Villa Poggio Manzuoli. Standing before the Villa, you immediately recognize the memorable decor from Gladiator.
Film sets in Tuscany | Walking from Pienza alog the e Gladiator road to Villa Poggio Manzuoli in San Quirico d'Orcia
A nice walk in the overwhelming landscape of the Val d'Orcia takes us from Pienza to the Villa Poggio Manzuoli, the place where Ridley Scott turned the final scenes of Gladiator, an epic film starring Russell Crowe and Connie Nielsen.
In the first part of this trail we walk along another very recognizable film location of Gladiator, Podere Terrapille and the famous cypresses along the winding, scenic road and fields where Russell Crowe walked home. For hikers and travelers who like to discover locations from their favorite films, this is a great moment.
Map hiking trail Pienza - Villa Poggio Manzuoli
Gladiator [Ridley Scott, 2000]
The landscape of Tuscany is a popular setting for the most diverse films. We have seen Tuscany through the eyes of Franco Zeffirelli, Roberto Benigni, Bernardo Bertolucci, the brothers Taviani, Michael Hoffman, Jane Campion and many others. From the classic Under the Tuscan Sun, to masterpieces such as Nostalghia by Andrei Tarkovsky and the later Le Meraviglie by Alice Rohrwachter.
In 2000 Tuscany was the setting for some scenes from Gladiator, an epic American film from 2000 that takes place in Roman times. The film was written by David Franzoni and directed by Ridley Scott and tells a fictional story inspired by Emperor Commodus and his father Marcus Aurelius. Some famous scenes were recorded in the neighborhood of Pienza and San Quirico d'Orcia.
Cypress trees along the famous gladiator road, Tuscany 
The first scene was filmed just outside the walls of Pienza, on the unpaved road that leads from the Pieve di Corsignano to Podere Terrapille. You will relive the iconic film scenes during the first part of this walk. You will recognize the cart track, the solitary cypresses, you will hear the hoof tag, and the hands of Russell Crowe brushing over ripening corn, you will see the smoking fire around Podere Terrapille and the charred bodies of his loved ones. But the avenue with cypresses and the dramatic final scene was not filmed here but in San Quirico d'Orcia, in Villa Poggio Manzuoli.
The Tuscan film locations of Gladiator
A film location has a big influence on the personal movie experience. A realistic and atmospheric environment can strengthen the story or determine the tone. That is no different in Gladiator. The choice of film locations is surprising, the set design and photography are refined down to the smallest details and the interpretations are of a high level. Yet there are some strange elements.
The film takes place for the most part in Rome, and the locations were beautifully recreated in Marocco. Also in Tuscany, where Ridley Scott filmed several times, some scenes were recorded. That is a surprising choice. Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russell Crowe) is a general from Hispania. If he returns home, to Hispania, a hacienda or a Finca would have been a natural choice. Everyone who is familiar with the Tuscan landscape immediately recognizes the typical landscape from the Val d'Orcia.
His son who yells to his mother in flawless Italian 'Mama, i soldati' is a strange style mistake. The film is set in 180. Latin was then the language of instruction. And the tractor tracks in the cornfield are obviously an anachronism.
Gladiator: The Spaniard Russell Crowe returns home
While stands the Colosseum, Rome shall stand.
When falls the Colosseum, Rome shall fall.
And when Rome falls -- the World.
Gladiator is a 2000 epic historical drama film directed by Ridley Scott and written by David Franzoni, John Logan, and William Nicholson. It stars Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Ralf Möller, Oliver Reed (in his final role), Djimon Hounsou, Derek Jacobi, John Shrapnel, and Richard Harris. Crowe portrays Hispano-Roman general Maximus Decimus Meridius, who is betrayed when Commodus, the ambitious son of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, murders his father and seizes the throne. Reduced to slavery, Maximus rises through the ranks of the gladiatorial arena to avenge the murders of his family and his emperor.
The film won multiple awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Crowe and three other Oscars at the 73rd Academy Awards.
The surroundings of Pienza
The Pieve di Corsignano and the Capella di Vitaletaalso make this hike an interesting trip.
Halfway through our walk is a small chapel that adorns many postcards, the Cappella di Vitaleta. It is one of the iconic images of Tuscany.
Next to the movie sets, the Pieve di Corsignano, just outside Pienza, is perhaps the most important attraction of our itinerary. The Romanesque church with its characteristic blunt bell tower is one of the most beautiful pieve in Tuscany.
