Podere Belvedere

Of all the photography locations in Val D’Orcia, the Podere Belvedere is probably the most well known. It is a farmhouse villa situated on a small hill less than 1km east of San Quirico d’Orcia along the road to Pienza. Visit it on a sunny day and there is nothing much to see, as the view from the road looks down on the villa, which does not stand out particularly well from the surrounding countryside. However at sunrise, a bit of magic often takes place, as the sunlight catches the villa and hillside. The lay of the land also means the valley is often filled with mist in the early morning – particularly in spring and autumn.

To reach the Podere overlook, take the road from San Quirico towards Pienza, and after about 0.7km where the road bends to the left, there is a small track turning off on the right. Park anywhere along this track and walk through some bushes to the overlook. A variety of different views can be had by by walking back up the slopes towards the main road. This is such a popular location that you are unlikely to be the only photographer there at sunrise.

Podere Belvedere

We visited Podere Belvedere for sunrise on two separate days. The first time, we climbed to the highest viewpoint we could reach. This removes foreground buildings from the view, but means the house is more hidden behind the surrounding cypress trees. The first image below was in the pre-dawn light, before sunrise.

Pre-Dawn at Podere Belvedere

The second image below is about 1 hour later, with the early sunlight shining on the landscape. As the sun rises, it catches the hillside to the right of the villa, which requires a wider panorama view to fit into the frame. We were very fortunate as there was only a narrow gap in the clouds just above the horizon which allowed the sun to shine through – a few minutes after sunrise and the sun disappeared behind a bank of cloud.

Sunrise at Podere Belvedere

On the second morning that we visited, we remained lower down the hillside which gives a better view of the villa, but does mean that some agricultural buildings intrude into the bottom of the view. To some extent these can be hidden by some trees and bushes. On this second visit, we were rewarded with a misty start to the day.

Early Mist at Podere Belvedere

Once again, the rising sun illuminated the villa and hillside, whilst the background land remained largely in shadow.

Podere Belvedere at Sunrise

About half-an-hour after sunrise most of the sculpting effect of the low sun is lost and the view reverts to a rather ordinary flat view with the villa on its small hill merging into the background.

Other Views Nearby

Close to the top of the track leading down to the Podere Belvedere there is a small stand of cypress trees with a simple iron cross in the middle. These trees make a fine subject photographed against the sky. The track to the Podere splits and the left track also has an interesting line of cypresses, interspersed with some other trees.

Stand of Cypress Trees


Cypress Lined Track

Back on the main road on the opposite side to the Podere Belvedere is the so-called Gladiator House, with its double row of cypress trees as used in the film Gladiator.  The entrance is a large gateway with space for parking and the only possible view is to photograph through the gate.

The Gladiator House

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