful one; it has what they call a “balcony”, a footpath with an incredible view of the entire valley. San Quirico d’Orcia, the town you will find if you keep driving from Pienza after 9km, is famous to have been used in some scenes of the Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator” movie, together with its architecture. Lastly, you will find Montalcino if you keep driving for another 15 minutes; I don’t think there’s any need to say what Montalcino is famous for.. The wine of course! You will get to try some of the finest wines in the world there, so be sure to have some wine-tasting while exploring the town.
Driving through this roughly 20km stretch of road, will also get you to a good 70% of all the most popular photographic spots of the area. Now I’m guessing most of you want to know where that remaining 30% is: not far from there! The Val d’Orcia is part of the Siena countryside, but it’s not the only valley there. There are plenty of other unnamed valleys that are just a 20-30 minutes drive from Pienza, or San Quirico d’Orcia. And they are all beautiful! So take the time to deeply explore the Val d’Orcia, but don’t stop there. Visit the whole Siena countryside, as you will find many other photographic locations as beautiful as the ones you saw in the main valley and with far less people around.
2. When to Visit Tuscany?
Having said that, the two best seasons to come in Tuscany are spring and autumn for sure; in spring you get all the green blooming fields, possibly with rape flowers or poppies, while in autumn you get higher chances to catch some nice low fog on the hills and the foliage colors on most of the trees. In both these seasons, weather is just perfect and sunrise/sunset times are not too early/too late.
To be extremely precise, the best time in spring is between late April and early June, while in Autumn is between mid October and mid November. This is of course just ideal, as every year the dates are slightly changing depending on the weather.
A lot of photographers are still coming in summer though, because there’s the general thinking that it’s the best season to visit Tuscany; let me be clear, it’s not. Sunrise is really early in the morning and sunset late in the evening, it’s going to be really hot during the whole day and you’ll barely get to visit all the towns because of the heat, there will be a lot of tourists pretty much everywhere and because of the good weather you probably won’t get any interesting skies but just a lot of cloudless sunrises/sunsets. Anyway, at the start of the season (late June) you’ll manage to see a beautiful flowering: sunflowers! You’ll see these beautiful yellow flowers blooming everywhere in the region.
Winter would probably my second choice if I couldn’t come here in spring or autumn: chances to get some low fog are quite high, so if you give yourself a few days in Tuscany, you should be able to capture some really dramatic shots! You will have to deal with the cold and short days, but I think winter is a far better choice compared to summer.
Now that we have covered in generally the best time to come here, keep reading to discover some more useful tips for your Tuscany visit!
What to pack
So, let’s see now in particular which is the way to go, talking about the clothing, for each season:
– Summer: nothing will beat a good old shirt with short pants and sneakers. If you are a girl, I’d suggest some kind of light summer dress. This is my personal way to go for the whole summer! Temperatures will be really high, mostly around 30/40 Celsius degrees (86/104 Fahrenheit degrees) from late June to late August (and sometimes till early September), so even if you stay up till late in the night to shot some stars or you wake up early in the morning to shot sunrise, you’ll never have to worry about being cold, trust me. A hat to cover your head from the sunlight is recommended too!
– Spring/Autumn: I decided to put together the two seasons since, weather wise, they are quite similar. Both in spring and in autumn, you will get some nice sunny days, where temperatures during the day will be up to around 20/25 Celsius degrees (68/77 Fahrenheit degrees); in the mornings and the evenings though, it’s normal to have temperatures around 10/15 Celsius degrees (50/59 Fahrenheit degrees), so be sure to pack some light jackets and some heavier sweaters. If you dress with light boots, long pants, a t-shirt with a sweater on and a light jacket, you should be fine for most of the times; it will never be really cold, and if it gets warmer you are ready to take off some layers and be fine anyway. Remember that rain is quite common here during these season, so if you could bring as many waterproof stuffs as you can, it will be much better.
– Winter: winter is the only season when things can get a little bit… trickier, let’s say. The Val d’Orcia, being situated inland far from the Mediterranean sea, has not the same mild winter weather of the coastal areas; during the cold season, temperatures can get as low as -5 Celsius degrees (around 20 Fahrenheit degrees), so my tip is to bring all of your heavy clothing equiment, specially if you are planning to stay out till late in the evening or early in the morning. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes temperatures are more than acceptable, but it’s better to pack something more than something less. A good winter jacket should be on your essentials list, as well as some warm winter boots and some heavy sweater. Scarf, gloves and a warm cap should be on that list too!