The town of Montalcino in Italy is famous for the production of the famous 'Brunello di Montalcino', Italy appreciated and praised abroad. This wine is one of those that possess the so-called denomination of controlled and guaranteed origin (Montalcino DOCG) along with other Tuscan wines such as Chianti Classico and Nobile di Montepulciano.
In addition to this essential product-emblem, during your visit you can also discover many other qualities of Montalcino. What to do in Montalcino in addition to visiting the wineries? Do not rush! We will explain how to combine the historical-artistic aspect with the more pleasure-seeking one...
After a city tour, you will not be denied a well-deserved glass of Montalcino red. In addition to shops selling local products and restaurants with panoramic views, you can choose to take a tour dedicated to the best Montalcino vineyards in Tuscany. And remember: once you cross the threshold of the cellar you will enter a fascinating world of explanations, stories and tastings… try not to lose track of time!
WHERE IS MONTALCINO: it is one of the most signposted destinations in Tuscany and can be easily found. This town is situated in the south of the region, forty kilometres from the province of Siena and just as close to Arezzo. Its location is immersed in the Natural Park of Val d'Orcia, being well-connected, between the closest towns of Pienza and Bagno Vignoni. Can there be a better location than this? No there is not. In addition to being in the middle of the most incredible scenery and most beloved of all in Tuscany, Montalcino is perfect for those who want to get close to the coast and reach beautiful places like Talamone and Punta Ala!
MONTALCINO HISTORY. Montalcino owes its name to its first Latin name of Mons Ilcinus (‘Mount of Holm oaks'), which was to indicate the predominant flora in its territory and which is still remembered today with the tree image in the emblem of the city. It is claimed that the hill where Montalcino is situated was already inhabited in Etruscan times, but the first evidence dates back to before the year 1000, a period when the Emperor Louis the Pious gave the territory of the village to the abbot of Sant' Antimo.
The history of this town started, officially, in the Middle Ages and since its dawn saw a lively economic activity linked to the processing of leather, before the start of the great wineries! Montalcino has alternated moments of peace with other turbulent periods, because of the continuous struggles between the enemy powers of Siena and Florence.
Until the 15th century, the city found itself, like many other towns in the area, in the middle of violent disputes, including the Battle of Montaperti in 1260, made famous by Dante's verses. Following these events, Montalcino was under the domain of Siena, which chose it as one of the main bastions of defence erecting the walls and the great fortress. Cessation of prosperity and the stability of the villages because of fighting, meant that many towns lived severe economic and demographic crisis. Montalcino in Tuscany, Italy was one of them, even if it demonstrated during the Middle Ages courage along with its people and defended its independence and prestige. You will see that by looking at a map, Montalcino is crossed by the ancient Via Francigena, the road that merchants and pilgrims travelled to head north towards France or south to Rome. This strategic location was a decisive factor for the later economic development of the city.
In 1555 the fall of Siena led many nobles in disgrace to take refuge in Montalcino and give life in the village to the Republic of Siena in Montalcino. However, just after four years, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, ruled by the Medici absorbed Montalcino and many other territories in the sphere of its domination until the Risorgimento and the Unification of Italy in 1861. The 20th century was the century of the recovery and growth of this town, which has since dedicated itself to the prosperity of its territorial wealth and the promotion of the wine Brunello di Montalcino across the world.
THINGS TO DO in Montalcino There are plenty of things to visit and breath-taking views overlooking the Val d'Orcia. Load your camera up because you will have to take many shots!
First, the walls of the city date to the 13th century whilst the fortress was built by Siena in the 14th century. Within this large pentagonal structure there are the Mastio di Santo Martini, the Tower of San Giovanni and a small chapel. From this point of the city the view dominates the whole valley. Near the fortress, you will see the Church of St. Augustine, characterized by a typical bare façade from the Romanesque age. At its side, in what were the premises of a monastery, there is the Civic and Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art of Montalcino. Among the works on display, are two beautiful wooden sculptures of the 15th century and some terracotta ones attributed to the style of the Della Robbia. The two most important paintings housed in this museum are: the Madonna and Child by Simone Martini and the Saints Peter and Paul by Ambrogio Lorenzetti. For lovers of archaeology there are also some rooms devoted to Etruscan and Latin treasures!
Continue your walk along the manicured streets of the centre of Montalcino and arrive in Piazza del Popolo to admire the fourteenth century Palazzo dei Priori (or town hall), studded with medieval coats of arms and accompanied by a very high tower. Next to this building you will notice a Renaissance structure with six arches known as La Loggia. For additional architectural features, we suggest you try the Astrusi Theatre and the Bishop's Palace. Other religious buildings that should be visited are the churches of Sant'Egidio and San Francesco. The Astrusi Theatre was built in the 18th century and was subjected to the last restoration in the early 90s. It is a room that can accommodate less than two hundred people, but its internal structure makes it a real pride of the city and with luck you will have the possibility to attend an event or show in Montalcino, Tuscany. Speaking of events each year the fortress houses the famous Jazz & Wine Festival during the month of July and August, and the following month the International Festival of Montalcino with a varied program of theatre performances, film screenings, dance performances and fantastic concerts!
