Montalcino is one of those idyllic Italian towns that become impossible to forget, a place that still today vaunts its sixteenth-century appearance: this picturesque town is entirely surrounded by still-intact fortified walls. Montalcino‘s location only adds to its beauty, as it’s situated just south of Siena in the beautiful Val d’Orcia. The breathtaking town is not only surrounded by imposing walls, but also brilliantly-colored wildflowers, rows of cypress trees, soft rolling hills and charming vineyards and olive groves. In a place that simply exudes perfection, there’s quite a lot to see and do, but there are few things in particular that you absolutely can’t miss.
What to Eat in Montalcino
Montalcino has prospered in recent years thanks to the success of the Brunello di Montalcino wine. Brunello dates to 1888 when Ferruccio Biondi Santi made traditional Chianti using only grapes of the Sangiovese variety. Today, this Brunello di Montalcino (which is in essence a Sangiovese wine) enjoys immense popularity, even earning the prestigious DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) designation in 1980. For a more budget-friendly option, you can also try the Rosso di Montalcino, a wine aged for less time than Brunello but that still enjoys an impressive DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) status.
Montalcino is one of the most suitable lands of Tuscany for the production of wine. An interesting way to learn more about the wine production and tradition of this area is a tour of a winery and wine tasting. At Podere Brizio you can take part of a private guided tour of the estate – including the vineyards and the cellar – to know more about the main characteristics of Montalcino’s terroir and our wine making techniques focusing on sustainability and low environmental impact. The tour continues with a wine tasting of the three types of wine produced here: Rosso di Montalcino DOC, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG e Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Riserva. At Poggio Landi, located 20 mins by car from Montalcino, you can clearly see the variety that characterizes the four slopes of the territory of Montalcino: a combination of different altitudes, multiple climate exposures and soils of different compositions that gives wines of great character and elegance. Here a visit to the vineyards, the cellar and the panoramic terrace (the view of Montalcino from here is breathless!) is followed by a private tasting of our wines produced here: Rosso di Montalcino DOC, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG and Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Riserva.
Donzelline and Pinci Pasta
Donzelline are a famous fried appetizer (antipasto) that most resemble ravioli. Made from buttery dough, these puffy treats are filled with anchovies, Parmesan cheese, salami or tomatoes and then fried. They were originally made to celebrate the lively Sagra del Tordo (Festival of the Thrush) held on the last Sunday of October in Montalcino. After you’ve had your fill of donzelline, be sure to dig into a hearty plate of pinci, a thick spaghetti-like pasta generally made with flour and water (also called pici outside of Montalcino). The blandness of the pasta lends itself to heavy or extra flavorful sauces – and you’ll find countless varieties to sample and enjoy!
What to See in Montalcino
Fortezza di Montalcino
Dating to the 14th century, Montalcino’s fortress is integrated into the historic defensive walls. It’s one of the town’s most popular tourist destinations and a great place to “time travel,” that is, imagine the city in the full splendor of its past. Besides checking out the interior of the impressive fortress, be sure to head to the upper-most ramparts. The fortezza is situated on the highest hill in town, affording incredible views of the surrounding countryside and the rest of Montalcino.
Il Centro Storico
The historic center of Montalcino is also the town’s heart. The tiny alleyways, winding streets, and picturesque palazzi make it postcard perfect and a photographer’s dream. You’ll find plenty of shops in this part of Montalcino, making it easy to find treats catering to a range of tastes, from wine to food, art and handcrafted products. Last but not least, be sure to check out the town’s main square, Piazza del Popolo, a Tuscan treasure still standing after six-hundred years, with six spectacular Renaissance arches adorning the nearby loggia.
Museo Storico del Vetro
The nearby glass museum is an unusual and unique experience given the many marble and terracotta treasures generally found in Tuscany. This museum is located about 20 minutes by car from Montalcino’s historic center. Located inside the beautiful castle of Poggio alle Mure, you’ll learn everything there is to know about the history of glassmaking, all in a breathtaking setting. They boast a wonderful collection of glass, too, dating from ancient Rome and Egypt to more modern works from Murano in Venice.
Religious Monuments and Sacred Art
Like other Italian cities of the region, Montalcino boasts a number of religious monuments containing relics and treasures from centuries ago. A small but central hub to visit is the Church of Sant’Egidio, once the official church of the Republic of Siena in Montalcino. To this end, you’ll find Siena’s coat of arms decorating the upper part of the Romanesque facade and fifteenth-century Sienese artworks in the luminous interior. If you’re a fan of late-medieval and early-Renaissance art, then don’t miss visiting the church and monastery of Sant’Agostino in piazza Garibaldi. This lovely space contains works from the 14th century and is located near the Museo Civico e Diocesano Riuniti, a museum housing fifteenth-century wooden and terracotta sculptures and a selection of sacred art.
The Duomo of Montalcino
Originally an 11th-century Romanesque church, the Montalcino Cathedral is now an excellent example of 19th-century neoclassical architecture. When the original church was demolished, Sienese architect Agostino Fantastici constructed the current building in a standout style from the rest of the town. Completed in 1832, it’s one of the most modern buildings you’ll find in Montalcino. Architecture fans adore noting stylistic differences between this church and the more popular medieval and Renaissance buildings that surround it. Don’t forget to head inside to check out the beautiful columned nave and the age-old paintings that adorn the walls.
Where to Stay in Montalcino
Discover this beautiful part of Tuscany with a winery as your home base. Podere Brizio, part of the larger Dievole family in Tuscany, is a Brunello di Montalcino Winery with a luxurious “foresteria”, spa, tennis court and restaurant and is ideal for a relaxing getaway.
Whether you decide to spend an afternoon or an overnight, Montalcino has something for everyone – from foodies to art lovers, history buffs and more.
Featured Image by Antonio Cinotti