Montepulciano

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Montepulciano in Italy is a charming medieval town in the province of Siena in southern Tuscany, in a very strategic map location for your holiday: from here you can easily reach Arezzo, visit the Val d'Orcia, relax at the Montepulciano spas and much more!

In the charming town famous for its wine there is no shortage of interesting things to do and see; for example, the famous Spas of Montepulciano are located just ten minutes from the town! This spa is not very well known among the traditional ones in Tuscany, but this should not deter you…It is a state of the art structure dedicated to specialized treatment and physical rehabilitation (even for children!).

Do you want to discover more about the world of the Tuscan Montepulciano wine history? Montepulciano wineries and the neighbouring towns are one of the destinations that we suggest you include in your travel schedule. But do not just take a leap to the first wine shop to buy only one bottle of Nobile of Montepulciano! Whatever your holiday program, this small town is well worth a visit, especially in the beautiful historical centre.

HISTORY. Before getting to know Montepulciano through its wine, we must mention that Montepulciano history has had a long past that is worth reviewing here in order to fully appreciate the character of this medieval village. When you arrive in the old town you will not notice its well-known ‘S’ shape (clearly visible from above), but you'll soon notice the medieval walls that surround it. If you have a good Montepulciano Tuscany map it will be much easier to recognize its characteristic shape and follow the route of the old walls!

Montepulciano history dates back to the 4th century B.C. According to legend it was founded by Porsenna, king of the Etruscan city of Chiusi. Beyond the myth, numerous testimonies prove its ancient origins and the history of the following centuries. After the Etruscan rule, the Romans came who used the area as a military camp for the allocation of an army of defence close to the route of the direct journey to the capital of the empire. Subsequently, with the decline of the Latin civilization, the whole of Tuscany - Montepulciano in Tuscany at the time was still only a small village – fell under the dominance of the Lombards until the Middle Ages.

From the 12th century, this town became more prominent and entered the sphere of influence of the Siena Republic. During the 13th century, the strategic location and its many commercial and manufacturing activities made Montepulciano a very popular and disputed destination between the historical enemies of Florence and Siena. The next century is marked by constant struggles for power over these lands: at the end of this tumultuous period, the city chose to ally itself with Florence, which was very happy to counter the domination of Siena and get a stronghold in the south of the opponent city.

The 15th century signalled the beginning of a thriving time, made up of political and social balance that favoured a cultural renaissance that lasted until the mid-16th century. Montepulciano, at that time, was the centre of the commercial and artistic life of the Val di Chiana: in 1467, with the establishment of Monte Pio, one of the first banks in the world was founded here! Even then the Montepulciano red wine was known and sold abroad; beyond that, among the most important products of the area there were saffron, flax and quality timber.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, Montepulciano and Tuscany witnessed a period marked by patronage and the birth of the great characters, chief among them the poet and humanist Poliziano. Known architects such as Michelozzo, Antonio da Sangallo, Jacopo Barozzi (known as Vignola), Baldassare Peruzzi and Ippolito Scalza worked hard to embellish the city with impressive buildings and beautiful churches. Among the famous names associated with these places it is also good to remember Cardinal Marcello Cervini, who became pope in 1555 for just 28 days (Marcello II), and the even more famous Cardinal Bellarmino, one of the fathers of the Counter Reformation.

At the end of the 16th century, Siena and its territories were subject to the dominion of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany, the Medici. It was the era in which the great patrician families settled in Montepulciano... During your itinerary you will no doubt come across names like Tarugi, Contucci, Bellarmine, Ricci and Cervini numbered among those of prelates, humanists and, above all, among the names of the palaces of that time. The close relationship with the Church meant that this town became an episcopal see and continued to have a certain prestige in Tuscany.

Montepulciano, in the first half of the 17th century, passed into the hands of Christine of Lorraine who committed to giving a boost to the economy and improving the conditions of the region (reclamation of the Val di Chiana and improvement of the road system).
To this interlude of Lorraine over Montepulciano there followed the period of Napoleonic rule, during which Montepulciano became an imperial sub-prefecture and was included in the minor destinations of the Italian routes of the Grand Tour thanks especially to the fame of its Montepulciano red wine.

During the 19th century, British and northern European travellers began to discover the hidden treasures of Italy and circulate news about the beauty that were outside of Florence and Pisa. Caffè Poliziano, where today you can quietly sip a cappuccino or drink a glass of Montepulciano red wine, was a gathering place for grantouristi already in 1868.
Finally, with the unification of Italy, Montepulciano returned to be part of the Siena territory and continued to develop mainly in the agricultural sector.

After enjoying the views around, when you arrive at the village of Montepulciano, what to do and photograph will not make you regret it for a moment the surrounding countryside! Visiting Montepulciano Italy is an essential step for anyone interested in learning about the Renaissance Period and in discovering as many urban and artistic examples as possible. The architectural renovation that took place in the 16th century has bequeathed Montepulciano an amazing town centre: Piazza Grande is the heart of the town, surrounded by the 12th century Town Hall and the majestic buildings that arose in the 16th century, among which we recommend Palazzo Nobil-Tarugi and Palazzo Contucci. The square is home to the Well of the Grifi and Lions, designed by Sangallo, with a splendid lintel where you will notice the symbol of the Medici family (six balls on the one hand and a lily on the other) between the two lions.

