If you think a visit to Valdichiana Senese means gentle hills and rolling views of the surrounding valleys, you will be surprised by the numerous parks and woods that enrich the natural heritage of this corner of Tuscany. It's a peaceful oasis and one of the lesser known itineraries. Whether you choose to go on foot or by bike, there are plentiful opportunities for outdoor activities.
In this article, we look at the main parks and nature reserves to visit in Valdichiana Senese for a holiday filled with adventure and fun with a focus on sustainable travel and a slow pace of discovery. Whether you want to spend a relaxing day walking along the stunning paths, enjoy a picnic with your children, or even organize a barbecue with friends, this is the article for you. All of these are experiences that you can arrange independently or via the outdoor offers proposed by Valdichiana Living.
The Belverde Archaeological Natural Park is an oasis of tall oak woods in the heart of the Valdichiana Senese. Situated at the foot of Mount Cetona, it is just two kilometers from the town. You can visit to the park and its caves with a guide daily in summer, or by reservation in winter for groups. You will be fascinated by the corridors, rooms and tunnels that have formed in the blocks of travertine as well as the so-called "cliff" that is an incredible natural labyrinth used as a refuge by Neanderthals. Along the way, we suggest the charming San Francesco grotto and the Lattaia grotto. The visit is completed by the didactic path of the Archeodrome and the Civic Museum for Prehistory of Monte Cetona, where you can learn more about the prehistoric events of these places, from the Paleolithic period to the Bronze Age. The visit is particularly suitable for children so they can be enthralled explorers of prehistory.
Near to the park, you can find the small village of Fontevetriana, an ancient settlement inhabited since prehistoric times. It's located a short distance from Casa Bebi where the Orcia river originates. From here, there are itineraries that can be covered on foot up to the summit of Mount Cetona, where there is an endless panorama of the wonderful Valdichiana and Val d’Orcia.
Between the territories of Sarteano and Chianciano Terme sits the Pietraporciana Nature Reserve, over 300 hectares of countryside and woods where you can walk in total tranquility and take a rest in the picnic areas. At the entrance to the reserve, you come across a majestic centuries-old beech forest that develops along a steep slope of the Pietraporciana hill. The path that starts from the Visitor Center will lead you right to the top of the hill to enjoy a breathtaking view that also embraces Monte Amiata.
The reserve can only be reached by walking along white road paths, surrounded by an unspoiled and silent natural landscape. A short distance away, make sure to see La Foce, crossroads famous for the Villa of the same name and for bico, a particular type of focaccia filled with salami and local specialties. It's also known for the Lucciolabella Nature Reserve in the Municipality of Pienza which is home to the avenues of cypresses, one of the most photographed places in the Val d’Orcia.
The Poggio della Maddalena, known to locals as "of the Capuchins", is located 700 meters above sea level, a few kilometers from the center of Montepulciano. It houses the convent and church of the Maddalena of the Capuchin order. A wood develops around the religious complex that extends for 22 hectares and features oaks, maple, opal, oak, downy oak, holm oak and cypress trees. Locals and those from nearby come to the hermitage for walks and picnics in the fairytale setting, immersed in the silence and unspoiled beauty of nature, with glimpses of the surrounding valleys and the village of Montepulciano.
Not far from Montefollonico, in the village of Vinsanto located between Torrita di Siena, Montepulciano and Pienza you can find “Il Tondo”, a small and charming park about 600 meters above sea level. Two round stone tables are arranged in the center of a beautiful wood of oaks, holm oaks, turkey oaks, ash trees, heather, broom and juniper. The harmonious geometric arrangement of the elements makes the park truly unique, ideal for a picnic or to take photos of the magnificent surroundings.
Along the Sentiero della Bonifica, a flat path of 60 kilometers that extends from the Municipality of Chiusi to Arezzo, you find the Natural Reserve of Lake Montepulciano, a protected natural area that is evidence to the presence of a vast swamp that occupied these territories and which was reclaimed in the Medici era.
The paths that surround Lake Montepulciano can be traveled on foot and by bicycle and are suitable for all ages. At the “La Casetta” Visitor Center, it's possible to learn abou the reserve, its history and the plant and animal species that populate it. There are also interesting ideas for excursions by Eco-boat for small groups, as well as picnic area equipped with a playground for children and an outdoor gym with six approved stations for the transformation of the energy produced into electricity. Thanks to special USB sockets, you can recharge your smartphone or contribute to the lighting of the Visitor Center.
Lake Chiusi is a few kilometers away and consists of a lovely stretch of water around which you can go for walks and bike excursions, particularly popular due to the numerous restaurants where you can taste brustico, a typical lake fish.
The small villages of Sinalunga and Trequanda - whose landscape has recently been recognized as "Historic rural landscape" - are set in a dense network of woods interspersed with olive groves and countryside. We highly recommend a walk along one of the countless paths that cross these unspoiled landscapes. There are many starting points: Castelmuzio, the monastic complex Sant’Anna in Camprena, Pietroio or Colle Baldino, near the Church of San Bernardino. Wide open spaces, breathtaking landscapes and small villages perched on the Tuscan hills await you.