Tuscan pit-stop – atmospheric and rewardin San Quirico d’Orcia

San Quirico d'OrciaWelcome back to Tuscany Month, featuring another chunk of the Lost Tuscany Text, this time about San Quirico d’Orcia, that didn’t make it into the totally redesigned 2010 Lonely Planet Tuscany & Umbria.

Although extremely atmospheric and featuring some good value eating and sleeping, San Quirico, by Tuscany standards, is merely a very rewarding road-side attraction, rather than a resounding ‘destination’, and so it got the ax during word count slashing:

Fortified. Compact. Medieval. San Quirico has the usual Tuscan adjectives and, unfortunately, few singular attractions. A one-time pilgrim pit-stop on the Via Francigena, it’s still a worthwhile place to pull over if you happen to be racing by on the SS2 between Montalcino and Pienza. Its Romanesque Collegiata is notable for its unusual three doorways, decorated with bizarre stone carvings. Inside is a triptych by Sano di Pietro. Just off Piazza della Liberta, the main square, the Horti Leononi are small, but lovely formal Italian Renaissance gardens with geometrical hedges. There’s a decidedly quiet and whimsically open tourist office at Via Dante Alighieri 33a, which also acts as the information office for the Parco Artistico Naturale e Culturale della Val d’Orcia.

San Quirico d'OrciaThe surrounding, pleasant Val d’Orcia, a land of flat, chalky plains and low-slung, pointy hills, is the latest Italian area to be declared a Unesco World Heritage Site. The equally recent Parco Artistico Naturale e Culturale della Val d’Orcia, headquartered in San Quirico d’Orcia, protects the area.

One of the better eateries in town is Trattoria Al Vecchio Forno (Via Piazzola 8; meals €30). They may be cleverly venting the kitchen’s grill out into the street, as you’ll smell it before you see it. The intimate dining room is crowded with classic photos of San Quirico and precariously stacked shelves of wine. Rabbit and Sienese pig figure heavily on the secondi list.

If you don’t have time for a sit down meal, there’s a magnificent small cheese shop (Via Dante Alighieri 113b; hours 9:30am-1pm & 4-7:30pm), an outlet for the Fattoria Pianporcino cheesemakers, where you can pick up the renowned pecorino di Pienza and other cheesy goodness.