San Quirico

For centuries the meeting spot for merchants making their way to Florence. Cover image by Edward Riddell

Image by Podere Salicotto


Image by Podere Salicotto

San Quirico is an ancient town located along the Via Francigena, however, unlike all other hamlets in Val d’Orcia, its position is not high upon a hill, nor does it look like it is placed in a strategically defensive position. This is because San Quirico was never intended as a town from which a group of people would rule the land, but rather a stop along the route where merchants from Umbria and The Marche, who were making their way to Florence or Siena, would meet and have exchanges.

For centuries and centuries, San Quirico marked the last stop along the Via Francigena before entering the State of the Church, as declared by Sigerico, the Archbishop of Canterbury during his short reign from 990 to 994 AD.

Van Der Meer, a renowned Etruscan scholar, identifies what is now known as San Quirico as the location of Ena, cited in the Liber Linteus Zagrabiensis, the oldest book in Western Europe, which was written between the 2nd and 3rd centuries, testifying to the town’s ancient existence.

Federico I Hohenstaufen, better known as Barbarossa, the king of Germany and Italy, indicated as the legitimate sovereign of the Sacred Roman Empire, arrived in San Quirico in the year 1155, when he was one of the most important men of his time, in order to be crowned as Emperor by the Pope, in Rome. Before being crowned he however had to be approved by the Pope’s cardinals, who met with Barbarossa in San Quirico. In order for him to be Emperor, he had to capture the army of Arnaldo da Brescia, including Arnaldo, who was promptly brought to Barbarossa, in San Quirico. Arnaldo was brought along to Rome with Barbarossa, as a token to demonstrate his capacity to reign as Emperor. On the day he was crowned, the 18th of June 1155, in the Basilica of San Pietro, Arnaldo da Brescia was killed and his ashes thrown in the nearby river Tevere.

To commemorate the important role San Quirico played in Barbarossa’s ascent to power, he decided to elevate the town and its surrounding lands to the level of Imperial Vicarage, giving it significant political and administrative power. A role which the town held all throughout the rule of the Republic of Siena until its downfall.

Image by Edward Riddell


Cappella della Madonna di Vitaleta

Image by Edward Riddell

Dedicated to the Madonna that once appeared to a local farm girl, the Chapel of Vitaleta has become one of the emblems of Val d’Orcia. Situated on the road between San Quirico and Pienza, surrounded by rolling hills, wheat fields and the odd cypress it is one of the most photographed and visited places in the area. Legend has it that when the Madonna appeared, she instructed the girl to go to a specific bottega in Florence where she would find the statue to be placed in the Chapel. The statue is in fact Andrea de La Robbia’s Madonna Annunciata, of which nowadays only a replica can be found in the Chapel of Vitaleta.

Image by Italian Travelers

Chiesa di San Francesco (also known as della Madonna di Vitaleta)

Image by Italian Travelers

In San Quirico’s central piazza is the church of San Francesco, built above the remains of the Convent of San Francesco in the late 1800s. Above the main altar sits Andrea della Robbia’s Madonna Annunciata, dating back to the 16th century, and conserved in the Chapel of Vitaleta until 1870 when it was moved to the centre of San Quirico for its protection against earthquakes.

Image by Wikicommons

Horti Leonini

Image by Wikicommons

A large, Italian-style garden sits in the middle of San Quirico d’Orcia, its walls confining with the old town’s fortifications. Built in 1500 by Diomede Leoni with the intention of building a public garden, intended for everyone to enjoy, not just the elite. One of the garden’s peculiar features is in fact the lack of an adjacent villa or caste, as all other gardens at that time were. At the far end of the garden, near the church of Santa Maria Assunta is a wonderfully secluded rose garden.

I Cipressini

The infamous tall and needle shaped Tuscan trees - cypresses, have existed in the region since two centuries Before Christ, when they were imported from modern-day Turkey. All the populations which inhabited Val d’Orcia throughout history loved these beautiful trees, from Etruscans to Renaissance painters, who often raffigurated them in their work. The constant adoration of cypresses turned them into a symbol and a defining characteristic of Tuscany’s landscape. They were used to delineate roads, properties and hills. Above one of the hills one drives through arriving to San Quirico from Montalcino is a neat circle of cypresses known as i cipressini di San Quirico. This strange seemingly natural formation has been the subject of many legends and myths. Unfortunately the reality is a bit more dull, as the motivation behind the existence of the cluster of cypresses is upland hunting.

Image by Festa del Barbarossa


Image by Festa del Barbarossa

June - Festa del Barbarossa
December - Festa dell’Olio

Image by Palazzo del Capitano


Trattoria al Vecchio Forno

traditional Tuscan

High quality ingredients in a family run trattoria in San Quirico’s narrow streets. We highly recommend their tagliata, with a side of fried artichokes if in season.

Image by @loriamazzuoli


wine & plates

Great local wine selection accompanied by a series of small dishes with seating outside, on the town’s main pedestrian street.

Image by @pocciss

Ristorante da Ciacco

upscale Tuscan

A welcoming environment with traditional yet creative dishes, from revisited pici with tomatoes and aglione to the classic Fiorentina steak.

Image by Trattoria Osenna

Ristorante Trattoria Osenna

historic tradition

Traditional Tuscan dishes with most ingredients sourced from the family-owned azienda agricola. From the fat Fiorentina steaks to the dainty and uncommon aglione, used to make pici all’aglione.