Just half an hour from Montisi, off the beaten track and well worth a visit is San Quirico d’Orcia. Often overlooked in favour of its more famous neighbours, Pienza and Montalcino, San Quirico is a very special place. Situated on the Via Francigena, the old pilgrim route to Rome, it is an ancient walled town filled with individual shops, good restaurants and bars.

It is also home to some outstanding architecture. The impressively restored Palazzo Chigi often hosts art exhibitions. It stands close to the 12th century Collegiata church with a Lombard style portico including columns supported by sandstone carved lions. At the other end of the scale is the minute 11th century church of Santa Maria Assunta. Simple but very atmospheric, the portal is decorated with various beautifully tiny animals.

For a quiet stroll or picnic in the shade, the Renaissance gardens, the Horti Leonini, are a few steps from the main piazza which in turn has a great views over the original city walls. These gardens are a gorgeous geometrical example of their time and display a statue of Cosimo III dè Medici at their centre. Further in, you’ll find the remains of an ancient medieval tower that used to rise over 39 metres but was unfortunately destroyed by the Germans during the Second World War.

Don’t miss the wonderful shop, Dedalo, in the central piazza, which sells beautiful linens and much much more.

Just two kilometres outside San Quirico on the way to Pienza and down a white road is the much photographed Chapel of the Madonna di Vitaleta. Probably built in the late Renaissance it was redesigned in 1884, inspired by sixteenth century models. The chapel is built in stone and has an especially pretty rose window. A souvenir photo of this iconic chapel in the Val D’Orcia is a must!

For further information visit the San Quirico Tourist Information website.