Montepulciano wineries are among the best in the world! Here is a short guide to discover in Montepulciano vineyards, breathtaking landscapes, good food and much more!
Set in the peaceful and agricultural landscape of southern Tuscany, Montepulciano is a beautiful medieval town in the province of Siena. It is a village set among rolling hills marked by the iconic Montepulciano vineyards, dotted with historic houses and breathtaking views.
It stands at a strategic point on a modest hill which, in medieval times, was easy to defend and to use to prevent the invasion of the valleys towards Siena and Florence.
Its architecture is unique and characteristic, a sign of the economic importance and the prosperity of its trade over the centuries. It combines Renaissance palaces, ancient churches, narrow streets and squares rich in history, which at times open onto the boundless panorama of the Val di Chiana on one side and the Val d’Orcia on the other. From the highest palaces, in good weather you can even see the Gran Sasso national park in Abruzzo.
Montepulciano is located in an area rich in small picturesque villages and towns such as Montalcino, Bagno Vignoni and Pienza, just to mention the closest ones. But visiting Montepulciano and its surroundings is much more. This area has always been famous for the production of high quality extra virgin olive oil and the famous Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, one of the most famous wines in the world.
History, excellence and culture intertwine in the characteristic alleyways of this small town immersed in peace and tranquillity, in the province of Siena. Montepulciano is so characteristic that it has often been the set of international films such as The English Patient, Under the Tuscan Sun and the second film in the Twilight saga, New Moon, to name the most famous ones.
History of the town
Visiting Montepulciano means immersing oneself in a thousand-year history.
The foundation of the first settlements in Montepulciano predates the Etruscan age, but it was under this people that the village began to flourish. It became an important economic centre, attracting the strategic and commercial interests of Florence and the closer Siena for many centuries. This is because Montepulciano in Tuscany is the gateway to the Val d’Orcia and the Valdichiana. Siena managed to conquer the town in 1232 only after razing its walls to the ground.
But in reality this acquisition only opened a period of alternating dominations in which Florence and Siena imposed their administrative rule over the city on several occasions. This prompted the development of a manufacturing and mercantile upper middle class, but above all an agricultural one, with the increase in trade and the opening of new channels for the excellent traditional foods of the area.
The town of Montepulciano has always been the reference market for the produce of the fertile Valdichiana and Val d’Orcia. Over the centuries, it has been the guardian of the prosperity of these areas and the main driving force behind their growth and specialisation, particularly in the agricultural sector.
What to see in Montepulciano?
Like many Tuscan towns, the historic centre of Montepulciano is crossed only by a main street, which is called the “Corso” and into which secondary streets are grafted. It has got an irregular layout, but since it rises on a hill it follows the geology of the hill, following the ridge. The street leads from the lower part of the city to the Piazza Grande, which is the most important square, overlooked by historic houses and administrative buildings.
The Gothic portal of the Church of Saint Agnes awaits visitors outside the walls. This church is characterised by the imposing façade, rebuilt at the beginning of the last century by Viviani, who revolutionised its style.
Among the best things to see in Montepulciano, we cannot overlook the Medici fortress by the Florentine architect Sangallo. This ancient military garrison was built at a time when Italy was extremely turbulent.
The village is protected by the Gracciano gate: it dates back to the 14th century, but was restored in the early 1500s together with the stronghold. The historic centre is accessible through this gate.
A few steps further on, in Piazza Savonarola, there is the small church of San Bernardo, located to the left of the Marzocco column.
A short distance away, on the right-hand side of this road, there are some important Renaissance palaces, such as the Bucelli, on whose base you can admire Etruscan and Latin inscriptions, as well as many cinerary urns dating back to the founding of the town, and the Palazzo Avignonesi by Vignola.
Visiting Montepulciano by foot
The Corso di Montepulciano has been remodelled several times over time, but its main structure continues to be that of the 16th century where the most important patrician palaces are located. The Corso is historically divided into three distinct segments, namely Via di Gracciano, Via dell’Opio and Via di Voltaia.
The first section is overlooked by the 15th-century church dedicated to St Augustine. It stands on a wide flight of steps with a balustrade and boasts a façade by Michelozzo, one of the proponents of the codification of Renaissance architecture.
Inside the church, there are many works of art by Antonio del Pollaiolo, Giovanni di Paolo and Lorenzo di Credi, as well as those attributed to a pupil of Pomarancio. The Pulcinella clock tower (“Torre di Pulcinella”), so called because of the famous mask that strikes the hours, is a very characteristic element of Piazza Melozzo.
You then reach Montepulciano’s Piazza Grande, where locals meet and tourists stop to admire the town. This is especially so in summer, when the Cantiere Internazionale d’Arte organises theatre performances, and on the last Sunday in August, when the local palio, called Bravìo delle Botti, takes place.
