Of the intrinsic beauty and harmonious forms of Tuscan hills.

I come from a region where the land is alternatively very flat – filled with rice paddies, corn fields and factories – or very mountainous. There’s really not much of an alternative; it’s either flat as a ruler or climbs to 2,000 meters in 5 km. So, whilst I appreciated the generic idea of rolling hills in Tuscany, crowned by cypresses and dotted with manors where the likes of Sting can wear red trousers and savour the fruit of his hectares of Sassicaia, it always felt a bit mythical to me, like finding an Audi driver that won’t tailgate on the motorway, or a solicitor that won’t overcharge you. You get the idea.
Then I found this.

Now, I will admit that this isn’t the most flattering of the photos – and how could it be, considered I did it whilst clocking a tad bit more than the 70 advertised on that funny round sign over there – but it was the first sighting that, yes, the Sting-manor-Sassicaia scenario could indeed be real. It’s an ugly photo, but bear with me, for it contains everything I was to admire for the following days. A sky dotted with clouds. Light playing around on the nude hill-sides. The soft contours of the land, making them almost alive, like the muscle of some sleeping beast. Empty roads. It only could get better.
Outside San Quirico d’Orcia lied a small chapel, Vitaleta. If you Google it, like we did, you’ll find a sequence of images as Tuscan as a half cigar, a glass of potent red or a swearword involving the Virgin Mary, poisonous snakes and some lady of ill repute (seriously). So one day, nice and early, that’s where we went. For a while it was only us, the bees, a tractor far away, some insects and a posse of swallows dive-bombing to feast on the flying bugs.

And there she was. In typical Are We There Yet? fashion we’d arrived from the wrong way, getting to see the back of the chapel rather than the more august front, but I’ve never been one for doing things properly, ever. The air was warm yet not oppressively so, the sky echoed with the shrills of the birds and a faint breeze brought some distant smell of vegetation. Far to the west massive clouds rolled around, bringing the large thunderstorms that were to hit us later in the evening. I wondered with apprehension at the erosion on the hills; I’d just discovered them and didn’t feel them to be turned into yet another copy of Vercelli province.

I shouldn’t have worried. The glorious Tuscan hills continued in all directions throughout Val d’Orcia, and perhaps even further. Some donned a thick shawl of bushes and trees, some stood bare-shouldered, some were half-and-half. A few had some lucky person’s house plucked on top, many a whole village and a couple a luxury resort where the likes of Sting could host their friends should they ever run out of visitors’ rooms. All of them were a beauty to behold and a joy to drive around.
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13 Responses to Of the intrinsic beauty and harmonious forms of Tuscan hills.

  1. J.D. Riso says:

    Beautiful landscape. I can understand why middle-aged divorcees flock there. 😁I love those trees, especially. So, you were a tourist in your birth land? After all of the offbeat places you’ve been, I bet it seemed bizarre. Whenever I visit America now, it seems so damn weird.

    • awtytravels says:

      Hey Julie, for once I wish I was a middle-aged divorcee (laden with my wife/husband’s multi-million-divorce settlement in my bank account)! Indeed, having failed to secure tickets to South America, we did do an Italian tour and, frankly, I didn’t regret it one bit! The only issue was getting a Nissan P…ehm Juke at the rental. Ugly, ugly, ugly car. But hey!

  2. Ah! 🙂 I’m so glad to see you dared to explore closer to home. Not very different from your -stans. Or is it the camera. 😉 Nah, I know, Tuscany is brown, just how you like it, except when it’s green. Was this now? How much to the south did you dare? Val d’Orcia I visited twice and both times there was absolutely no light with low-lying clouds. I shall be back. And the chapel, Vitaleta, is on my list high. Next time you shout out beforehand and I’ll introduce you to bestia. 🙂

    • awtytravels says:

      Oh, missed Bestia! Bummer. Val d’Orcia was the furtherest south we dared this time, and it was in early September, so a few weeks ago now… vendemmia time. Thanks for dropping by!

  3. lexklein says:

    Tuscany is one of those places I’ve had on my road trip list for decades, and I always pass it over for something else at the last minute. Although I’m more an Aosta kind of gal with the bigger extremes you wrote about to start, I know the rolling hills would suck me right in also; they are the direct relative of the land forms where I grew up, and I want to see those clouds settle down on the uniquely brown-yellow terrain I always see in photos. Great description of the land, by the way, and I have to point out that ever since I mentioned an Audi in a post a few weeks ago, you’ve taken two swipes at them (or their drivers, more accurately!) 🙂

    • awtytravels says:

      Tuscany’s a victim of its own success, unfortunately, but I found San Quirico to be a very beautiful place. I’d like to go around there in spring, when the wheat is green and the whole place looks like the Cotswolds, just better.
      Just a coincidence for the Audis, I *always* take swipes at them! My brother made me promise, once, not to say “he’s running as if he had the tax police on his heels” every time a Swiss-plated Audi did 170 on the inside lane of the motorway… I dread the day I’ll be given an Audi at Avis, because I know I’ll enjoy that car, much in the same way I enjoyed a black Beemer 730 when I got it, for reasons unknown, in lieu of a Golf at Geneva airport. I felt like a Balkan mafia mobster but damn didn’t it feel good!

  4. Dave Ply says:

    I had a brief taste of Tuscany from the seat of a tour bus years ago, even that was enough to recognize the beauty of the land. It seems like that’d be one place a photographers “golden hour” could be used to great advantage.

  5. equinoxio21 says:

    Love Tuscany. I only regret never to have had more time to go to the countryside…

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