Situated on the top of a hill at 564 metres above sea level, Montalcino has preserved its charm of an untouched medieval village.Its territory, which is part of the Artistic, Natural and Cultural Park of the Val d’Orcia, is covered with vineyards (whose grapes produce prestigious wines) olive trees and woods consisting prevalently of holm oak trees. Its Latin name derivative, Ilex, is probably the origin of Mons Ilcinus (Montalcino). The most important permanent presence, which stands at a distance of three km from Montalcino, is found at the archeological site “Poggio della Civitella”. Since 1993, seasonal excavation have brought to the light Etruscan ruins belonging to the Archaic and the Hellenistic period. During the VI century B.C the area contained a village and then a fortress composed of three series of walls presumably abandoned during the III century B.C.
The oldest document that mentions Montalcino is dated 715 A.C. It is signed by the Longobard King Liutprando. This document reports a dispute between the Bishop of Arezzo and the Bishop of Siena regarding the possession of some Parish churches in Montalcino. Yet another old document, dated 814, indicates the donation of territory of Montalcino from Ludovico il Pio to Abbazia of Sant’Antimo, a wonderful example of architecture, only 9 Km from Montalcino.
According to the legend, the Abbey was founded in an ancient votive chapel erected by Charlemagne in 781 and was later rebuilt between 1000 and 1118. This extraordinary example of Romanesque Lombard-French architecture made in onyx and alabaster reveals its exceptional in its apse externally formed by radial chapels along an internalambulatory and ist capitals ornamented whith geometrical floral motifs and animals figures: the representation of Daniele in the Lion den, recently attributed to the Master of Cabestany, stands out.
Named a City, then diocese in 1462 by Pope Pio II Piccolomini, Montalcino sustained historical moments of great tension due to the dispute between Frorence and Siena and over the dominance of territory. After Siena’s surrender to the Medici family in 1555, exiled Siennese sought shelter in the power fortress of the town and founded the Republic of Siena in Montalcino which rule until 1559. From that time on, Montalcino would be subject to the rule of the grand Duchy of Tuscany.
Touring the city, it is possible to admire many medieval structures beginning with surrounding Wall with its gates and remains of some its towers, the City Hall (XIII century), the Porticos of Piazza del Popolo (with its arches from the XIV and XV century); the Cathedralin neo-classic style (built on a parish Church of the XI century); theSanctuary of the Madonna del Soccorso (erected in the XVII century on the site of a XV century church); Saint Egidio (also know as the Siennese Church, built in the XIV century); and the wonderful churches from 1300s, Saint Agostino (with frescos of the Siennese school of the XIV century) and Saint Francesco (whit the annex of Monastery which open to beautiful cloisters). This church still holds frescos from the 1500s by Vincenzo Tamagni the same artist responsible for the frescos in the old Studiolo, locaded in the complex of Spedale di Santa Maria della Croce (XIII century), presentily home of the City Hall.
Within the ancient rooms of S. Agostino’s monastery is situated theMuseum of Montalcino, one of the most important collections of archeological, medieval and modern art in the district of Siena. The collection offers an almost complete view of this important Tuscan town’s artistic production.
A fixed date in the life of Montalcino is the Festival of the Thrush which is celebrated on the last Sunday of October. The four Quarters of Montalcino – Borghetto, Pianello, Ruga and Travaglio – challenge each others in an archery competition that recall hunting wild boar in medieval times, while a long parede with magnificent costumes crosses the streets of the town accompanied by the traditional music and dance of the folk group Il Trescone.
What to drink:
BRUNELLO OF MONTALCINO
A red D.O.C.G wine, Brunello is made by Sangiovese grapes only grown in the area around Montalcino. Five years from the harvest, it can be called Brunello, a limpid and brilliant wine with a lively garnet colour and with an intense, persistent, full and ethereal smell. A combination of the scents of brush lands, aromatic woods, small fruits, a light trace of vanilla and fruity jams can be detected in Brunello.
ROSSO OF MONTALCINO
A red D.O.C wine, Rosso of Montalcino is made from Sangiovese grapes, only grown in the surrounding area. It is harmonic, elegant, sapid, not specially demanding but complementary with many foods. Rosso di Montalcino is brillant and limpid to the eyes, with a composite ruby red colour; to the olfactory senses it offers a fine intensity and fragrance in which the scents of small fresh fruit and light touch of cherry can be recognized.
From the variety Moscato Bianco, inside the territory of the Commune of Montalcino, the Moscadello D.O.C is produced in these varieties: Natural, Sparkling and Late Harvest. Moscadello pleasantly accompanying pastries and dry biscuits. It straw-yellow colour has an aroma of a well-balanced and fresh muscatel with some floral scents.SANT’ANTIMO Red and white D.O.C wine produced in the Municipal territory of Montalcino. This denomination makes it possible to classify Montalcino wines other than Brunello. It has extremely variable characteristics according to the different types.
Museum of Montalcino, Via Ricasoli 31
Tel. + 39 0577.846014; Tel/Fax + 39 0577.849331 www.prolocomontalcino.com www.museisenesi.org OpeningHours 10:00AM-1:00PM /2:00PM-5:50Pm (closed on monday– 25 December – 1 Jenuary) Ticket : € 4.50 full price – € 3,00 reduced rate, museum + fortress full price € 6,00 – museum + fortress redeced rate € 4.50
Museo of Brunello Loc. Podernovaccio Tel/Fax + 39 0577 846104
Museo of Glass Castello di Poggio alle Mura Tel/Fax + 39 0577 816001
Fortress Piazzale Fortezza Tel. + 39 0577 849211 Opening Hours: Winter Time 9:00AM – 6:00PM (closed on Monday); Summer Time9:00AM – 8:00PM Ticket: € 4,00 full price € 2,00 reduced rate
One of our top 5 city in Tuscany. Even if it is very touristic, you should spend some hours walking around this unique village!
Abbey of Sant’Antimo
(Castelnuovo dell’Abate) TO BOOK THE VISIT: Tel. + 39 0577 835659 / 835550 Opening Hours: 10:30AM – 12:30PM / 3:00PM – 6:30PM from Monday to Saturday; 9:00AM – 10:30AM / 3:00PM – 6:00PM Sunday and Festivity.
Mass: 9:15AM from monday to saturday; 11:00AM on Sunday and Festivity. Gregorian Chant. Please click here for their website
The friars of Saint Antimo are happy to receive friends who speak English.
Visitors come not only for this beautiful abbey that is unique in all of Italy, but also to savour a moment of peace and spirituality. At Saint Antimo you can once again find the door to your heart.
ON THE WAY TO MONTALCINO, 5/6 KM BEFORE CHIANCIANO ENJOY:
LA FOCE GARDENS
One of the great private gardens of Italy, Tuscany‟s La Foce‟s “absolutely breathtaking” and “fabulous” gardens are open every Wednesday afternoon for guided tours beginning on the hour at 3,4,5 and 6 pm (April-October, in winter at 3 pm only). Admission: €10.
The beautiful wisteria arbor has by now burst into bloom. Also to be enjoyed are the splendid views over the Val d‟Orcia and the iconic zigzag road that links farms to the villa. It was conceived for its practicality and beauty by La Foce owner Iris Origo and architect Cecil Pinsent. You can admire the use of travertine marble throughout the garden in the fountains, pathways and sculptures.