There are few regions in Italy that offer the grandiose spectacle of fields of sunflowers in bloom. Tuscany is so famous for them that the flower has become a symbol of the region for many.
Interestingly, the sunflower isn’t native to Italy, the first seeds were introduced in the 16th century when explorers returned from South America. Originally used as an ornamental plant, scientists gradually understood all its curative properties. Even though olive oil remains the main Tuscan oil production, many farmers are turning to sunflower oil because the plants can grow in difficult soil and are good for crop rotation. Another big advantage of sunflower production is the heart warming sight of vast yellow fields.
When Do They Bloom?
In June sunflower fields are just a mass of green vegetation. It is only towards the end of the month that their distinctive heads peak up and make them recognizable. If you are planning a trip to Tuscany and would like to see sunflowers in bloom make sure to come towards the end of June or even better early July. You could be lucky enough to still find these flowers towards the end of July and maybe even early August, but they will probably be dried out and drooping.
Where Is the Best Place to See Them?
The Sienese countryside is full of sunflower fields, particularly in the Val d’Orcia area. As you drive from Montalcino to Montepulciano or Pienza, keep an eye out for expanses of yellow and orange. Val d’Orcia is rich in architectural beauty, prestigious wine and breath-taking Tuscan landscapes.
The town of Cortona became famous for featuring prominently in the film Under the Tuscan Sun. Take a stroll in the surrounding countryside and you are sure to find some sunflowers in bloom.
The Pisa province is also known for its sunflowers. You will find some near the towns of Vettola and Sanpiero a Grado or even near the high speed road that connects Florence to Pisa and the sea (FI-PI-LI) at the Lavoria e Vicarello exit).
Debunking Some Sunflower Myths
The name sunflower derives from the well known fact that the flower follows the movements of the sun during the day. This is only partly true. When the plant is still in its bud phase, it will track the sun’s movements, but as soon as it blooms, the flower will remain locked in an east facing position, probably to protect it from over exposure to the heat.
Another fascinating fact about sunflowers is that the flower head (or center) is where the actual flowers are. These little florets all share the same receptacle which makes it look like a single flower!