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Val D\'Orcia

15 Throughout the world this land has become synonymous with yellow, red and ochre-tinted shades of brown. It is contrasted by strokes of wild broom, wild rose and hawthorn. In the midst of yellow wheat fields, poppies explode into mauve and scarlet blooms. Those who observe patiently are awarded with the delicate colours and shapes of countless varieties of wild orchids. Cypress trees are another landmark of primary importance here. Their orderly rows zig-zag up hillsides, offering an ideal subject for painters and photographers, even for ad agencies in search of a natural exemplification of Italian elegance. Travellers from the world over know they have reached Tuscany when they see their first cypress trees. It might disappoint some to learn that according to botanists, these beloved trees originated in central Asia, were brought to Europe by Etruscans and Phoenicians, and became widespread thanks to their use in Roman villas and gardens. In Val d’Orcia nature is to be actively enjoyed. Dirt roads and walking trails offer a chance to live out a slow-speed adventure on foot, horseback or by mountain bike. You can enter the heart of the valley and appreciate its most minute details, far removed from traffic and chaos, while enjoying the total harmony of your surroundings. Many species of rapacious birds glide over the hills of Val d’Orcia during their hunts. Here you may observe not only the nibbio bruno, the albanella minore and the lodolaio, to be found throughout most of Italy, but also the lanario, one of Europe’s rarest falcons, and the elegant biancone, a small eagle that hunts snakes and builds its nests high in the trees. In the fields, wild brush and along riverbanks you may observe rare bird species such as the passero solitario, the averla capirossa and the occhione. Those not keen on birdwatching may be left breathless to encounter a roe on their path (this being one of Italy’s most densely populated areas) or to witness the passage of a porcupine where the trail is suddenly covered with quills. VALDORCIA_INT_ING 30-07-2009 18:48 Pagina 15

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