A Complete Guide to Buy Property in Tuscany’s Val d’Orcia

| March 17, 2016

Val d'Orcia

Want to learn more about Tuscany’s Val d’Orcia, the ancient and uniquely preserved valley lying just south of Siena, and find out if it could be the right place to buy your second home in Italy?

In this article, you’ll get to know this land and its property market.

Are you ready? Go!

Val d’Orcia: Icon of the Tuscan rural landscape

mapDo you know where it is, exactly? Superbly and strategically located in southern Tuscany, close to the Umbria border, it is less than one hour to Siena, Perugia or Trasimeno lake and less than 2 hours drive to Florence or Rome. The sea is about 50 km far!

The name “Val d’Orcia” may be not as known as other more popular Tuscan areas, such as Chiantishire, is indeed the most used in photos, magazines, websites, etc. as the representation of Tuscany with its gently rolling hills, charming farmhouses, avenues of cypress trees and rows of vineyards.

Go back to 14th century paintings: it is exactly the same uncontaminated place! And it will remain that way because it has been declared a world heritage site by UNESCO. Yet the Italian government designed the area as the Artistic, Natural and Cultural Park of the Val d’Orcia in order to further protect it.

So what better place to buy Italy property for sale? Investors know it very well! Among worldwide  home-hunters Val d’Orcia has always been a highly sought housing market over the years, like the rest of the region after all, since the first non-Italian man settled-in.

Property for sale in Tuscany’s Val d’Orcia: What you can buy

1 – Property values in its major towns of Pienza, Montalcino, and San Quirico d’Orcia are definitely among the most expensive of this area. This is especially the case of Pienza and San Quirico where the average house prices in the historic centres can range from an average of 1,200 €/m² in San Quirico to 1,800 €/m². Bear in mind that Pienza is a well known place in Siena province halfway between Montalcino and Montepulciano towns, and its old historical centre has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999. And Montalcino, which lies west of Pienza close to Mount Amiata, is famous for its signature brand of wines such as the precious Brunello di Montalcino.

There are, however, better deals in their smaller villages or hamlets just a few minutes away from the major towns. This is where you are likely to get a nice renovated 80 m² apartment for around 60,000 € for instance. Also property values in the other two municipalities belonging to Val d’Orcia, namely Castiglione d’Orcia and Radicofani, are slightly lower than their three “sisters”

2 – In the picturesque countryside and hills that characterize the beautiful Val d’Orcia (i.e. the so-called Park of the Val d’Orcia) and that surrounds the towns, properties are not so cheap as one may expect from a rural area. Especially if you buy a renovated farmhouse, since their fine restoration requires a lot of work by skilled experts. Moreover they are usually equipped with large gardens or plots of land, but also vineyards with DOC wine production in the case of Montalcino for example. Therefore prices can also reach up to 4,300 €/m² or more.

A ruin to renovate with land and panoramic views over the Val d’Orcia and Mt. Amiata can be yours starting from about 1,000 €/m², a little less for the building land only.

From 1,300 to 1,000 €/m² you will find a typical house in need of some maintenance/restoration works.

Rural Property in Tuscany

The Tuscan countryside, including Val d’Orcia, is dotted with rural farmhouses case rurali in Italian, also known as case coloniche or Tuscan casolari, which are settlements once used for share-cropping and other agricultural activities, that go under the name of mezzadria.

The origin of these country houses can be traced as far back as the 16th century, when they began to erect buildings for the families that worked for the fattore (the person who works for the padrone and makes sure that all agricultural operations are done well and timely, and that there is no leak in the sharing) and of the farm workers.

These settlements were usually built over an existing and isolated fortress and tower dating back to medieval times, which were often incorporated into these new 16th century buildings.

Main features:
• made of stone or bricks
• two or more levels
• the roofing is typically made of clay tiles (coppi)
• usually comes with out-buildings meant for other activities such as storage for harvest or to host farm workers
• stone courtyard
• oven and well
• wooden beams (oak, chestnut, elm or poplar)
• terracotta floor tiles

Today these countryside houses are a major trait of the Tuscany landscape, and each area boasts its own typical features. Farm houses in the Val d’Orcia are those characterized by neatly kept rows of cypress trees that lead towards the manor house where the landowner lived.

However, in the 20th century they were affected by rampant urbanization which caused depopulation in the rural areas and left many of these estates isolated and neglected. Fortunately, towards the end of the century, there was renewed discovery and exploitation of rural Tuscany houses especially by non-Italian buyers, English and Germans above all, who settled in the Chianti and Siena areas.

Tuscan countryside

Renovate a farmhouse in Val d’Orcia

Many local tradesmen or firms specialize in this kind of renovations as high experience is required to work with such materials and characteristics. Especially because they reuse and rehash all the material which is already on site. For instance bricks or stones of the outbuildings can be utilized to renovated the main property. Beams and floors (usually hand-made) are processed through special techniques to give them new life so that they look like exactly as they were in their original state.

At the same time Tuscan farmhouses can be finely restored by maintaining their original features without sacrificing any contemporary comfort. As a matter of fact this typical scenario perfectly meet all the most modern techniques as per heating and plumbing systems, wiring and insulation.

How did everything started?

When Iris Origo arrived there about 1 century ago, Val d’Orcia was «bare and colourless as elephants’ backs, as treeless as mountains of the moon. A lunar landscape pale and inhuman», as the Anglo-American biographer and author wrote in her remarkable “War in Val D’Orcia: An Italian War Diary”.

Born in the United States, her mother brought her to live in Italy after her father’s death. Here she married an Italian marquise, Antonio Origo. In 1924 they bought La Foce, an Italian villa of about 30,000 hectares just south of Pienza, where they helped peasant children during WWII.

In that period Val d’Orcia was still «a land without mercy, without shade». But from a frontier land they turned it into the Tuscan dream, as we all know it today. They restored the entire estate and its surroundings with the help of the English architect Cecil Pinset. He drew inspiration from the 14th and 15th century painters from Siena to refurbish not only their villa and especially its garden, but also other properties of the area and he created some of those cypress roads that are today the symbol of Tuscany.

«The Val d’Orcia had been much neglected over the centuries, laid bare by soil erosion and desolated by wars by rival city-states. The new owners set about to restoring it to life.»

There are so many traditional properties in Val d’Orcia waiting for you, both ready to be lived in or to be restored, depending on the scale of your Tuscan dream: