Location of Montepulciano
Montepulciano, known as one of the most attractive hilltowns in Tuscany, is located in the Val di Chiana and within easy reach of the Val d’Orcia.
Montepulciano is built on a limestone ridge of Monte Poliziano in the province of Siena in southern Tuscany with an elevation of 605 m.
The nearest bigger town is Pienza, located at about 13 km distance, Siena is 70 km away and Florence even 134 km.
Short history on Montepulciano
In Etruscan times Montepulciano was known as the city of Nocera Alfaterna, which in 308 B.C. made an alliance with Rome against the Samnites. According to legend, it was founded by the Etruscan King Porsenna of Chiusi. Recent findings prove indeed that a settlement was already in existence in the 4th-3rd centuries BC. In Roman times it was the seat of a garrison guarding the main roads of the area.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Montepulciano developed as a religious center under the Lombards. In the 12th century it was repeatedly attacked by the Republic of Siena, which the Poliziani faced with the help of the Perugia and Orvieto, and sometimes Florence, communes. The 14th century was characterized by constant struggles between the local noble families, until the Del Pecora family became rulers of the town. From 1390, Montepulciano was a loyal ally (and later possession) of Florence and, until the mid-16th century, lived a period of splendour with architects such as Antonio da Sangallo the Elder, Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola, Baldassarre Peruzzi, Ippolito Scalza and others, building luxurious residences and other edifices here. In 1559, when Siena was conquered by Florence and Montepulciano lost its strategic role, its importance declined.
Montepulciano remained the most important agricultural centre in the area after the unification of Italy and the drying of the Val di Chiana. Most of the industrial activities moved to Chiusi, which had the advantage that it was nearer to the railroad being built in that period.
Food and Wine in Montepulciano
As mentioned above, Montepulciano is a major producer of food and drink. Among wine connoisseurs its Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is considered among Italy’s best wines. However, the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano should not be confused with the varietal wine (Montepulciano grape) of the same name. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is a red wine and has to consist for at least 70% of Sangiovese (Prugnolo Gentile). Alcohol percentage must be at least 12,5% and the wine has to age in wooden barrels for at least 2 years (the riserva for at least 3 years)
A lot cheaper than the Vino Nobile (about a third of the price) is the Rosso di Montepulciano. The Rosso di Montepulciano is only aged for about 6-8 months and is a good choice if you like your wines a bit younger and fresh. A great companion for a simple dinner or meal. Try it a bit chilled especially during summer.
Most Montepulciano wine producers, ranging from the big names like Avignonesi and Poliziano to smaller family-run wineries, have wine outlets in the centro storico (historical centre). The best place though to start your journey in Montepulciano for all things wine-related is the information centre of the Strada del Vino Nobile (www.stradavinonobile.it) in Piazza Grande. Here you can pick up information and book wine tours. A guided tour is highly recommended as it’s is a pre if you have a person with you that can speak the language and usually knows the wine makers.
Montepulciano is also known for its pork, cheese, “pici” pasta (a thick, rough, chewy variant on spaghetti), lentils, and honey.
Main Sights in Montepulciano Tuscany
The main street of Montepulciano stretches for 1.5 kilometers from the Porta al Prato to the Piazza Grande at the top of the hill. The city is renowned for its walkable, car-free nature. The main landmarks include:
- The Palazzo Comunale, designed by Michelozzo in the tradition of the Palazzo della Signoria (Palazzo Vecchio) of Florence.
- Palazzo Tarugi, attributed to Antonio da Sangallo the Elder or Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola. It is entirely in travertine, with a portico which was once open to the public.
- The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, or the Duomo of Montepulciano, constructed between 1594 and 1680, includes a masterpiece from the Sienese School, a massive Assumption of the Virgin triptych painted by Taddeo di Bartolo in 1401.
- The church of Santa Maria delle Grazie (late 16th century). It has a simple Mannerist façade with a three-arcade portico. The interior has a single nave, and houses a precious terracotta altar by Andrea della Robbia.
- The Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Biagio is on the road to Chianciano outside the city. It is a typical 16th century Tuscan edifice, designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Elder on a pre-existing Pieve, between 1518 and 1545. It has a circular (central) plan with a large dome over a terrace and a squared tambour. The exterior, with two bell towers, is built in white travertine. It is truly a wonderful church to look at.
The walls of the city were designed and built under the direction of Grand Duke of Florence Cosimo I de’ Medici in 1511 by Antonio da Sangallo the Elder.
Hotels in Montepulciano
Montepulciano offers quite a lot of hotels for the size of the town, almost 50 in total. In the near surroundings of Montepulciano you can also find some bed & breakfasts or agriturismo.
The best price for a hotel in Montepulciano is €40 per night per room incl. taxes. This will get you a 3*** category hotel. There a no 5***** hotels in Montepulciano but plenty of good 4**** hotels. Prices for the 4**** hotels start at around € 60 per night per room and go up to almost € 200 for the more exclusive luxurious villas / hotels.