From here, we suggest that you continue your journey to the Cathedral to see the Funeral Monument of Bartolomeo Aragazzi carved out of Carrara marble by Michelozzo between 1427 and 1436, the Triptych of the Assumption by Taddeo di Bartolo (1401) and the Altar of Lilies by Andrea della Robbia dated to the early 16th century. Another unmissable destination, located just outside the historic centre of Montepulciano, is the Church of St. Biagio. Designed by Antonio da San Gallo, it is considered one of the most important architectural masterpieces of the Renaissance period.
If you want to see the Siena hills from Montepulciano, Tuscany you can climb the tower of the Town Hall and enjoy an unrivalled view!

 

A NOBLE TRADITION. Montepulciano is known outside the borders of Tuscany thanks to its production of fine Montepulciano DOC wine with a long tradition. Let us begin to better define this amazing product! The Montepulciano red wine is also simply called 'Nobile' and should not be confused with another famous Montepulciano wine, that from Abruzzo!

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG is grown in the areas of the province of Siena and is one of the oldest Italian wines. Some documents of merchants of the 14th century provide the first evidence of its value as an export product of top quality. Another clue to its fame can be found in the work 'Bacchus in Tuscany' (1685), in which the naturalist and physician Francesco Redi says 'Montepulciano of every wine is King!'. The endorsement 'Nobile di Montepulciano' dates back to the 18th century, but the establishment of this as its official name came in the 20th century thanks to Adamo Fanetti, the first producer of this wine of Montepulciano which is today still labelled as 'Noble'.

The Montepulciano wineries of the Fanetti owners were the first to promote and sell Montepulcian red wine over the years between the two world wars and especially during the recovery in the economic boom. The Montepulciano history of this wine has continued with the founding of a Montepulciano Tuscany winery (Vecchia Cantina di Montepulciano) and its prestige has brought the product to acquire in 1966 the DOC denomination and later, in 1980, the DOCG (DOCG) reserved for only a few selected Italian wines!

During your visit of Montepulciano to the cellars you will find that this wine is made only from Sangiovese Montepulciano grapes and black Canaiolo (only a small percentage) grown in the production area recognized by the specification. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano must mature for at least two years from the month of January following the harvest. The 'classic' bottles have an alcohol content of 12.50% while the type known as 'Riserva' comes to 13.00% ... Take it easy if you are not used to the strong taste! Montepulciano and its wine tradition will delight your body and soul!

 

BRAVIO OF THE BARRELS. Each year on the last Sunday of August, Montepulciano hosts a race of medieval origins consisting of a run ... pushing wine barrels uphill. The challenge takes place amongst eight districts which, in various corners of the old town, try to roll 80kg barrels on steep slopes uphill! Similarly to the medieval tradition a painted cloth is awarded to the winner.
The term 'bravio' comes from the word Bravium that was to symbolize the cloth decorated with the canonical image of St. John the Beheaded, patron saint of the town of Montepulciano in Tuscany. The Palio of Siena is certainly another famous event and a fascinating race between the medieval quarters, but it is not the only historical reconstruction of this region so tied to its origins! 
If during your holiday in Montepulciano you are lucky enough to be attending this event, you will see the barrel pushers of various factions push forward huge barrels along the streets of the village to the finish line in Piazza Grande. The barrels, of course, are a tribute to the symbolic element that characterizes this town: Montepulciano red wine.

The days preceding the race other events are also held that are also full of charm, such as the Procession of the Candles, the flag show, the draw of the starting order of the barrels and the Historical Procession consisting of knights, pages, ladies, musicians and flag bearers. The Bravio delle Botti race begins at about 7 o’clock in the evening, characterized by the unmistakable sound of the barrels on the pavement of the old town. Are you ready to cheer and to chase these skilled barrel pushers? It is unique show that will thrill you from start to finish!

 

BRUSCELLO. Montepulciano is a land of folklore and peasant origins in which people still celebrate to this day the art of bruscello. It is a popular form of theatre typical of Tuscany and linked to the timing of country life. Bruscello in Tuscan dialect indicates a leafy or ornate branch. This popular theatre was born in the province of Siena and then spread in the areas of Florence and Lucca. The performance includes a song in octaves with a musical accompaniment (accordion or violin) recognizable and often repeated, sometimes even improvised according to the needs of the story. The bruscellanti, the actors of these performances in dialect, were generally farmers who were trying to get an extra meal with their shows that were based on classical stories of literature and myths that had often been rearranged. The plot, generally, told of an obstructed love affair or resumed local legends; the general approach was repeated several times by changing the characters and places.

Interpreters crossed the country and moved between the farms and villages holding a shrub (bruscello) as a sign of recognition; The branch also was often the only element used in the course of their theatre scene. During your visit, one of the things in Montepulciano worth visiting offers performances and re-enactments of this ancient theatrical tradition during the August holiday.

As you may well now know, there are many ideas about what to do in Montepulciano: Montepulciano spas, visit vineyard in Montepulciano,  Montepulciano Italy wine tours, churches and Renaissance palaces, medieval folk and races and so forth. If you decide to stay in Montepulciano, we suggest you include in your routes the nearby town of Pienza, Bagno Vignoni, or the small village of Montalcino or Cortona!

 

THINGS TO SEE IN MONTEPULCIANO. Today, this town surrounded by the Sienese countryside near the border with Umbria, offers a unique view to see and taste, or rather sip, since we are talking about Montepulciano red wine! Montepulciano is one of the pearls of the region due to its century heritage and its natural landscape, which creates a perfect and highly evocative frame around the town. Whether you arrive from Val d'Orcia, or from the Val di Chiana you will be enchanted at the sight of the charming landscape overlooked by the roads and country lanes. Get your camera ready to capture solitary cypress trees on the hills, olive groves, vineyards, farms and stone houses!