There are sooo many enotecas in Montalcino that it is probably difficult to visit all of them in just a few days. We went into the small, cozy looking ones to check them out. Some of them have beautiful cave like rooms that make you wish you had one in your house!
We visited this winery after we visited Altesino. You should probably visit Altesino last. The Poggio's Brunello was very good but Altesino's was better. You will have to pay for your wine tasting at Poggio but it's worth it. The tour is free. Again, you need to make an appointment to visit the winery and have a tasting. Also, when you are doing your wine tasting, you should ask to taste their olive oil! It is amazing and I did buy a large bottle of it to bring home!
One of the things we did was have lunch at Poggio. They have a beautiful restaurant! More of that information is listed on my restaurant tips.
For more information on Poggio's Brunello you can go to this link:
Altesino Winery & Estate is one of the premier wine makers of Brunello and Rossi di Montalcino. You must make an appointment for your visit which includes a tour and tasting. The process (tour & tasting) insures you have a good understanding why the wine is processed and released under strict regulations. It doesn't cost anything for the tour. And, from what I remember it doesn't cost anything to taste either.
We did buy one bottle of wine which we drank during our trip. It was wonderful! I also found a distributor in the US and purchased 5 bottles (that's all they had) of the 2004 Altesino Brunello. This is great Italian wine and you won't be disappointed!
This was a great little wine bar with a little bit wine tasting available. There was a small fee for wine tasting or you can buy wine by the glass. We actually tasted some wonderful wines. They also sell other food items that made you wish you can buy it and take it home. Unfortunately, customs won't allow you to bring meat back. Worth the "look see"!
One of the largest producing wineries in Montalcino is Banfi. You do not need an appointment to do some wine tasting at Banfi but you may need to make an appointment if you want to take the tour. There are two restaurants along with rooms/suites you can stay at.
The wine is solidly good but I think the wine we tasted at Altesino and Poggio was even better. Upon entering the huge wine tasting room, you will find many other things for sale such as Umbria pottery, food items, linens, etc. It's all very beautiful. We did not buy any wine but it was still worth the visit.
There is a very cool looking fortress at the top of the hill in Montalcino. Even though it's basically walls, you can see and imagine how it was used. The fortress was built in 1361.
Located within the fortress is a wine bar that has a modern (evacuated machine hook-up) wine tasting facility. We took a glimpse inside but thought the wine tasting fee (per taste, according to price of wine) was too expensive. Especially, when there are so many enotecas in Montalcino that do not charge for wine tasting and/or have a reasonable wine tasting fee for several tastes.
You have some wonderful views of the Tuscan landscape from the fortress.
Montalcino is surrounded by vineyards, and some of the wineries offer tours and tastings. Before we left London, I arranged for us to visit the famous Biondi Santi winery.
The Biondi Santi family have been making wine in Montalcino for 150 years, and they are the ones that first produced Brunello di Montalcino. Their wines are renowned as being some of the best, and most expensive, in Italy.
The winery is located only a couple of kilometres south of Montalcino (on the way to the Abbazia di Sant'Antimo), and there is a sign on the road side, just at their driveway. The long driveway is very impressive, lined by tall cypress trees, and is worth stopping for a photo even if you are not going to the winery.
We were taken on a tour through some parts of the winery, learning a little about their production and ageing techniques, and about the history of the vineyard. We then stood in one of the cellars and tasted a few Brunello's - delicious!
The free tours are by reservation only, and run on weekdays, two in the morning and two in the afternoon. Only a few people are permitted at a time. If you want to book a tour, you can complete the form on their website and you will be contacted.
Visiting Montalcino, you’ll spend much of your time on the main pedestrian stretch. This runs from Piazza Cavour at the north end of town with a small, hard to find parking area at the extreme north end here. Heading south you stroll down Via Mazzini, eventually running into Piazza del Popolo. This small very pleasant square is the heart of Montalcino. Continuing past the Piazza, the pedestrian drag now becomes Via Matteotti. Some more nice shops and places to grab a drink/bite.
Id’ then swing right and up the hill on Costa Garibaldi and up to Piazza Garibaldi (perhaps the 1oth piazza Garabildi in Italy we’ve run into..) You can get to the unique Duomo in this direction, or head back down towards Piazza del Popolo.
