The Val d’Orcia is a ravishing rural area running into le Crete Senesi, but within sight of hulking Monte Amiata. For many, this is the loveliest area in Tuscany, with Unesco-listed countryside, perfect hilltop villages, remote abbeys and evocative castles. Foodies, walkers and spa-lovers will take to the thermal spas, rustic inns, myriad wine trails and meditative walks. The Val d’Orcia represents quintessential Tuscany, with clusters of cypresses, ribbons of plane trees, vineyards on the slopes, and farms perched on limestone ridges. But it was not this alone that won the area Unesco World Heritage status – it’s also about the harmony between the Tuscans and their landscape, shaped by their mellow way of life. Once depopulated, these medieval villages are now enjoying a belated renaissance. San Quirico d’Orcia may be the gateway to the area but Montalcino, Pienza and Montepulciano also make delightful stepping-stones to scenery landscaped since time immemorial.