The Ultimate Photo Location Guide to Tuscany
If there's one thing that almost all the travel photographers have in common is to dedicate a lot of time, prior to the actual trip, to location scouting and planning. We can't help but do that, so that we can maximize our time when we are on the location. That's why I though to give you some help here by listing a few of the most important Tuscany photography locations. We'll always visit these places during our photo workshops, but in case you are setting up a trip on your own here you'll find some useful information for your Tuscany visit!
1. PODERE BELVEDERE
It’s hard to go more “Tuscany” than this; the Podere Belvedere is probably the most popular location of the area. It’s located around 500 meters before arriving to San Quirico d’Orcia, and you can spot it if you look to your left (coming from Pienza) in between the olive trees. It’s not easy to spot, but if you stop in the area you should be able to find it quite easily. Oh, be sure to be there for sunrise if you want to get the best possible light!
Generally, I like to position the house on the lower part to the frame, give space to the hills in the background and finally a little bit of sky too on the upper third. But that’s not the only composition, you can also go wider (trying to keep out not-interesting things as much as possible) or zoom in more and exclude the sky, like in the photo down here. A 70-200mm is the lens to take here, without any doubt!
Best time to visit would be in spring or autumn, in the hope to catch some low fog hanging around the hills at sunrise. In spring you might find some colorful flowers too!
An hassle-free Tuscany experience.
In our 7 days Tuscany photo workshop the only thing you’ll need to do is relax, enjoy and shoot the landscapes.
2. THE CYPRESSES OF MONTALCINO
I don’t think this place needs any introductions, right? One of the most popular for sure, they are located on the freeway that takes you from San Quirico d’Orcia to Montalcino; they are quite easy to spot, but just in case, you’ll find them on the left while driving to Montalcino. Since it’s a freeway and people are driving quite fast there, be sure to look around well if you cross the road! Best time of the day is sunset without any doubt, with the last light of the day hitting the hills. If you are here during milky way season, they work great as a nice landscape to include in your night shots! Both for night and day photography, I’d go there with a wide angle lens, something like the 16-35mm is perfect here.
Don't limit yourself though: the entire place is what I like to call a "playground for photographers", as there are so many great compositions and pictures to take: a telephoto zoom would be recommended too as there are some lonely trees in the distance to shot too.
3. THE MADONNA DI VITALETA CHAPEL
This small chapel is another spot that you just can’t miss if you come to visit Tuscany; it’s located on the road that goes from Pienza to San Quirico d’Orcia. Coming from Pienza, it’s situated half-way to San Quirico d'Orcia on the left; it’s going to be quite small, since it’s on another hill! Best time of the day to be there is sunrise, as the sun is rising just behind the chapel. You’ll need a telephoto lens here, something that can arrive at least at 300mm to frame nicely the place!
There's also another way to see the chapel though: a couple of kilometers before the main spot, closer to Pienza, you'll notice there's a gravel road leading into the hills. Take that road, and after another 3km ca. park your car: from there you'll find a short trail (5 minutes) that will lead you right in front of the Madonna di Vitaleta chapel. To frame it, since you'll be quite close to it, you might need a wide angle lens!
4. PODERE BACCOLENO
The only place on this list that it’s not technically in Val d’Orcia; don’t worry, it’s not far away though! It’s a 45 minutes drive from Pienza; it’s really close to Asciano, another small town of the Siena countryside. The Val d'Orcia (Orcia Valley) is the area between Pienza, San Quirico d'Orcia and Montalcino, while the "Crete Senesi" (where the Podere Baccoleno is) is a bit north of that. The best time of the day to go there shooting is sunset, and the lens to go is a standard-zoom for me, something around 24-120mm or 24-105mm would be perfect. The location offers many different perspectives, from the classic one that you take from the hill above the house (like in the picture up here) to the ones where you go down and play with the winding road. A wider lens would be recommended for the lower shots.
In spring, depending on the year you are visiting, you may find flowers all over the place!
A guaranteed visit.
In all our 4 days Tuscany photography tours a shooting session at the Baccoleno is guaranteed!
5. POGGIO COVILI
One of the most iconic locations of Tuscany, Poggio Covili with its lined cypresses is world famous nowadays. Truth is though, that it's more famous between "normal tourists" than photographers: if you'll travel there at the right time of the day, you have good chances of being alone with just a few roosters singing.
My recommendation is to be there at sunrise, with the sun rising right in the middle of the line of trees if you stand on the left of it. In spring you may found wheat growing in the field around the house, while in autumn it's not difficult to find foggy conditions like the one you are seeing in the picture here. A wide angle is the lens to-go here.
6. I CIPRESSINI
You'll find the "I Cipressini" country house just outside Pienza when heading towards San Quirico d'Orcia. If you are staying in Pienza, you might even take a walk from downtown to arrive here. Many brands used this house to make Tuscany famous to the eyes of the world. It is one of the symbols of this land. If you want to get the best light, I'd recommend to be here at sunset, when the sky could color up and bring magic tones in your pictures. As always, spring and autumn are the best times to visit the place!
7. THE GLADIATOR HOUSE (PODERE TERRAPILLE)
The so called Gladiator House (which in reality is a country house named Podere Terrapille) is one of the most photogenic spots of the Val d'Orcia. The Podere Terrapille took the "Gladiator's House" name when Scott Ridley decided to record a scene of one of his films (guess which one!) right here. You'll find it right under Pienza; if you are trained you can even walk from the town all the way down to the location (and then up again!), otherwise you can take the car and be there in a couple of minutes. Be sure to park when the paved road ends: the last stretch is an incredibly steep gravel road which your car won't be able to do. Don't venture down there, just take a five minutes walk and you'll be there.
Both sunrise and sunset are great here, since the light will make all the difference. In the morning there are higher chances to catch some low fog (specially in autumn), but at sunset you get some sweet side-light like in the picture. A standard lens will be great here, but remember that you can also shoot it from the Pienza balcony with a telephoto lens.
Time to decide when to come.
Now that you know the best locations, you only need to read this other guide to start planning your Tuscany trip.