Have you ever visited a Montalcino winery? Here is the complete guide to explore the Tuscan town of Montalcino among art, history, Italian Brunello and lots of nature!
Montalcino is an incredibly beautiful medieval village, south of Siena in Tuscany. Set in the Val d’Orcia Natural Park, it is famous worldwide for the production of Brunello wine.
It is the largest municipality in the province, characterised by a hilly terrain, whose history dates back to Etruscan times. The first traces of settlement date back to 29 December 814. Montalcino completely dominates the hills and valleys, looks like a postcard landscape, and has remained virtually unchanged since the 16th century.
Why you should visit Montalcino Italy 👇
The climate is pleasant, flowers and ancient oaks enrich the area. Olive trees embellish the countryside and harmonise with Montalcino vineyards. The town is world-famous not only for the production of one of Italy’s finest wines, but also for its history and architecture. The area is dominated by the Rocca, a fortress dating back to 1361. The whole panorama has a special view of the area, contrasting nature and history.
There are several hypotheses about the origin of the name: it seems that it was given in honour of the goddess Lucina with a reference to the “sacred wood” or that it derives from Mons llcinus, or mountain of holm oaks. The first settlements were established in the 10th century. During the Middle Ages the primary economic activity was leather-working and tanning. Then the success of other places like Siena brought a deep demographic and economic crisis. Over the years Montalcino was the site of several conflicts, particularly with the city of Florence. The town was also the site of struggles between Guelphs and Ghibellines.
The situation changed completely in the 20th century: since Montalcino was located in one of the most important areas for grape growing with the production of Sangiovese, Brunello, Rosso di Montalcino and Sant’Antimo wines, it experienced a new economic boom.
A stroll through the town is like stepping back in time in a medieval atmosphere. Montalcino is one of the most representative villages in Italy and certainly one of the most characteristic in the whole of Tuscany, with its narrow streets, views over the valley and small houses. You will enjoy nature, Italian Brunello wine and historical beauty still unchanged.
Let’s see now what to see in Montalcino and all that you can visit, admire and discover in the surroundings. 👇
What to see in Montalcino: from museums to sacred art
What to do in Montalcino? The village is a dream place, a perfect destination for those who love nature, good food, relaxation and history. There are many monuments that you can visit, first of all the town’s Duomo, the main religious building, dedicated to San Salvatore. It has a neoclassical style and the works were directed by the architect Agostino Fantastici. The building was built on top of an earlier church and has been restored several times. It is located in the oldest part of the town, in the square of the same name.
The city is also characterised by the great number of churches, abbeys, convents and chapels. Among the most important churches in the area is the Church of Sant’Egidio, built in 1325 and for a long time the official church of the Republic of Siena. With a Romanesque stone façade and an enormous internal nave, the frescoes on the walls are worthy of note.
Another landmark is the Church of Sant’Agostino in the central street, which dates back to the early 14th century and is Gothic in style. Inside, it is worth admiring the Cloister, which still contains all the mysticism that has characterised it over time. The Church of San Francesco is a sacred building that was restored in the 13th century. Masses are no longer celebrated inside, but there are some very beautiful paintings by Casolari and Lapi that are worth a visit.
The main square in Montalcino is Piazza del Popolo, where you will find the Palazzo dei Priori with the coats of arms of the podestà who governed the town over the centuries. The medieval tower incorporated in the palace is very unusual. Everything is 17th-century in style, with arches forming what is known as La Loggia.
The military architecture is enclosed in the Fortezza di Montalcino, also known as the Rocca. Built on the highest point of the town in 1361, it has a hexagonal structure. It has a spectacular tower and an ancient basilica. The village is also very famous for Palazzo Pieri, which was the seat of the French garrison of Emperor Henry II. The palace is also known as “Palazzo Lovatelli” and the inner courtyard is well worth a visit.
