Montalcino in Tuscany, Italy, is famous for its prestigious wine Brunello. It is one of the highlights of the Val d’Orcia, a scenic area south of Siena.
Montalcino is dominated by an imposing fortress and blessed with a impressive history. But this Medieval hill-top town is arguably these days best known for its wines, being home to Brunello di Montalcino, one of the world’s most famous reds.
It is located 50 km. south of Siena in Tuscany. The approach to Montalcino is breathtaking, with Medieval spires and its huge fortress towering over the green valley below. Once you’re up there its narrow and steep Medieval streets and stone buildings are the perfect setting for a little food shopping and wine tasting.
The world- famous Montalcino wines
Some of the most famous of Tuscan wines are produced in this area. Today, with an annual production of more than 3.5 million bottles of Brunello di Montalcino and 3 million of its lighter-weight cousin Rosso di Montalcino, Montalcino has become a rather well-to-do town. It’s also known for its white dessert wine called Moscadello, not to mention its fine honey. Other products include pecorino cheese and various Tuscan “salumi” (cured meat).
What to see in Montalcino Tuscany, Italy
The historic centre grows around Piazza del Popolo, with a slender looking XIV century Palazzo dei Priori. The atmospheric streets of the town centre are perfect for a stroll.
You can get into the Fortress and walk its ramparts. There’s a splendid view from the top and an enoteca for yet more wine-tasting opportunities.
The Fortress has an impressive history. It was built after Siena got hold of Montalcino in 1361, and it’s a symbol of the town’s pride. When in 1555 Siena was forced to surrender to Cosimo I de’ Medici, a few hundred noble refugees withdrew here and proclaimed the “Second Republic of Siena – riparata in Montalcino”. They resisted 4 years, until finally in 1559 the Medici coat of arms was fixed to the bastions.
Museo Civico e Dioceziano (Joint ticket with the fortress) , via Ricasoli, 31 –This is a well kept museum where you’ll find masterpieces of the Sienese school and lots of archeological artefacts. Highlights include works by Bartolo di Fredi, Luca di Tomme, Simone Martini, Vecchietta. The “Coronation of Mary” is considered to be Fredi’s greatest achievement. The “Madonna dell’Umiltà” (“Madonna of Humility”), by Sano di Pietro (1406–81) depicts Mary kneeling, showing a truly humble act of faith. You’ll find terracotta statues by Andrea della Robbia and his workshop, and a life-size model of a warrior left behind by the Etruscans.
If you’re passionate for wine, you’ll enjoy the Museo del Brunello in the Fattoria dei Barbi a few kilometers from Montalcino, dedicated to the history and the production of this famous wine.
What to see near Montalcino, Tuscany
The area of the Val d’Orcia is a UNESCO site, famous for its breathtaking landscapes. For a perfect day driving around in the Val d’Orcia, you can combine a visit to Montalcino with the nearby towns of San Quirico d’Orcia and Pienza. You’re in one of the most spectacular area of the whole of Tuscany, where the rural landscape itself is a work of art.
Sant’Antimo Abbey is one of the highlights of the area. It’s an evocative Romanesque church surrounded by tranquil countryside. A must-see, located 10 kilometres from Montalcino.
Did you know?
The Sienese snatched Montalcino from Florence in the 13th century and by 1462 the town had grown to become a city. Its relations with Siena were so good that in 1555 it gave refuge to 700 Sienese families who refused to submit to the Medici when Florence defeated Siena. It became the “Republic of Siena at Montalcino,” and the city’s loyalty is honoured to this day at the Palio of Siena where their standard-bearer rides in pride of place at the parade.