Pienza was rebuilt from a village called Corsignano, which was the birthplace of Enea Silvio Piccolomini. It was in this Tuscan town that Renaissance town-planning concepts were first put into practice after Pope Pius II decided, in 1459, to transform the look of his birthplace Corsignano. This new vision of urban space was realized in the superb square known as Piazza Pio II and the buildings around it: the Piccolomini Palace, the Borgia Palace and the cathedral with its pure Renaissance exterior and an interior in the late Gothic style of south German churches.
The walk through Pienza, the ideal city
We start this itinerary with a brief exploration of the alleys of Pienza, starting at Largo Roma, entering this beautiful village
through the Via dell'Apertura.
Walk into the Via dell'Apertura, and almost immediately turn left into Via Case Nuove, entering a pleasant square. There is a good ice cream shop, Buon Gusto Gelateria (Via delle Case Nuove, 26), and at number 7 Caffè della Volpe.
Enjoy this brief passeggiata through the ideal city. The
Via Case Nuove takes you to the central street of Pienza, the Corso il Rossellino. The Corso leads to the trapezoidal main square Piazza Pio II, a grand and elegant square, surrounded by the city hall, with its bell tower, the Palazzo Piccolomini,Palazzo Borgia and the Duomo.
The track leads you to the Porta al Prato, following the directions for the Pieve di Corsignano on the Piazza Dante Alighieri, Viale Santa Catarina and Via del Fonte. A 11-min walk will bring you to the Pieve di Corsignano.
From the Pieve di Corsignano to Podere Terralippe and Villa Poggio Manzuoli
From the Pieve di Corsignano, turn left and follow the signs for Podere Terralippe. Just before the Agriturismo Terralippe turn right onto a dirt road towards Cappella Vitaleta (direction indication Bagno Vignoni). At the end of the earth path, at the T-junction, follow the path to the left for the most poetic and representative glimpse of the Vitaleta chapel with the signature cypress trees.
Capella Vitaleta, San Quirico d'Orcia, Tuscany 
This wonderful small chapel, nestled between two rows of cypress trees on the top of a hil, was restored in 1184 by the architect Giuseppe Partini. It is one of the most iconic spots in the Val d'Orcia.
Beyond the chapel, you follow this path towards San Quirico d'Orcia. After two kilometers, turn into a path on the right until you reach the SP 46, an asphalt road that connects San Quirico d'Orcia with Pienza. Cross the road diagonally to the right and turn into the dirt road to Villa Poggio Manzuoli.
Standing before the Villa, you immediately recognize the memorable decor from Gladiator.
If you turn left on the asphalt road you see the former gateway to Villa Poggio Manzuoli. Take a look through the grille for a cinematic perspective on this wonderful backdrop.
The former entrance gate of Villa Poggio Manzuoli, San Quirico d'Orcia 
Length: 8,43 km, 2 hours
Steiging 228 m
The landscape of the Val d'Orcia changes color and atmosphere in every season, at any time of the day, ranging from the bright green meadows and wheat fields of spring to the gray or golden plowed fields of the summer.
The ideal period for this walk is April - May and September - October. In the summer it can be very hot and there is hardly any shelter on the way.
Cipressi nella Val d'Orcia. La storia di Cyparissus nella Metamorfosi di Ovidio
San Quirico d'Orcia, Cappella della Madonna di Vitaleta
Cipressi e la Cappella della Madonna di Vitaleta, tra Pienza and San Quirico d'Orcia
Holiday houses in southern Tuscany
Podere Santa Pia is a large, old, rural Tuscan farmhouse or podere, located in the heart of the Tuscan Maremma. A winding picturesque road, leads from the village of Castiglioncello Bandini, to your holiday home, hidden away in a quiet valley.
The surrounding hills, with unpaved roads and secret paths are ideal for hiking. The famous track from Montalcino to the abbey of Sant'Antimo is just north of Podere Santa Pia. A short drive will take you to the attractive hill towns of Montalcino, San Quirico d'Orcia and Pienza. We selected some of the best hiking trails in the Val d'Orcia, and the most beautiful walks in the Pienza area. Guides and maps are available in Podere Santa Pia.
[Read warning: The text below contains details about the content and ending of the story].
In AD 180, Hispano-Roman General Maximus Decimus Meridius intends to return to his home after he leads the Roman army to victory against the Germanic tribes near Vindobona on the Limes Germanicus. Emperor Marcus Aurelius tells Maximus that his own son, Commodus, is unfit to rule and that he wishes Maximus to succeed him, as regent, to help save Rome from corruption. Commodus murders his father when he is told about the plan.