What to see in Montalcino if you love art? Among the best things to see in Montalcino, there are also the museums: the one adjacent to the church of Sant’Agostino was originally a convent. Today it is the seat of the Musei Riuniti (United Museums) and houses many works of art such as the wooden crucifix of the Sienese school, the terracotta sculptures of the Della Robbia school and the collection of Ambrogio Lorenzetti and Simone Martini. The Civic and Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art contains exhibits from the 12th to the 19th century. Also characteristic is the Glass Museum, created by the Banfi Foundation, which houses archaeological collections related to glass production, with a particular link to wine and the Roman era.
In addition to the historical walk, when visiting Montalcino you can let yourself be carried away by the little alleyways that branch out throughout the village. You will discover its secret corners, small restaurants and shops where you can buy unique handicraft products or enjoy a good glass of Brunello wine and local specialities in one of the cafés.
Events: Visit a Montalcino winery & more!
Montalcino is not only a charming historical village among the most beautiful in Italy. It is also an incredible gathering point for events, festivals and fairs in which the citizens actively participate. The most important is the Jazz & Wine Festival held in July.
This event is famous all over the world and combines music with wine tasting. It is an itinerant project that allows visitors to get to know the most beautiful places in the town and all the areas where Montalcino wine is produced. A music festival that hosts great artists and is therefore one of the most important in Europe. The event takes place over four evenings, each day featuring different guests and a different setting. A project that highlights the town, but also two of Italy’s many treasures.
Another unmissable event for those wishing to visit Montalcino is the Sagra del Tordo, held in October. This is a historical commemoration in medieval style that is always celebrated on the last Sunday of the month. During the event, the districts of the town participate in a real competition. There are many events during the day, such as archery, a procession through the city streets in period costume, food and wine tastings. In each district it is possible to taste local dishes such as pappardelle with wild boar, grilled meat and Montalcino wine. The district that scores the most points during the competitions wins and receives a silver arrow. At that point the chants, jokes and celebrations begin.
February sees the unmissable event for wine lovers: Benvenuto Brunello. On this occasion, all the Montalcino wineries get together to present their specialities and the vintage. Brunello wine tastings, events with the press and also opportunities for discussion for all wine lovers. An unmissable opportunity to preview all the specialities of the period and taste the best wines produced in Tuscany in exceptional settings. An opportunity to discover what to see in Montalcino and also to have an important look at the town and its beauties.
What to do in Montalcino and surroundings
Montalcino is located in the heart of Tuscany, so visiting the village can also be an excellent opportunity to visit the surrounding areas. Getting around is easy and it is not necessary to have a car. You can also use public transport, organising your timetable and routes.
The Val d’Orcia where it is located stretches from Mount Amiata to the border with Umbria and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Montalcino and the whole area are famous for Italian Brunello wine. So one of the unmissable tours is to admire the wine production and taste the local specialities directly at a Montalcino winery. On the town’s main street is the Padelletti family’s wine shop, one of the main ones in the area, with a passion handed down through 27 generations.
One of the most characteristic nearby villages is Pienza, with a UNESCO World Heritage centre built by Pope Pius II in the Renaissance style. It has a deep-rooted cheese-making tradition. You should absolutely try pecorino cheese from Pienza, since it is matured in barriques.
Bagno Vignoni, along the Via Francigena, is a hamlet of San Quirico d’Orcia. The whole area is famous as a spa centre that was used by the ancient Romans. In the central square there is the spring, but the archaeological area where you can visit the windmills is also worth a visit. There is also a beautiful footpath that connects the Via Francigena to San Quirico, a stop immersed in greenery ideal to make in autumn.
The Abbey of Sant’Antimo, one of the most important Benedictine complexes of the Tuscan Romanesque period, is also of great beauty.
The municipality of Montepulciano, which lies between the Valdichiana and the Val d’Orcia, is particularly famous for its wine production. The hilly territory has a dominant position from which it is possible to admire the entire Tuscan territory.
