The Artistic Natural and Cultural park of the Val d'Orcia
Five Communes of one of the loveliest and uncontaminated areas in the province of Siena Tuscany, the Valley of the Orcia, have gambled on a home-made park: a park whose requisites are not included within the normal parameters, but are only a mingling and an approach between protection and development, safeguarding and exploitation. And the gamble seems to be a winner. In recent years the Val d'Orcia, a fusion of art and landscape, has become one of the most sought-after natural settings in Italy. By now, its beauties are images which have gone around the world (those of the film The English Patient are just one example).
In this geographical space and ecosystem, at the same time, about ten years ago people began to talk about sustainable development, something that is a great topic of conversation today. But the problem was to know what to offer and how to organise this valley, so as to transform it from an almost unknown place into a suggestive and enchanted place that the entire world dreams of and desires.
The landscape of the Val d'Orcia is the expression of magnificent natural characteristics, but is also the result and testimony of the people who live there. It is indeed in these places, included between the harsh, uneven, and ungenerous countryside of the Crete and the softer one of the hills where the Mediterranean maquis, vineyards, olive groves, and heterogeneous crops interrupt and intersect with each other, that how and how much the presence or absence of man's work and his awareness that he depends on the resources of the surroundings and their use in a nondestructive manner is certified and transmitted.
The basic idea of the Parco Artistico Naturale e Culturale della Val d'Orcia, which includes the Communes of Castiglione d'Orcia, Montalcino, Pienza, Radicofani and San Quirico d'Orcia, originated from the desire of the local authorities to guarantee the conservation of the natural and artistic properties present in very great measure in this valley, attempting at the same time to guarantee to man who with his own work has contributed to the genesis of a patrimony of rare beauty and originality a true economic improvement.
It originated also from an awareness that a dynamic instrument was necessary that served both as protection and exploitation as well as development, which would not put the territory in plaster, transforming it into something resembling a museum. In the Valley, well-known architectural and artistic outgrowths such as the urban complexes of Pienza and Montalcino, the Abbey of Sant’Antimo, the fortresses of Radicofani and Rocca d'Orcia, the Collegiate Church of San Quirico, the medieval baths of Bagno Vignoni, and the grange of Spedaletto, are flanked by landscape and naturalistic elements of evident originality: the Nature Reserve of Lucciolabella, the biotopes of Mediterranean maquis and silver fir trees in the Commune of Castiglione d'Orcia, the gullies, the biancone, and the crete.
Only productions of the highest quality could spring from the bond and combination established between agriculture and an almost uncontaminated environment: we are thinking of Brunello di Montalcino, pecorino cheese from Pienza, extra-virgin olive oil, honey, typical salted meats, and saffron. The park of the Val d'Orcia is not really a park. This area has been recognised by the Tuscan Region as an A.N.P.I.L.
(Protected Nature Area of Local Interest), in compliance with Tuscan Regional Law No. 49/95, which is always the equivalent of an instrument of safeguard for the territory (it is within the national law on parks) without having drastic constraints such as those provided for national or regional parks.
The governing body, already established, is represented by the Association of the Area of the Val d'Orcia, consisting of the Mayors of the five Communes and the President of the Province. The park's governing body is made up of Val d'Orcia S.r.l., which works to promote the Valley and its products by searching out all the opportunities aimed at its eco-sustainable development. Its operative office is located at San Quirico d'Orcia. According to the intention of its promoters, it will become a point of reference for both economic and promotional initiatives.
Val d'Orcia S.r.l., the municipal administrations, and the provincial administration are working to create a coordinated and operative management of the territory, where quality, conservation, and economic development represent an indissoluble bond for the purposes of optimising and exploiting the overall Val d'Orcia offer. To conclude, the Val d'Orcia project has almost utopian aims: to make whoever happens to travel this enchanted valley feel a sort of immersion within a territorial context that is not static, but rather linked to the dynamics of daily movement inspired by two only seemingly opposing concepts conservation and development; to have them understand the gamble that the five Communes in the valley have made, by placing the environment and culture as the territory's primary resources and the challenge which they have launched. Does an intermediate path exist between the speculative use of the territory and its safeguarding as a museum?
The park wishes to be a concrete alternative, a middle course between territorial speculation and the paralysing protection of environmental properties; but above all it wants to be an answer and a guarantee for future generations.