Discover Montalcino: A Wine Lover’s Dream in Tuscany

Montalcino is a town famous throughout the world for its Brunello wine. This medieval town is located in the hills of the “Val d’Orcia”, south of Siena, and is characterized by a beautiful city wall. In addition to the importance of its wine, this village offers a real medieval atmosphere. Remarkably, Montalcino, with its population of about 5,000, is the largest municipality in the province of Siena.

The Fascinating History of Montalcino’s Fortress

The hill on which Montalcino stands has a long history, probably dating back to Etruscan times, but the first settlement is believed to date from the 10th century. The name of the town has an uncertain origin. Some claim it derives from Mons Lucinus, a mountain dedicated to the Roman goddess Lucina (Giunone, “Juno”). However, the most accepted theory is the one that links the name to Mons Ilcinus (“Monte dei Lecci”), in reference to the widespread presence of holm oaks (ilex, ilicis) in the area. In fact, the coat of arms of the municipality of Montalcino depicts a holm oak tree above three mountains.

During the medieval period, the city was the scene of military clashes between various city-states. Its location on the old Via Francigena, the main route between France and Rome, made it strategic. First, it found itself at war with Siena and then, beginning in 1260, allied with Siena itself against Florence in the so-called Battle of Montaperti.

Thanks to its walls and fortress, the city was considered an impregnable stronghold. This was demonstrated in 1559 when the people of Montalcino, after strenuous resistance, handed over the keys of the town to Cosimo de’ Medici’s representatives. At that point, it was the last free municipality in Italy.

What is Montalcino known for? What to see in the city

The majestic Fortress dominates the historic center of Montalcino. Built in 1361, it was the last bastion of the Republic of Siena‘s resistance against the Medici. The views from the bastions of the fortress are spectacular, extending from “Monte Amiata” to the “Crete Senesi” and across the “Val d’Orcia” to the hills of the “Maremma”.

The main square is the “Piazza del Popolo“, where the town hall or “Palazzo dei Priori” is located. This building, built in the 13th century, is decorated with the heraldic coats of arms of the various podestà who have ruled the town over the centuries. Next to its slender structure stands a tall bell tower that rises almost like a watchtower and is topped by the “Campanone,” whose bells still mark the life of all of Montalcino.

The “Museo Civico Diocesano d’Arte Sacra“, housed in a former convent, contains a valuable collection of Sienese artwork. Churches to visit include the 14th-century “Sant’Agostino”, the neoclassical Cathedral, and the “Sanctuary of the Madonna del Soccorso” and Sant’Egidio-also known as the church “de’ senesi.”

Wine in Tuscany, Brunello di Montalcino

Montalcino is known worldwide for Brunello, one of Italy’s finest wines. As early as the 15th century the village was famous for its red wines, but the Brunello formula was invented by Ferruccio Biondi Santi in 1888. Using only the Sangiovese variety, eliminating the varietals of the traditional Chianti recipe, Biondi Santi created a unique wine. Brunello must age for at least five years, while Rosso di Montalcino is ready after only one year.

In recent decades the production of Brunello di Montalcino has undergone a definitive qualitative evolution, accentuated by the granting of DOCG status in 1980, becoming one of the world’s finest wines. This has led to an important affirmation of Brunello’s name and reputation globally.

About “Brunello“, we have dedicated to it a focused article, looking at the characteristics that make it so special, but also elements related to price and its history and tradition. Important to know, however, is that today the production area for this wine spans the entire municipality, covering roughly 24,000 hectares, and is bordered by the Ombrone, Asso, and Orcia rivers. The wineries yield more than 6.5 million bottles per year, reflecting the wine’s continued popularity.

How to get to Montalcino by car or bus?

It has already been mentioned earlier that Montalcino is located in the province of Siena, but actually, the town is located about 40km south of the provincial capital. Its territory borders the province of Grosseto to the east and “Monte Amiata” to the south. East of Montalcino lies the “Val d’Orcia”, which includes the towns of “Castiglione d’Orcia” and “San Quirico d’Orcia”.

Montalcino can be easily reached from Florence, heading south to Siena and continuing on the regional road SR2 to Buonconvento. From here, you can take the Strada Provinciale del Brunello, which leads directly to Montalcino. The total trip takes about 2 hours. If you come from the south, however, you have to exit the A1 highway at Chiusi-Chianciano Terme and continue on regional and provincial roads through the Sienese countryside and past places such as Chianciano Terme, Bagno Vignoni, and San Quirico d’Orcia.

To reach the city by public transportation, one must take the train to Buonconvento train station, located on the line connecting Grosseto and Florence. From here one can continue the journey by local public transportation, such as buses, traveling about 10-15 kilometers to the final destination.

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