You can never tire of small hilltop towns in Tuscany. Each of them has its own character and atmosphere. Montalcino, near the Abbey of Sant’Antimo, is one of them, with charming cobbled streets, medieval walls and a stunning ancient castle. It is the place to go when you are wondering where to go in Tuscany.
The idyllic town has seen its share of feuds and armies sweeping through the streets. Today, Montacino is a hot tourist spot as one of top Tuscany attractions. The best way to get familiar with the town is to start from the top, where Rocca, the 14th century fortress sits. From the top of its tower you will see the beautiful olive groves and endless vineyards where the famous Sangiovese grapes grow. The wine produced from these grapes made this small town prosperous. Less than 50 years ago there was only a handful of wine-makers selling Brunello di Montalcino. Today there are more than 200, who are trying to keep up with the demand for this excellent local red wine worldwide. There are many wine shops in town selling exquisite Brunello and some vineyards offer guided tours and wine tasting.
The streets of Montalcino steep but you will have many excuses to stop to catch your breath: the beautiful 13th century church of Sant’Agostino, the main Cathedral built in the 14th century, the stunning central piazza with the medieval Palazzo dei Priori, tiny shops selling high-quality linens and ceramics that are made locally. Don’t miss a magnificent little garden on Piazza Cavour proudly tended by the resident. Tourists tend to take the same route up and down the hilltop. If you turn onto a quieter side street, you will have a chance to have a glance at the local way of life: tranquil little orchards, a few grannies of a bench here and there, sleep cats.
You can have an espresso in Bar alle Logge while enjoying the view from a window over the valley. They also make tasty pasta dishes. The lovely Caffe Fiaschetteria on Piazza del Popolo has a great choice of Brunello di Montalcino by the glass and outside tables for people watching.
Every year in July the town hosts the Jazz & Wine Festival with many famous musicians playing in Montalcino. On the last weekend of October the medieval streets are livened up with the sounds of drums and trumpets during the festival Sagra del Tordo (“Feast of the Thrush”) with its costumed parade and with traditional food lunches served all over the town. That is why Montalcino is definitely the place where to go in Tuscany when exploring the region.
Photos by: Sonja Pieper, Tony Duckles, Nadia Fondelli