The Medici, powerful family from Florence that has given many Dukes and “Maecenas”, have helped to improve the architecture and beauty of this town. But from 15th to the 19th, Montepulciano has started a slow decline, till when a drainage of the valley has been promoted. Since then, the importance of the area and particularly of the city has been renewed. Nowadays, it is the headquarter of the Nobile wine, a recognized quality wine worldwide. Moreover, it is one of the most important touristic destinations in Tuscany.
BRAVIO DELLE BOTTI
The main cultural event that happens at Montepulciano every year is called “Bravio delle Botti”. It consists in a medieval game, when 8 districts of the town (called “Contrade”) compose the teams that will dispute a very interesting race. Two men must push a 85kg heavy barrel all uphill on the main street of Montepulciano. The winner takes the Bravio as prize. It is a painted cloth that figures the patron saint of Montepulciano, “San Giovanni Decollato”.
The Bravio is a very old event, that have been raced by horse from the 13th to the 17th century, until horses have been banned because a question of public order in the town. The recent rules date from the 1974 when they have defined how the game should be organized in a safe way. It happens every year, on the second Sunday of August, to celebrate San Giovanni Decollato, which day is the 29th of August.
THE HISTORIC CENTRE
The historic centre is full of attractions. Starting outside of the city walls, you have the square and Church of Sant’Agnese, with its original gothic portal (14th century), the place works as a meeting point. At the lower part of Montepulciano you will be able to admire the “Fortezza del Sangallo”, a fortress built during the time when the Medici family ruled Tuscany. The main door to access the city is the 1300’s Gracciano Door.
Starting to go uphill – because the town is built over a sandstone hill – you pass through many Renaissance buildings, till you get to Palazzo Bucelli, one of the most interesting buildings in Montepulciano. Its walls are decorated with many Latin and Etruscan archaeological relics, inscriptions on stone pieces and the basement of its walls are adorned with Etruscan funerary urns. A real exposition of Pietro Bucelli’s, the old owner, colletion during the 18th century. A little further, you arrive to Piazza Michelozzo, which name is given by the facade of Church Sant’Agostino, made by the famous artist Michelozzo di Bartolomeo.
The way up, passing through other beautiful masterpieces, among them the impressive baroque Jesus Church with a particular almost circular plan, from Andrea Pozzo, a Jesuit that reached Montepulciano during the 1600’s. The way starts to get straight till you get to the Church of Santa Maria dei Servi, 14th century, with a precious panel of the Virgin Mary and Jesus from Duccio di Buoninsegna, from Siena.
Before the main square, the famous Piazza Grande, you will be able to admire the stupendous Tempio di San Biagio, maybe the most important work of Antonio di Sangallo the Elder, with its central plan on a Greek cross, a facade with two bell towers and a perfect dome. It is considered a font of inspiration for the new Saint Peter’s of the Vatican, by Anotnio di Sangallo, the Younger. Antonio di Sangallo the Elder has created a style and reconstructed a source of workers that built Palaces of Avignonesi, Cocconi, Cervini, Gagnoni-Grugni, Contucci and Tarugi.
The monumental centre of the city, Piazza Grande, holds the city hall which renovation and final design from the 1400’s was done by Michelozzo, and is notable the similarity of details with Palazzo Vecchio, the Florentine city hall. At last, the Cathedral, from the same 1500’s school as the City Hall and Sant’Agostino Church, built by Ippolito Scalza from Orvieto.
It is worth a visit of Montepulciano Civil Museum, with a large collection that goes from archaeological Etruscan and Roman relics to an important picture gallery of main Siennese and Tuscan painters from the 13th to the 17th centuries.
After a beautiful but tiring city tour the best you can do is seat down on one of the local restaurants and taste the other side of Montepulciano culture: its typical cuisine and wine. The typical dishes go from the Siennese “pici” (thickly kind of spaghetti) to delicious main courses based on wild meat like rabbit, guinea fowl, duck and goose, passing through a "panzanella" (bread salad with basil, fresh tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil) and "ribollita" (vegetables soap with bread).
Obviously, this is the kind of meal that matches perfectly with the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Traditional local wine, its origins date back the 8th century, connected with the monks life but certainly changed following the flow of history. It has received a DOC European classification on 1966 and the DOCG on the 1980. Now it can be considered one of the best high quality wines in the world.
Don’t loose the opportunity to taste the wine Vino Nobile in one of the local wine shops in the city centre, specially the Enoteca Consortile. The Enoteca Consortile belongs to the producers association, is located at Palazzo del Capitano. There is an exhibition of old bottles and the possibility to taste all wines from the associate local producers. The Enoteca is opened from Monday to Friday, from 12 to 6pm and Saturday from 2 to 6pm. Closed on Sunday. For reservations: + 39 0578757812. Adriana Lucchesi for Tuscany Villas .com
Tour Info - PRO-LOCO di Montepulciano
Piazza Don Minzoni - tel./ fax +39 0578/757341 - 53045 Montepulciano (SI)
Our villas near Montepulciano: