Things to do in Montalcino, is the question that everyone asks themselves when visiting the small village famous for its most precious wine: Il Bronello di Montalcino. It stands on a hill and overlooks the wide valley: Ombronee dell’Asso. It is a hard-working town that has become famous all over the world for its superb wine and you often come here for Brunello. It is thanks to this wine of great stature that today the town is known by everyone.
Probably of Etruscan origin. Different hypotheses of its name: Mons Lucinus name in honour of the goddess Lucina or reference to the Latin word lucus, which means “sacred wood” or Mons Ilcinus, from the Latin mons (mount) and ilex (holm oak), that is “mount of the holm oaks”. The holm-oak, also mentioned in the coat of arms, has, however, given space to cultivation.
The medieval village of Montalcino is surrounded by a mighty wall and dominated by an ancient castle that has remained intact since the Middle Ages. It is located west of Pienza, an enchanting historical town, from where you can walk through the fairytale landscapes of the Val D’Orcia made up of hills cultivated with vines and fromento to the hill that hosts the village.
Going up to Montalcino along the panoramic road makes you think of a rich and prosperous town. A town that seems to have stopped in time. The small stone streets, the flowered balconies, the slow passing of the hours. But it is enough to talk to those who have so many years on their shoulders to understand what this town was still like in the 50s when sharecropping and hard work was done in the fields.
The Republic of Montalcino
Its medieval freedom, as an independent municipality and proud to be so, can be seen walking through its streets. Montalcino and Siena have always been linked and so the city ended up in the struggles between it and Florence. Here then also a part of the Sienese nobles who were driven out of the city took refuge, giving life to a Republic.
Brunello di Montalcino
Montalcino today is known all over the world for its Brunello. When in the mid 1800s Clemente Santi di Montalcino selected and began to make wine from the Sangiovese variety known to locals as “Brunello” he perhaps did not imagine he would go that far. In 1865 he presented the first bottle with the name Brunello di Montalcino and invented this great wine for ageing.
We owe it to Ferruccio Biondi Santi if the success has been planetary. That pure Sangiovese aged for at least 5 years gave fame to this town between the Province of Siena and the not far Monte Amiata.
Walking through the streets of the Borgo
What to see in Montalcino while walking through its narrow streets? The medieval village is surrounded by a mighty circle of walls and it’s looked after as if it were a fake village and instead it’s all real. Already on the way up, vineyards and woods alternate and compete with the silvery green of the olive trees.
After walking through the town what you can’t miss is the Rocca or Fortezza di Montalcino. Imposing stands in the wide, lonely and proud. Built around 1300 incorporating the ancient city walls, the Fortress is still impressive today. It was built as a military defence on the Via Francigena and is a typical medieval defensive construction.
The plant is pentagonal and dominates from above a territory that ranges from Monte Amiata to the Crete and Siena and the entire Val d’Orcia down to the Maremma. Here you really embrace a part of Tuscany.
You enter the fortress through the Formwork Door. A chapel that can still be seen inside was incorporated into the building. If you have never done it my advice is to take part in one of the summer shows that take place in the inner courtyard (famous Jazz & Wine Festival). The magic is guaranteed and if you associate us with a taste of Brunello di Montalcino I’m sure you won’t forget. Here, in fact, you will also find the wine shop. There is also an internal garden that can be visited for a fee while other parts can be visited free of charge.
Montalcino what to see – The Priori’s tower
Another unmissable piece of Montalcino is the long and narrow Torre dei Priori which overlooks Piazza del Popolo, the main square of the town also long and narrow. The 14th century Palazzo dei Priori bears the coats of arms of the podestà. Added to this is the Renaissance Loggia and the many catering offers.
What to eat in Montalcino? The typical Tuscan and Sienese products in general such as pici or other specialities (I have always eaten well and drank even better at the Taverna dei Barbi). Here, among other things, there is a superb wine cellar to visit and not far away, always on the property, the Museum of Brunello with pictures and tools of the period).
But before leaving the centre, remember to visit the churches of Sant’Agostino, Sant’Egidio and San Francesco and the bishop’s palace.
Personally, I also really appreciated the Glass Museum. Set up in the Castle of Poggio alle Mura fortress of the 14th century in the heart of the wine estate in Montalcino. Interesting because the fragile glass today contains the most precious juice, the wine, or rather the King Brunello.