Take a cooking class from cookbook author Pamela Sheldon Johns (15 cookbooks about Italian food!).
she takes you to the market, pick some things from her organic garden, and then you prepare the meal hands-on in her farmhouse kitchen.
They also produce an organic extra-virgin olive oil and have Bed & Breakfast
Grotte del 1200
We stumbled into this this wonderful gem to get away from the cold. Located at the back of and underneath a 13th century church, the church of Santa Maria dei Servi, this winery is family owned and world famous. One of the family members was there to greet us and offer free wine tasting as well as bread and olive oil from the local vineyards and groves. We each got two bottles of wine to take home (from 7 euros) and I got a liter of olive oil. Fantastic! We later opened one of my bottles to help celebrate my 25th birthday.
She was such a delightful person, and was so proud of her product that she let us downstairs to show us the wine barrels and point out the olive press that had been in her family for generations. I have posted a picture of her and my mom. With out bits of Italian and Kevin's conversational Spanish, we were able to carry on a pretty lengthy conversation.
Montepulciano is famous of its Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. It is one of my favorite red wines, and I specifically wanted to visit Montepulciano town because of this famous wine.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is a red wine with Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita status produced in the surrounding vineyards. The wine is made primarily from the Sangiovese grape variety and small amounts of other local varieties such as Mammolo.
The wine should not be confused with Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, a red wine made from the Montepulciano grape in the Abruzzo region of east-central Italy. Less expensive wines from the Montepulciano region bear the label "Rosso di Montepulciano."
Montepulciano town is lined with many wine shops that sell the Rosso and the Vino Nobile wines. You can taste the wines before you buy them. You pay a small fee and you can taste as much as you want. You can go from shop to shop and taste the wines from several wine producers in the Montepulciano area before you decide on what you want to buy. Make sure you eat heavily first before you go for wine tasting!
Piazza Grande is the real monumental center of Montepulciano and hosts the "Palazzo Comunale" (Town hall) 15th century, with a big tower from which it is possible to admire the view of the village of Radicofani, the Orcia Valleys and Lake Trasimeno.
The tiny Piazza Michelozzo can be found about 200 metres from Porta al Prato, as you climb the hill towards the centre of town. Here you can check out two interesting buildings.
Firstly, built by Michelozzo, is the Chiesa di Sant'Agostino, which has a lovely white stone façade. Before you go inside, look up and check out the Madonna & child, with St Augustine & John the Baptist, above the door. The church was closed when we visited.
Opposite the church is the Torre di Pulcinella. This is a medieval clock tower, and on top you can see the figure of Pulcinella (Punch, as in Punch & Judy), who strikes the hours on his bell. We walked by a couple of times but missed out seeing the little fellow in action.
Located in the centre of the small Piazza Savonarola, just off Via di Gracciano nel Corso, is the Colonna del Marzocco. This tall column was erected in 1511 and was built to confirm Montepulciano's allegiance to Florence.
Squatting on top of the column is a cute stone lion which looks to be holding a shield. This lion is actually a copy of the original - the latter can be seen at the towns Museo Civico.
After checking out Chiesa del Gesu, we wandered along the town walls, enjoying the views. We then came across Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Servi, at the end of Via Poliziano.
The outside of the church and bell tower is a mix of stone and brick, and it looks like is has been extended over the years. Inside is another lovely Baroque interior, though it may be hard to tell from my fuzzy photo.
Next to the church are some seats where you can sit and check out the view.
As we wandered around Montepulciano we came across the little Chiesa del Gesu.
This church has a fairly unattractive brick façade, but it is worth popping inside to see its surprisingly nice Baroque interior. There are some lovely colourful frescoes, the one above the altar is particularly nice.
It is also great to be able to view a church when there is no one else inside.
The centre of Montepulciano is Piazza Grande, which sits at the towns highest point. The square is lined with some grand buildings, including the 16th century cathedral. There are some lovely looking cafes and restaurants on the square and it is a great place for a meal, coffee or glass of wine and a people watch.
