From the small perched village the view descends along the sides of the Sienese hills and embraces the Val D'Orcia and the Valdichiana: those who arrive for the first time in Montepulciano are conquered by its timeless charm, those who return do so because they remain linked to its landscape, its aromas and flavors.
Let's find out what to see in Montepulciano.
The origin of “Mons Politianus”
The history of Montepulciano begins in the Etruscan era, according to legend, it was founded by King Porsenna.
Known since 715 A.D. under the name of Mons Politianus, Montepulciano establishes itself as a city around the second half of the 13th century, when the axis of communications moves westward due to the territorial changes of the Valdichiana: it is precisely along the road line that leads to the Val d 'Orcia and to Siena that rises the first nucleus of the city.
Object of contention between Florence and Siena, Montepulciano experienced its greatest cultural splendor in the Renaissance, when prominent figures such as the poet Angelo Poliziano and architects Antonio Da Sangallo, Jacopo Barozzi and Baldassarre Peruzzi impressed their mark on the history of the city.
The precious legacy of this lucky season is still part of the city's identity today and is revealed to the visitor who, walking through the cobbled streets, chooses to treat himself to a dip in history, then allowing himself a journey through vineyards and olive groves.
What to see in Montepulciano: a walk through art and history
From the fortress that dominates the historic center to the civic museum, Montepulciano offers the visitor an itinerary marked by stages that spark the interest of art and history lovers.
Here are the places not to be missed during a city walk.
Historic center and Piazza Grande
Starting your visit to Montepulciano from Piazza Grande means taking a dip in the beating heart of the old part: here, in the highest point of the city, the square is the backdrop to the main historic buildings.
The face of the buildings that rise along its sides was originally medieval, what you can admire today, however, took shape between the fifteenth and sixteenth century, in the wake of Florentine Renaissance and Roman architecture.
Dominating the square is the fourteenth-century Palazzo Comunale.
Commissioned by Cosimo I De 'Medici, the town hall is characterized by the tower and the imposing battlements reminiscent of the Palazzo della Signoria in Florence.
Do not miss the breathtaking view that, from the top of the tower, embraces Monte Amiata, Trasimeno and Monte Subasio.
Its rough wall façade stands out in Piazza Grande and outlines its profile: we are talking about the seventeenth-century Cathedral.
Built on a project by Ippolito Scalza in the place where the Pieve di Santa Maria once stood (today the fifteenth-century bell tower is still visible), the Cathedral consecrated to Santa Maria Assunta has an internal structure with three naves.
The main altarpiece and the triptych of the Assumption by Taddeo di Bartolo from 1401 catalyze the visitor's attention since he enters.
The Cathedral also houses the lying statue of Bartolomeo Aragazzi: it is a sarcophagus that made up the Cenotaph Aragazzi, the tomb created by Michelozzo, then dismantled in 1600 and reassembled in 1815. Parts of the cenotaph are still distributed in various points. of the church.
Curiosity: the Pulcinella Tower
A curiosity that does not go unnoticed by the visitor is the Pulcinella Tower: the singular clock that is located on the tower of the Church of Sant'Agostino owes its uniqueness to the fact that to mark the hours with a blow to the bell is a statue of Pulcinella, Neapolitan symbol par excellence.
There is no documentary evidence on the history of the clock, but there are several stories that attribute to a religious of Campania origins the decision to place the artefact on the tower, an episode that dates back to the 1600s.
What is certain is that the clock, once wound by hand, now mechanical, has brought this curious twinning between Naples and Montepulciano to us.
Walking outside the city walls...
Montepulciano also reveals its beauty outside the walls surrounding the historic center: a walk outside the village allows you to admire splendid Renaissance buildings such as Palazzo Avignonesi del Vignola and Palazzo Bucelli.
Walking along the lower part of the historic center up to the sixteenth-century bastions of Porta al Prato, it is possible to stop at the Sanctuary of Sant’Agnese founded by the Dominican nun in 1306.
Before looking out onto Piazza Grande, a stop at the Civic Museum Pinacoteca Crociani will not disappoint art lovers who, in addition to the archaeological section and the exhibition of Della Robbia terracotta, will be able to admire works such as "Portrait of a gentleman" by Caravaggio or the Sant'Agnese Segni holding the city of Montepulciano in her hand, a work attributed to Beccafumi.
