Located just south of Siena lies the romantic hilltop town of Montalcino. Guarded by fortified walls and built during the 16th century, the town’s medieval past is well represented by its stone pavement and buildings including the grandiose castle that watches over it.
Montalcino’s allure to tourists has a lot to do with its location. Not only is it set in the majestic Val d’Orcia Natural Park, it has also gained world fame because of the Brunello red wine. The vineyards that created this fine wine can be found around the town. The entire landscape from the top of the town is quite a treat for your eyes. The rolling hills filled with flowers and the cypress, olive and oak trees will simply will make it hard for you to resist from clicking away on your camera!
The tradition of making great red wine has been with Montalcino since the middle ages, but out of all its products the Brunello wine became very popular because of its unique formula invented by Ferruccio Biondi Santi. Brunello is so precious because it has to be aged at least five years. Within the first two years of this period, the wine must be kept in oak barrels. Because of Montalcino’s long wine heritage, a visit to this town is never be complete without tasting the Brunello. Some of the most notable wine producers in the region include Banfi, Schidione and Biondi-Santi.
However, wine is not the only thing for you to explore while in Montalcino. The town is noted for exhibiting a great love for arts and architecture. To find out if this is true, drop by Diocesano di Arte Sacra and Museo Civico. These renowned museums hold precious sculptures and paintings depicting religion. There is also the Museo del Vetro or glass museum housed in the castle of Poggio alle Mura. With its extensive collection of glass and instruments, this museum effectively tells the story of glass making in Montalcino and the region from the Egyptian, Roman and Venetian era.
Do not leave Montalcino without exploring its historical center, whose main attraction is the impressive fortress, also called Rocca. Built in 1361, the fortress has managed to look pretty much the same since the time it was built. Today, it is the host to the town’s many concerts, events and festivals. One particularly famous event is the Jazz and Wine Festival, which is held every July. You will not only get the chance to taste great food during this festival, you will also get to enjoy Italian and international jazz music. The views of the countryside from the Rocca Tower are unparalleled. If you make your way to the top, you will get to see the hills of Maremma, the area of Val d’Orcia, as well as the Monte Amiata (mountain), which spread from Crete to Siena.
The center of all activity in Montalcino is the main square called Piazza del Popolo, which is marked by a Gothic-designed loggia. In this main plaza, you will find the most prominent buildings in town like the tall and graceful clock tower and the town hall named Palazzo dei Priori. Because it is Italy, every town has at least a couple of churches. In Montalcino, explore and experience the churches San Francesco, Sant’Egidio and Sant’Agostino.