The square is home to the town hall, Palazzo Comunale. You can also see the elegant Palazzo Tarugi, and in front of it, the town's original well, dating back to 1520, which has some lions sitting on top of it.
You can't miss the Palazzo Contucci, or should I say, you shouldn't miss it, as it has an extensive wine cellar hiding underneath!
Located on Piazza Grande is Palazzo Comunale, the towns original, and still functioning, town hall. Built in the 13th century, it was remodelled in the 15th century and is in good condition today.
Take a wander inside and then climb the stairs to the second floor. Here you can pay a small fee, which allows you to continue climbing up to the top of the tower.
There aren't too many stairs (I promise!), and it is really worth the climb to enjoy the stunning views over the town and surrounding valleys.
Montepulciano's cathedral sits on the southern side of Piazza Grande. Construction was completed in 1630, although its façade is unfinished, and very plain in comparison to the stunning marble facades of the cathedrals in nearby Siena and Florence.
The inside is thankfully more interesting, with a very impressive altarpiece which was created in 1401. It is painted on wood and decorated with real gold.
I particularly liked the ray of sunlight that streamed in through a window on the ceiling, creating a circle of light on the floor, making for an interesting, albeit a little bit blurry, photo.
Finally you can see where my member photo was taken: in Montepulciano. I have very good memories of this picture. After a beautiful day in Tuscany and a wonderful visit to Montepulciano it was time to head back to the campground. I walked down from the Piazzo Grande along the nice winding street of Montepulciano to the carpark. But by the time I got to the city gate I saw a beautiful sunset. So instead of going to my car I decided to sit on a little wall just outside the town and enjoy this sunset. It was wonderful to see the sun go down behind the beautiful Tuscan landscape. When I close my eyes I can still see it, even if it is years ago. I saw some of my best sunsets in Italy, and this one in Montepulciano is one I will never forget.
This is the Palazzo Comunale (town hall) on the Piazza Grande (big square). You can climb to the top of the tower if you like, and the view from there should be fantastic. You will be able to admire the view over the village of Radicofani, the Orcia Valleys and Lake Trasimeno. Unfortunalely it was closed when I arrived, so I didn't get a chance to do so. So instead I sat on one of the steps surrounding the square and enjoyed the view over the beautiful square, Piazza Grande.
The Palazzo Comunale was designed by Michelozzo and is from the late-14th-century. The building is a smaller version of Florence's Palazzo Vecchio.
This is a picture of the Duomo (cathedral) on the Piazza Grande. The Duomo was designed between 1592 and 1630 by Ippolito Scalza. The façade is unfinished and plain, but somehow it fascinated me. I have to admit that the picture of the Duomo isn't very good, so I guess you have to go there by yourself to see what I mean. But you won't regret that as Montepulciano is a wonderful village. I wouldn't mind myself going here again :-)
If you can you really should try to take a look inside of the Duomo. It contains the remains of a tomb by Michelozzo, 17th century tapestries of the Flemish school, works by Sano di Pietro, the school of Andrea del Sarto and Andrea della Robbia as well as Benedetto da Maiano. But the one thing you should look for is the high altar. Here is a triptych painted by Taddeo di Bartolo called the "Assumption of the Virgin" from 1401.
On my first visit to Montepulciano there was some kind of event going on. Unfortunately I couldn't stay too long in Montepulciano as I had a long drive to go that day, and I knew the sun would set soon. I did have time to taste some of the snacks that were soled on the square and taste a bit of the atmosphere. Next time I have to plan it better as I would love to be here when some great events are going on in Montepulciano. The biggest ones are probably "Il Bruscello" and ''Bravio delle Botti".
Il Bruscello is held in the middle of August. A big stage holds a spectacle in period costume, with local life stories and ancient Tuscan songs.
The Bravio delle Botti is a barrel-rolling race. This event takes place on the last Sunday of August. Wine barrels of 85 kg have to be pushed across the narrow streets of the historic city. That this event is all about wine is not surprising as Montepulciano is know for its great tasting wine "Vino Nobile"