Another symbol of the city that marks the path to Piazza Grande is the Medici Fortress.
Erected in 1261 by the Republic of Siena, the fortified complex has been destroyed and rebuilt several times as part of the disputes between the Sienese and Florentines fighting for dominance over the city.
The fortress, whose final face bears the signature of Antonio da Sangallo Il Vecchio, now houses an artistic-cultural center.
San Biagio church
Among the places to visit during a walk outside the historic center is the Temple of San Biagio.
Built between 1518 and 1545 by Antonio Da Sangallo the Elder on the spot where the Pieve di San Biagio once stood, the Sanctuary is a must for lovers of religious architecture whom in the monumentality of the complex will grasp the Renaissance influence of Bramante.
Its position on the slopes of the Montepulciano hill is also perfect for a panoramic walk.
Between spa and outdoor along the paths of wellness of Montepulciano
In addition to the rich historical-artistic path to be known through the village, Montepulciano also offers a wide range of activities related to well-being: those arriving in the city for a short holiday can enjoy a few hours of relaxation in the sulphurous waters of the spa.
Between healthy baths, wellness programs and massages, this is the ideal place to appreciate the territory in its entirety.
Lovers of outdoor activities will also have the opportunity to reach Lake Montepulciano by trekking.
The natural park surrounding the stretch of water is perfect for a bike ride or to take a break from the city while doing birdwatching.
Staying in Montepulciano
Discovering Montepulciano also means treating yourself to an immersive experience in the winemaking tradition that since Etruscan era characterizes this land famous all over the world for Vino Nobile Montepulciano, the first in Italy to have received the DOCG denomination: what better way to do it than to plan a few days of relaxation in the silence of the countryside?
The Relais Villa Grazianella at Fattoria del Cerro, in Acquaviva, has the perfect formula because it combines wine, good food and a relaxing stay: the eleven rooms of the Relais, all overlooking the estate, are the ideal solution for a stay in nature, while the Fattoria del Cerro, historic producer of Vino Nobile Montepulciano DOCG, opens its doors to Italian and international tourists for a guided cellar visit and tasting.
It will be possible to take a real sensory walk to appreciate the excellence of the wines produced from Prugnolo Gentile grapes and a wide variety of vines from the vast vineyards of Fattoria del Cerro.
At the end of the day, a dip in the flavors of Tuscan cuisine, expertly dosed by the Chef of Villa Grazianella, will be the icing on the cake to discover all the taste of the territory and, why not, test yourself with a cooking lesson.
Surrounded by vineyards, pampered at the table and inebriated by the scent of Vino Nobile, Montepulciano will reveal its timeless charm.
Montepulciano and its flavors
Montepulciano also has a strong gastronomic connotation: the territory is told at the table through traditional dishes, such as pici, the famous hand-made spaghetti to be seasoned with meat suace or with a simple “Valdichiana garlic” tomato sauce.
The exuberance of the flavors then finds its maximum expression in the preparations based on game, pork or Chianina, while the end of the meal includes traditional cantucci paired by the famous Vin Santo.
What to see around Montepulciano
To complete your visit itinerary in Montepulciano, you cannot miss a stop in the surroundings, to discover the Val D’Orcia.
The ideal choice is a mini tour among the villages, starting from Pienza.
Known as "the ideal city of the Renaissance" and declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco, Pienza expresses its charm in the picturesque Piazza Pio II with the Cathedral and the Ducal Palace.
Among the most fascinating places to visit in the city is the suspended garden of Palazzo Piccolomini, with a spectacular view of the Val d'Orcia.
Another place to be included in your journey is San Quirico D'Orcia, a medieval village along the Via Francigena: do not miss the collegiate church of San Quirico and Giuditta, a suggestive expression of the encounter between Gothic and Baroque, and the Horti leonini, the gardens made by Diomede Leoni in 1540.
Leaving San Quirico, you can not greet the Val d'Orcia without a visit to the hamlet of Bagno Vignoni, the spa village known since ancient times for its volcanic waters.
Its peculiarity is entirely enclosed by the spectacular Piazza delle Fonti, a sort of ante litteram swimming pool overlooked by the sixteenth-century buildings.
Montepulciano is definitely worth a visit, don’t you think?