Montalcino is a quaint little town that is perfect to explore on foot. Of course, you will have to do some hill climbing, but that's part of exploring, right? At the highest part of town you'll find the fortezza, start there and weave your way through the narrow streets and you'll find shops, restaurants, piazzas and lots of nice people.
When you need a rest, pop into an enoteca or grab a seat in a wine bar and have a glass of wine. (common theme here.)
The area surrounding Montalcino is a magnificent mix of grape vines and olive trees which produce some great wines and olive oils. We were able to schedule a tour and tasting at one of the top wineries in the area - Ciacci Piccolomini d'Aragona. The grounds of the winery are nicely kept and the views from the terrace are great.
The winery has a great history and produces some terrific Brunello di Montalcino and Rosso di Montalcino wines. They are always rated highly by the wine critics and one taste will convince you too.
We had a nice tour of the facilities and had fun tasting the wines and olive oil with Angela. At the end, we bought some wine and had it shipped home. Pictures are a great memory, but being able to open a bottle of wine over the years will be a great way to jog my memory. : )
At the highest point in the town, you'll find the fortezza. Built in the 13th century to protect the town, it is still intact today, though now it is home to one of the town's biggest enotecas.
Tourists can climb to the top of the walls for a 3,50 Euro fee and enjoy the views of the surrounding area or just stay firmly on the ground and enjoy the wonderful wines available for tasting and purchase.
About 10km from Montalcino, you’ll find an incredible Abbey that dates back to the 12th century. The 'Abbazia di Sant'Antimo' is said to be one of the finest romanesque religious buildings in all of Italy. The monks that occupy and maintain the abbey are known for their daily gregorian chants, which attract visitors from all around the world.
The abbey as it stands today dates back to the 12th century and was built on the ruins of the original 8th century building. Though it is simply designed, you get a feeling of reverence and tranquility when you walk inside. We loved the the way the sun shone through the windows and lit the wood carved cross behind the altar.
There is a legend involving Charlemagne the Holy Roman Emperor who back in the year 800, upon his return to Rome, decided to set up camp on the location where we now have the Abbey. His soldiers were struck by the plague in the middle of the night when an angel appeared and instructed Charlemagne to make an infusion of the holy grass and some wine and give it to the soldiers. "Carlo Magno" as he is known in Italian, declared that an abbey be built right on that spot to glorify the miracle.
Piazza del Popolo is Montalcino's main square, which is located downhill from the fortress. The square is actually pretty small, though is home to a few cafes, bar and restaurants.
The main building on the piazza is the town hall, which was originally the Palazzo dei Priori. Dating back to the late 13th century, this palace is adorned with a coat of arms of the Podesta, who once ruled the town. There is a very tall clock tower attached to the building.
Close to the town hall there is a building called La Loggia, which was built in the 14th & 15th centuries and consists of six rounded arches.
For prime people watching, grab a table and an aperitif outside the historic Fiaschetteria café.
Enoteca la Cantina del Brunello
Right in the center of Montalcino you will find many wine tasting establishments and restaurants.
You will be given a wine menu with quite a few choices. Some of these will be three wines to compare at the same time. Where else can you taste 3 brunellos at this price? Not anywhere in my city. The wines of Montalcino have the finest reputation on anywhere in the world. The brunellos are exceptional.
It was a bit rainy the day I was here, so the photo lacks the light that usually brightens the streets of Montalcino.
This is one of my favorite towns in Tuscany and I spent a week here painting the street scenes, the castel and the valley below. It is a bit off the beaten track of the usual Tuscan towns, and if you are travelling by trail it is more diffcult to get to. I had to take two different buses in and out of Montalcino. But it was worth it.
I love sticking my head into little churches in Italy, cause you never know when you might come across a real gem. Chiesa di Sant'Agostino sounded like just the thing, it has a fairly plain brick façade, but I had read it has a gothic marble portal and rose window. Unfortunately the church was closed when we tried to visit.
Located at the southern end of Piazza Garibaldi is the 14th century Chiesa di Sant'Egidio. It has a simple brick Romanesque façade and an understated but elegant interior. It is the official church of the Republic of Sienna in Montalcino