It is also worth visiting Siena, which is about half an hour from Montalcino and has an historic centre of great beauty, to the point that time seems to have really stood still. Walking around and admiring the places of public life in the past, the heart of the town and visiting the Torre del Mangia are priceless experiences when visiting Montalcino and its surroundings.
The whole area is perfect for hiking. Not only is it possible to walk in nature, in the surrounding woods and organise relaxing picnics or trekking or even mountain bike tours, but also real trips to nearby villages, accompanied by local guides, to discover the beauty of the area.
Montalcino thermal baths: facilities and relaxation in nature
Although less well known for this reason, Montalcino is excellent because the village is literally surrounded by spas, both natural and artificial.
The nearest is Bagno Vignoni which has, in the Piazza delle Sorgenti, an enormous pool dating back to the 16th century, containing hot, steaming thermal water. This comes directly from the earth and is of volcanic origin. This place has been the site of thermal baths since Etruscan times. And in fact Lorenzo de’ Medici, Catherine of Siena and Pope Pius II used to come here for their holidays. The waters flow towards the Parco Naturale dei Mulini, where you can admire the medieval mills carved out of the rock.
Then there are the Bagni San Filippo, characterised by an immense torrent that runs right through the woods. Several hot water springs flow into large pools where you can bathe at any time of the year. They are also known as the “White Whale” because these “pools” are characterised by their striking colour and size due to the calcium carbonate.
To the north we find the thermal baths of Rapolano. The natural pools here are some of the most beautiful in the world, so worth a visit if you want to relax.
📚 If you love spas, read also The best spas in Italy: relaxation not to be missed
What to eat and drink in Montalcino, pearl of Tuscany
Montalcino is also famous for its food and wine history, a generous land where eating well is the order of the day. As far as wine is concerned, you should certainly visit the Padelletti winery, which is one of the oldest in Tuscany.
You can admire the wine cellars and have a tasting at this Montalcino winery. The wines are all very good but obviously the advice is to taste the top product, Brunello di Montalcino. This wine is only put on the market at least five years after the grape harvest, its vines are never irrigated and therefore everything depends on rainwater, the chain is only natural. Brunello wine is produced from Sangiovese grapes and is a DOCG.
Typical local dishes include the Florentine steak or the pork steak with turnips, an idyll for meat lovers. If you prefer fish, try the cacciucco alla livornese. Also worth trying are the tripe of cardo, stuffed onions, liver croutons, pappardelle with rabbit, sliced meats, sausage sauce, stockfish, stracotto, potato tortelli, red mullet and tripe. There are plenty of appetisers that pair very well with a glass of Italian Brunello, but even a simple sandwich with ham or salami and fresh cheese will leave you speechless. As for desserts, there is the schiacciata, a version of the ciambella cake, the ricciarelli made from marzipan, the cavallucci alle spezie and the castagnaccio.
If you are wondering what to do and taste in Montalcino, the best thing to do is to let yourself be advised by the locals, who will surprise your palate with fresh local delicacies prepared according to tradition. Strolling through the villages, it is easy to find small shops, cafés and restaurants where you can take a break. Prices are affordable and the foods are always of the highest quality.
When to visit Montalcino
It is always time to visit Montalcino, but the autumn is the best period for those who want to participate in festivals and events. At the beginning of September there is the honey festival, at the beginning of October the cockerel festival and then in October there is the Sagra del Tordo (Festival of the thrush), which allows you to experience the history of Montalcino at first hand. In this period, the climate is favourable and you can walk around enjoying the fresh air that also allows you to take walks and excursions, especially to the Val d’Orcia Natural Park.
Montalcino is also perfect as a summer holiday destination as the Jazz & Wine festival takes place in July and attracts people from all over the world. The hills are lush and you can also visit all the nearby towns, as well as a Montalcino winery. The local market is always held on Fridays, so you can visit to buy foods, ceramics and handicrafts.
Now that you know what to see in Montalcino Italy, discover all the experiences in Tuscany selected by Italia Delight! 😉