Vitaleta Chapel

The Vitaleta Chapel (more fully, the Cappella della Madonna di Vitaleta) is a small chapel located on a hill in Val D’Orcia, and is one of the main photography attractions in the area. There is a good, though distant  view of it from the road between San Quirico and Pienza, just over 2km east of San Quirico. At this point, with the chapel in view from the road, there is space for a few cars to pull off and a track that looks like it heads towards the chapel, however the track only goes to a farm, and the track to the chapel is a further 2.5km along the road towards Pienza.

Vitaleta Chapel From The Road

From the road overlook, the chapel can either be photographed directly from the roadside, or a little way down the track. Walking down the track tends to lift the chapel relative to the background hills. We visited the viewpoint a few times and on one afternoon visit were fortunate to catch a rainbow over the chapel, which definitely enhances the view.

Rainbow Over Vitaleta Chapel

To the left of the chapel is a farm on a small hill. Usually it would probably not rate a photograph, but on this occasion it was perfectly framed by the rainbow and picked out by the sun, with sheets of rain falling through the shafts of sunlight – well worth a picture.

Rainbow Arch

Sunrise at Vitaletta Chapel

For sunrise, the chapel can be photographed from the farm track from the roadside viewpoint and if there is mist in the valley it can be included in the composition. We visited during October, at which time of year the sun rises slightly to the left of the chapel from the viewpoint.

Sunrise at Vitaleta Chapel

As the sun rose a little higher, it seemed that the mist also rose up and the sun shone through the mist in great shafts of light. These moments cannot be planned, and sometimes the landscape photographer simply has to get out and see what the conditions are like.

Light Shafts At Vitaleta Chapel

Other Images From The Overlook

Apart from the chapel, there are other views from the Vitaleta overlook, especially when mist fills the valley below. The track towards the farm is lined with cypress trees and has some nice curves to serve as a lead in to the distant view.

Sunrise At The Vitaleta Chapel Overlook

Later in the morning there was a fine view across the Val D’Orcia from the top of the track close to the main road. This view is greatly enhanced by the mist in the valley.

Mist in Val D’Orcia

When the valley is full of mist, there is the chance to pick out small scenes in the distance which would not stand out without the mist. This pair of trees can be seen in the wide view above, but with a 400mm lens they can be isolated to form the main subject in the frame.

Tuscan Trees In The Mist

This isolated tree is in prominent view from the overlook. Late afternoon or early morning light is best to give a long shadow and hopefully bring out some of the contours in the fields around the tree.

Isolated Tree

Vising The Chapel

To visit the chapel, continue on the road towards Pienza from the viewpoint for a further 2.5km where there is a track turning off on the right. The track can be driven part way towards the chapel, followed by a level 10 minute walk. We visited in late evening just before sunset.

Vitaleta Chapel

The back of the chapel is also worth photographing, especially at sunset with the sunset colours behind the church. However the best colour in the sky occurs after the sun sets and the chapel is then cast into deep shadow. A 5-image HDR exposure was used here to pull up the shadow detail in the back of the chapel.

Vitaleta Chapel at Sunset

Walking back to the car park, there was a last opportunity to photograph a single tree at the side of the track. Once again, an HDR approach was taken to enhance the shadow detail.

Trackside Tree

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