DOLCI: VAL D’ORCIA
Rippling landscapes punctuated by the sharp flicks of cypress trees, rolling up to honey-coloured hilltop towns – Val d’Orcia is Tuscany as you’ve always imagined it. Spend your days strolling around renaissance castles surrounded by vineyards, or work up an appetite cycling some of Italy’s most cinematically scenic routes.
Two towns here come top for standout local cuisine. Pienza, with its perfectly preserved centre dating from the 1460s, is home to Tuscany’s finest pecorino cheese. This sheep cheese’s distinctive taste is a result of the surrounding grazing land, which is rich in rare herbs and plants such as meadow salsify and wormwood. There’s no shortage of places to buy some – and it makes an ideal snack as you wander around the town walls.
In nearby Montalcino, it’s all about wine. The vineyards here produce the renowned Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, a rich red wine first made in the 1300s. Opt for a tasting at your hotel to linger over a glass (or two). Ideal bites to go with it include crisp crostini topped with Tuscan chicken liver pâté.