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December 15, 2010

Italy: Montalcino

Filed under: Europe 2010, Italy, The List, Travel, UNESCO World Heritage, Wine — anotherheader @ 6:47 am

The fortress in Montalcino, Italy

And sometimes a town is a wine, or sort of.

It is true that Brunello di Montalcino is one of Italy’s most revered wines.  A clone of the Sangiovese grape, Brunello, prospers in the area of the Tuscan hill town of Montalcino, our next destination.  For sure, the fine wines of the region are the main attraction but the hill town is a worthy destination on its own.  Indeed, small Montalcino is part of the UNESCO World Heritage designated Val d’Orcia.

The road approach to Montalcino climbs through the vineyards.  Nearby the steep white-dirt roads that climb through the vineyards were used to punish the cyclists in the 2010 version of the Giro d’Italia as they headed to the finish inside the town’s walls.  Within Montalcino’s ramparts, the hills don’t stop.  There’s really no sense in owning a Stairmaster 6000 if you live in Montalcino.  Walking about the town on foot is workout enough.  But with the effort come the rewards.  The wine shops and tasting bars scattered through the town are sure to encourage visitors to keep climbing the streets.

Aside from the wine tasting at the accommodating nearby wineries, day trips took us to a lunch at Castello Banfi, Pienza, and Montepulciano.  For sure we left markers for return visits to Pienza and Montepulciano.  Pienza is a little hill town so rich in history that it warrants the UNESCO World Heritage designationMontepulciano is larger than both Pienza and Montalcino and has a lower density of tourists.  The sangiovese wine blends of Montepulciano, particularly the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, are world-renowned.  Though the wines may not excel to the level of Montalcino’s Brunellos, they tend to be more reasonably priced and are excellent food wines.


Turismo del vino keeps the area around Montalcino alive.  If not for the Brunello di Montalcino and the other wines of the region, this corner of Tuscany would be less popular.  But it shouldn’t be.  It is a pleasant place to visit.  The towns are small, quiet, quaint, pastoral, and relatively lightly visited.  First time visitors to Tuscany usually visit Florence.  Siena, San Gimignano, and Pisa are next in line on many tourists’ agendas.  For sure that’s what the guidebook authors recommend.  Montalcino and its neighbors are off this main guidebook track.  I think that’s an advantage.

This stop was my fourth visit to Tuscany.  It seems that each stay ends with a Frances Mayes-esque fantasy of buying a small country estate and adopting the Tuscan lifestyle.  As the eyes close at night visions of living the pastoral Tuscany life spark through the cerebral cortex.  Life in Tuscany does just seem so sweet.  It is the Dolce Vita indeed.

More pictures.

On top of Montalcino's fortress

Montepulciano's central square (panorama)

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4 Comments »

  1. […] Val d’Orcia (Italy, 2010) […]

    Pingback by The List « Another Header — December 15, 2010 @ 5:28 pm

  2. Hi I have recently opened a restaurant, and whilst I really know my food, I am not so good on my wine, I am looking for an expensive house wine (around 70 Euros) to recommend to my guests. Would you be able to give me a good idea of which to buy?

    Comment by Berlin restaurants — August 1, 2011 @ 4:06 pm

    • It really has to do with the food you are serving, the vintages for the wines, and what’s available in your area. For less expensive wines there are perennial good bets; for more expensive wines research is required!

      Comment by anotherheader — August 3, 2011 @ 4:34 am

  3. […] to have informed our travel planning.  Be it the Barossa Valley in Australia, the Rioja in Spain, Montalcino in Italy, the Alscace in France, or the Colchagua Valley in Chile, familiarity with the names and […]

    Pingback by France: Tain L’Hermitage and Vienne « Another Header — November 15, 2012 @ 2:31 am


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