Commodus announces he is the new Emperor and asks Maximus for his loyalty, but the general refuses. Maximus is arrested by guards and is told that he and his family will die. He kills his captors and rides for his home near Trujillo, where he finds his family murdered. Maximus buries his wife and son; then collapses. He is found by slavers who take him to the Roman province of Zucchabar, where he is sold to a gladiator trainer named Proximo.
Although reluctant at first, Maximus fights in local tournaments and makes friends with two other gladiators: Juba, a Numidian; and Hagen, a German. His military skills help him win matches and gain recognition from other gladiators and the crowd. Proximo reveals that he was once a gladiator, and advises Maximus that he must "win the crowd" to win his freedom. Proximo takes his gladiators to fight in Rome's Colosseum, because Commodus has organized 150 days of games.
Disguised by a masked helmet, Maximus debuts in gladiatorial combat in the Colosseum as a Carthaginian in a re-enactment of the Battle of Zama. Unexpectedly, Maximus leads his side to victory, and Commodus enters the Colosseum to offer his congratulations. He orders the disguised Maximus, as leader of the gladiators, to show himself and give his name; Maximus reveals himself and declares vengeance. Commodus is compelled by the crowd to let the gladiators live, and the Praetorian Guard is held back from striking them down.
Maximus's next fight is a victory against a legendary undefeated gladiator. Commodus orders Maximus to kill the gladiator, but Maximus spares his opponent's life; he is called "Maximus the Merciful" by the crowd. Angered at this outcome, Commodus taunts Maximus about his family's deaths, but Maximus turns and walks away.
Maximus discovers from Cicero, his ex-orderly, that his former legions remain loyal. Lucilla, Commodus's sister; Gracchus, an influential senator; and Maximus meet secretly. Maximus will escape Rome, join his soldiers, topple Commodus by force, and hand power back to the Roman Senate. Commodus learns of the plot by threatening Lucilla, and has the Praetorian Guard arrest Gracchus and attack the gladiators' barracks. Proximo and his men, including Hagen, sacrifice themselves to enable Maximus to escape. Maximus is captured at the rendezvous with Cicero, where Cicero is killed.
Commodus challenges Maximus to a duel in the Colosseum. He stabs Maximus before the match to gain an advantage. Maximus disarms Commodus, whom the Praetorian Guard refuse to aid. Commodus then produces a hidden knife, which Maximus drives into his throat, killing him. Maximus succumbs to his wound. Before he dies, he asks for political reforms, for his gladiator allies to be freed, and for Senator Gracchus to be reinstated. Maximus's friends and allies honor him as "a soldier of Rome", at Lucilla's behest, and carry his body out of the arena, leaving the dead Commodus behind.
Juba visits the Colosseum at night and buries the figurines of Maximus's wife and son at the spot where he died. Juba says he is to return to his own family and promises to see Maximus again, "but not yet".
Russell Crowe as Maximus Decimus Meridius:
a Hispano-Roman legatus forced into becoming a slave who seeks revenge against Commodus. He has earned the favor of Marcus Aurelius, and the love and admiration of Lucilla prior to the events of the film. His home is near Trujillo in today's Province of Cáceres, Spain. After the murder of his family he vows vengeance. Maximus is a fictional character partly inspired by Marcus Nonius Macrinus, Narcissus, Cincinnatus, and Maximus of Hispania. Mel Gibson was first offered the role, but declined as he felt he was too old to play the character. Antonio Banderas and Hugh Jackman were also considered.
Joaquin Phoenix as Commodus:
The amoral, power-hungry, twisted son of Marcus Aurelius, he murders his father when he learns that Maximus will hold the emperor's powers in trust until a new republic can be formed.
Connie Nielsen as Lucilla:
Maximus's former lover and the older child of Marcus Aurelius. Lucilla has been recently widowed. She resists her brother's incestuous advances and hates him, while also having to be careful to protect her son, Lucius, from her brother's corruption and wrath.
Oliver Reed as Antonius Proximo:
An old, gruff gladiator trainer who buys Maximus in North Africa. A former gladiator himself, he was freed by Marcus Aurelius, and gives Maximus his own armor and eventually a chance at freedom, and becomes somewhat of a mentor to Maximus. This was Reed's final film appearance, before he died during the filming. In the original film script, Proximo was supposed to live.