In the course of the event, the champions of the different districts have to push large barrels through the streets of the village. In ancient times it was a horse race. It was interrupted for reasons of public order in the 17th century and resumed in a new form in 1974.
The square was completely remodelled by Michelozzo in the 15th century to make it more harmonious, according to the trend of that time towards the creation of an ideal city. He restored the 14th-century Palazzo Comunale by adding the tower and crenellated crowning, similar to those found in the Palazzo della Signoria in Florence.
It is worth mentioning Palazzo Nobili-Tarugi, completely covered in travertine, and Palazzo Contucci, begun in 1519 by Antonio da Sangallo the Elder and completed only later by Baldassarre Peruzzi.
Next to this palace there is the massive 14th-century brick structure of the Capitano del Popolo, opposite the Well of the Griffins and Lions, which has a distinctly Renaissance design with its marble architrave and columns.
To the south you can admire the large unfinished façade of the Duomo, which dates back to a design by Ippolito Scalza, built between 1592 and 1630 and then remodelled in 1880. The interior of the church contains interesting works of art such as the Madonna and Child by Sano di Pietro and the Triptych of the Assumption by Taddeo Di Bartolo, as well as the reclining statue of Bartolomeo Aragazzi, secretary to Pope Martin V and poet, by Michelozzo.
In Montepulciano you should also walk along Via Ricci. With its Renaissance and medieval residences that belonged to the rich bourgeoisie of the town, this road represents the mercantile centre of the town. It houses the Museo Civico and the Crociani Art Gallery in the setting of Palazzo Neri-Orselli with its Gothic architecture.
Inside Palazzo Neri-Orselli there is a collection of Crociani’s works of art from churches and convents, many enamelled terracottas by Andrea della Robbia and a number of paintings from the Florentine and Sienese schools dating from the 13th to the 18th century.
Next to this building Palazzo Ricci, with its historical archive and the municipal library, houses 15,000 valuable antique volumes and is a remarkable source of information for researchers.
This palace is also particularly important because its basement houses the Redi winery where Nobile di Montepulciano wine is kept. It is unanimously considered one of the most spectacular Montepulciano wineries with its vaulted architecture supported by massive rectangular columns.
Just outside the walls stands the church of San Biagio by Antonio da Sangallo, with its Greek-cross base. It is considered one of the peaks of Renaissance architecture for this type of small temple.
What to see in Montepulciano for nature lovers? Not far from the town, there is the wetland area of Montepulciano Lake Nature Reserve, where you can venture out along the cycle paths and admire birds of passage and waders immersed in the peace of the marshland.
Montepulciano wineries and… more!
In addition to the many things to see, the town is world-famous for Montepulciano wineries and agricultural production. In Italy Montepulciano is considered one of the most symbolic centres of the Tuscan wine culture. Together with Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is in fact one of the most prized wines of all.
In reality, this wine is only one of the gastronomic symbols of this town. In addition to the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG, we find the DOC Rosso di Montepulciano, the Vinsanto, the Bianco Vergine Valdichiana and the very popular Chianti Colli Senesi wine.
What to eat in Montepulciano Tuscany
The proximity to lands such as Umbria and Maremma has made its influence felt on the traditional cuisine, which combines the simplicity of Tuscan food culture with plenty of flavour and robustness.
We cannot fail to mention prosciutto, crostini with spleen and livers sweetened with local herbs, pansanto – which is a slice of bread seasoned with boiled cauliflower, olive oil and vinegar – and bruschetta toasted over an open flame.
After finishing the appetizers, we discover pici. They are a kind of coarse, long-cooked Tuscan spaghetti, which were once handmade by farmers and are now served with a tasty meat sauce. There are also pappardelle with hare sauce and minestra di pane, a variant of the Tuscan soup, to name but the most famous dishes.
The next course is grilled porcini mushrooms, typical of the area. They are served with the ciaccia, flat bread dough seasoned with olive oil, similar to focaccia. Or with fresh bread, which, as in the rest of Tuscany, apart from a few local exceptions, is “sciapo” or “sciocco”, i.e. unsalted, because all the other flavours are already quite pronounced.
There is also a section dedicated to desserts, which in Tuscany are very compact and caloric, such as the characteristic cantucci biscuits. Cantuccini can be very hard depending on who makes them and the fact that they contain whole almonds. Obviously there is nothing to worry about, because they must be eaten after soaking in Vinsanto, a sweet, liqueur-like wine with an amber colour and a fragrance rich in aromatic notes.
Now that you know more about Montepulciano wineries, food and landscape, you are ready to join a Montepulciano wine tour! Discover the experiences selected by Italia Delight or create your own tailor-made trip with our Food Experts