All you need to know to plan a visit to San Quirico d’Orcia, hilltop town in Tuscany with a beautiful historical center and iconic Tuscan charm.
One of my favorite places in Italy is the small Tuscan town of San Quirico d’Orcia.
San Quirico is a medieval village perched on a hilltop in Tuscany, and it is just what you picture when you think of the quintessential Tuscan town: ancient walls, car free streets, ancient piazzas filled with the clattering of cafes and wine bars and views of rolling hills as far as the eyes can see.
San Quirico is in the heart of Val d’Orcia an area recognized by UNESCO as ‘outstanding natural beauty’: it is a tiny place with a ton of charm and one of the best day trips in the area you can ever ask for.
I actually find this is one of the most beautiful places in Italy as a whole!
This is all you need to know to plan a visit to San Quirico.
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Who should visit San Quirico d’Orcia
San Quirico d’Orcia is a medieval, walled town with a beautiful ancient town center, art filled churches and beautiful views over the countryside below.
It is the perfect place for:
- Cultural tourists and history lovers
- Lovers of Romanesque architecture
- Visitors who love pretty villages and a slow pace of life
- Food lovers – the area has world-famous produce and wine
- Families – the town is child friendly and even has a pretty playground in the shade of the city walls!
Things to see in San Quirico d’Orcia
San Quirico d’Orcia is a small village full of charm.
You can easily enjoy the town just strolling around its ancient streets and taking in the beauty of its cream-colored buildings however, there are some landmarks worth knowing about.
Most of them can be found along San Quirico’s main street, between the two Romanesque churches at its two ends.
All the attractions listed below can be seen in a couple of hours.
Admire the Collegiata (Church) Pieve dei Santi Quirico e Giulitta
The Collegiata church is the biggest church in San Quirico and one of the most imposing and impressive buildings in the city.
It is made of soft colored cream stone that acquires pink tones as the sun starts to set and its most ancient part dates back to the XII century, when the original ‘pieve‘ (small parish church) was built
The Collegiata is mostly Romanesque in architecture however, it is easy to spot elements from later times but inside and out.
Worth noticing are the carving above the church entrances and the beautiful pala over the altar inside.
Just outside the church you will find a well made of the same stone and, beside the church, historical Palazzo Chigi, also with a portal carved n the same tones.
Together, they create a beautiful piazza with a unified and soothing aesthetic.
Enjoy San Quirico’s many cafes and restaurants
As you leave the collegiata you find yourself in the heart of old town San Quirico, made of small car-free streets with cafes, shops and restaurants.
In summer, the cafes spill onto the street and they offer all the delicacies that are typical of this area: cheese, cured meats, pici (a type of pasta from nearby Siena) and of course the local delightful red wines.
As well as cafés, san Quirico has lovely local shops: worth checking out is the bookshop and café, full of pretty things and cute games for kids too.
Fun fact: lovers of Dante Alighieri and the Divine Comedy will find several nods to the poet. As well as Via Dante, one of San Quirico’s most famous restaurants is called Ciacco, from the character in the Divine Comedy known for its gluttony!
Walk through the main city gate
San Quirico has a main piazza dominated by a large gate that used to be the main entrance into the town.
The gate still stands, decorated with local flags, and has something special: just outside, it has a catapult, showcasing the art of war in the Middle Ages!
The catapult is impressive and a must-see, especially if visiting with kids (see our tops for families below!).
Visit Horti Leonini
San Quirico d’Orcia is famous for a very special garden, the Horti Leonini.
The Horti date back to 1581, when Francesco I dei Medici donated the land to Diomede Leoni, whose name the gardens adopted.
They are a beautiful example or architectural shaped Italian garden and they have largely stayed untouched since the time of their creation, which makes them well worth a visit.
The gardens have two main area, one more manicured and one wild and they are lovely for a walk or for a rest in the shade: San Quirico d’Orcia gets very hot in summer!
Part of the park is a lovely, paved yard with plant pots and trees that on good weather days hosts events and food tasting: it is a lovely location, especially on a summer evening!
Good to know: Horti Leonini are surrounded by a beautiful wall and it is worth walking along it, outside, as you will find very pretty houses and flower balconies you would miss if only staying on the main town thoroughfare.
See the Madonna by della Robbia in the Church of San Francesco
The church of San Francesco on the main San Quirico square holds a secret: inside, it has a Madonna Annunciata by della Robbia worth seeing.
Let yourself be charmed by the Church of Santa Maria Assunta
At the other end of San Quirico from the collegiate you will find the lovely church of Santa Maria Assunta, a small and wonderfully atmospheric Romanesque gem.
The church is tiny and with simple décor and it is immensely intimate and charming: worth noticing are its carvings of animals and faces, very peculiar and unmistakably ancient.
Spot vestiges of Via Francigena
San Quirico d’Orcia is on the via Francigena and several locations in town still bear witness to the important of this city for pilgrims.
You find mentions of it in little plaques all over the town and you can also visit the old hospital (as in ‘place of hospitality’), now a wonderful medieval yard with a renaissance well.
What to eat in San Quirico
San Quirico ha many restaurants serving delicious Tuscan foods. Things to try here are
- Pici ( a type of pasta from Siena)
- Pappa col pomodoro (a tomato based dish)
- Cured meats and cheese (Pienza, famous for pecorino di Pienza is nearby)
- Red wine – this is the area of Rosso and Brunello as well as the delightful Morellino di Scansano
Love Italian specialties? You may read fun facts about Italian food here.
San Quirico d’Orcia with kids
We visited San Quirico with kids and loved the town. What we loved the most were:
- The child friendly car free streets
- The lovely playground in the shade of the walls, with climbing frames
- The impressive medieval catapult, amazing for school age kids who have been learning about the middle ages
- The shaded Horti Leonini
- A fabulous children vegetable patch that we spotted a the town entrance and that we ere not able to access but was supe cute to see, with lots of vegetable beds clearly managed by budding gardeners!
San Quirico is a delight and we recommend a visit here as one of the best things to do in Italy with kids.
Practical tips for visiting San Quirico d’Orcia
San Quirico is best reached by car.
The roads in this area are well signposted and well cared and parking is available along the walls immediately outside the city.
While on top of a hill, San Quirico is less steep than many other towns in the area and doesn’t pose particular mobility issues.
However, comfortable shoes or sandals with rubber soles are recommended. Find our recommended shoes for Italy here.
You can see San Quirico in a matter of hours and we recommend it as a day trip from Siena or if you are staying in an agriturismo in the area.
Somethng special! Stay in nearby Terre di Nano agriturismo and winery if you want to experience a wonderful country retreat with views over Tuscany so beautiful, you will hardly believe they are real.
I hope you enjoyed this travel guide to San Quirico d’Orcia and it inspired you to visit. Safe travel planning!