Something about the Val d’Orcia region of Tuscany almost casts a spell over you. The soft, undulating hills, silvery olive groves and elegant cypress trees, combined with the sweeping vineyards, create a landscape which is so stunningly beautiful that, at times, it is almost too much to take in.
Tuscany has long been a favoured destination for artists and photographers, and it is with good reason, as it is one of those places that cannot fail to captivate.
Our workshop will focus on the beautiful Val D’Orcia region, with its classic Tuscan landscapes. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage area in 2004, this region can only be described as one of poetic beauty. It is easy to imagine that this landscape was designed specifically for our visual pleasure.
There is no better time to photograph the area than in May, with the landscape carpeted in shades of green and the wildflowers blooming. Early starts are rewarded, so we will rise at dawn most days to catch some early morning mist, hopefully. The dawn shoots are one of the best times of the day when the light is magical, revealing all the soft contours in the landscape.
Our base, the rustic hotel and spa, Residence Casanova on the outskirts of San Quirico, is right in the heart of the Val d’Orcia, meaning we have plenty of subject matter right on our doorstep.
Some days, after an early morning start and breakfast, we will be out until lunchtime. We return to the hotel for lunch and a few hours of siesta or a swim in the pool, and then we are back out for the late afternoon and early evening light. On other days, we will be out for most of the day, such as when we travel a little further afield to the Crete Senesi, the home of the ‘lunar landscapes’ and the abbey of Monti Oliveto with its beautiful frescos.
The medieval hilltop villages that nestle amongst the rolling hills are simple and charming. As such, losing yourself in their maze of winding streets is a pure delight. We will be taking time to wander around some of these villages so typical of the area, stopping for coffee at local cafes to absorb the atmosphere. We will also explore the beautiful town of Pienza, home to exquisite Romanesque architecture and sweeping panoramic views from the city walls.
Tuscany has its fair share of impressive churches and cathedrals. However, the stunning marble church of San Biagio at Montepulciano is a sight to behold. We will photograph the picturesque streets of this medieval hill town, which is surrounded by vineyards. A visit to a wine cellar located deep in the heart of the old Etruscan city provides us with more opportunities for image-making; plus, we will get to taste some of the finest wines in the region!
The 9th century Renaissance abbey of St Antimo is another ‘must see’ whilst there. Set in a beautiful valley surrounded by olive groves and vineyards, it is a stunning example of medieval monastic architecture.
As well as the classic locations, we will also travel a little more off the beaten track via the network of white gravel roads that run amongst the olive groves and vineyards to places we have discovered through our many visits. Little chapels, ruined barns, lone cypresses, and fields of poppies are all waiting to be discovered and captured on camera.
Tuscany is a place you will never forget, so why wait if it is on your list of places to photograph? Come and join me!