Things to do in Montalcino on summer evenings: drink a glass together, listen to jazz music or enjoy the expressions and voices of the actors on the stage in the Montalcino festival.
During the day, however, the narrow streets of the centre will relax you and you can discover the small craft and chic shops ... while your husband is obsessively checking the prices of each wine to see if there are differences, you enjoy choosing the most elegant café or the restaurant to book for your romantic dinner!
The atmosphere of these narrow streets and views overlooking the rolling Tuscan hills will inebriate you, giving you a deep sense of peace. Walking these streets will seem like a dream ... a dream set in a medieval fable! When you come to a panoramic view, Montalcino will conquer you and send you into an ecstasy with its natural and touching beauty.
WINE Montalcino Italy is a rich town that you see mainly because of its wine business. Its Brunello di Montalcino, in fact, is considered one of the best Italian wines. But ... what is the Brunello di Montalcino history? Some sources tell us that Montalcino wine was already known during the 15th century, however, the actual birth of the Brunello di Montalcino was due to the person of Ferruccio Biondi Santi in 1888. The story of the beloved rosso di Montalcino red wine is linked to the famly Biondi Santi, a true dynasty in the kingdom of wine production! The Grandfather Ferruccio, Clemente Santi (born in 1795), was the son of a distinguished chemist of Montalcino and continued his father's career being interested in following the agricultural problems, until he decided to experiment with new methods of wine making in the family farm 'Il Greppo' and the success of its wines exploded in 1850 with a number of Italian and foreign awards. Satisfactions continued thanks to the figure of the grandson Ferruccio, born from the marriage of the daughter Catherine Santi with Jacopo Biondi, Florentine physician. Ferruccio Biondi Santi chose to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather implementing, however, new more stringent standards in the production of wines. The young Ferruccio devoted himself body and soul to grow the family business, not without encountering difficulties such as phylloxera and other terrible pests! From this experience, Ferruccio began to select the best and more resistant grapes (Sangiovese variety) he left the wine in contact with the skins during fermentation to obtain characteristic flavours and prolonged the aging step (minimum 5 years) keeping the wine in large oak barrels. The first historic vintage of Brunello di Montalcino was 1888 and since then the tradition never stopped passing from generation to generation.
Brunello di Montalcino is made from Sangiovese Grosso (precisely called Brunello) exclusively in Montalcino and is the most structured and complex wine of the region Tuscany. How is its complex taste best enjoyed? It is best enjoyed with elaborate dishes! The period of aging the wine is, even today, very long (at least fifty months) and takes place in small French oak barrels!
The aging process is, definitely, one of the distinguishing characteristics of this wine, for example, another excellent product such as Rosso di Montalcino red wine, is ready to drink after just a year! As the saying goes: to do one thing well takes the right time.
Do you want to go shopping? One of the Montalcino must see for wine lovers is the Enoteca La Fortezza! Montalcino, of course, is dotted with other smaller wine shops and less touristy bars! Have you seen a label that says Moscadello di Montalcino? It is a sweet sparkling wine perfect if you have an occasion to celebrate!
If you want to go directly to the manufacturers, we recommend a trip to Castello Banfi just outside the village, where there is also an interesting Wine Museum which explains the Brunello di Montalcino history!
SANT'ANTIMO ABBEY Montalcino Tuscany is just a few minutes away from one of the wonderful Montalcino things to see which you should for no reason miss: Sant’Antimo Abbey of Montalcino, Tuscany. Following instructions, you will arrive in the village of Castelnovo Abate, surrounded by greenery; you will see in the distance the magnificent abbey. If you park a little before you will be enchanted by the view around you and as you approach it, feel like one of the pilgrims and travellers visiting it! The Sant'Antimo Abbey of Montalcino dates back to the12th century and is one of the most evocative of the Romanesque Tuscan period. From the country road, this Abbey of Montalcino is surrounded by olive trees, cypresses and rolling hills.
Legend has it that the Abbey of Montalcino was founded by Charlemagne in 781. The king was on his way to Rome, when his army was struck by a terrible plague and were forced to stop at this place near Montalcino. It is said that one night an angel appeared to Charlemagne to order him to drink an infusion made with a certain herb to treat his soldiers. Thus, the army was saved and able to get back on the road; the king decided, then, to build the church as a symbol of eternal gratitude.
Get ready to experience a strong mystical experience when you enter this humble and beautiful church, when you'll see the hills from the windows behind the main altar, you will be amazed. If you arrive during Mass, enjoy the Gregorian chants of the French monks and let yourself be enchanted by the emotions that come to you.
One of the places in Montalcino worth visiting is without any doubt the Sant'Antimo Abbey of Montalcino!
DISCOVERING MONTALCINO: WHAT TO SEE in the surroundings. You have visited this beautiful village and explored Montalcino red wine then now is the time to continue the journey… you can always come back! Decide if you want to move north to the Crete Senesi and discover a different and unusual landscape to reach Siena or go down to Monte Amiata to immerse yourself in a mountainous atmosphere and untouched nature. If you do not feel like leaving the rolling hills, continue to explore the area of the Brunello di Montalcino in Val D'Orcia, Italy and visit other beautiful places nearby… We at toscanainside could not imagine a better holiday than what will expect you when exploring Montalcino!
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