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Val D\'Orcia

21 The Sienese countryside is also famous for its flavours. Apart from the wine – Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montalcino, Orcia DOC – visitors to Val d’Orcia may taste, purchase and take back home exquisite olive oil, honey, cheeses and cold meats. There are traditional Tuscan specialties, others which have been adopted here, and others yet which had been lost but have recently been rediscovered. One such case of rediscovery is that of saffron, the fragrant spice made from the pistils of selectively bred crocus flowers. Prized even by Pliny the Elder and Galenus for its healing properties, saffron was cultivated in Val d’Orcia throughout the middle ages, when it was also exported, especially to Germany. Production ceased in the 1500s and has resumed only recently. Today a considerable amount of Italy’s saffron is again grown in Val d’Orcia. Pienza’s now world-renowned sheep cheese (known as pecorino or cacio) tells a happy tale of cultural encounter and exchange. Archeologists have unearthed great terracotta boilers, testifying to the practice of cheese making even in prehistoric times. With the advent of the industrialisation in Italy, the 1960s witnessed a widespread abandonment of farm estates in the area followed by the arrival of Sardinian shepherds and their herds, who contributed to a transformation of the local cheese. Now pecorino di Pienza may be purchased throughout Italy. Its unique flavour has always depended on grazing lands rich with fragrant herbs such as savory, thyme, helychrisum and absinth. The variety of local flower fragrances also contributes to the exquisite quality of the local honey, often produced in Val d’Orcia for national firms. A variety of flavours ranging from field flowers to chestnut, sunflower, lucerne and mountain flowers awaits you, all rich with the natural essence of this harmonious valley. VALDORCIA_INT_ING 30-07-2009 18:48 Pagina 21

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