Montepulciano trip planner

A vacation guide to the Tuscan hilltown of Montepulciano, where the wine flows freely and the streets are paved with Etruscan tombs

Casks of Vino Noble di Montepulciano aging in the Cantina de Redi cellars.Casks of Vino Noble di Montepulciano aging in the Cantina de Redi cellars.

Montepulciano guide
See
Wine
Stay
Eat
Planning FAQ
Amid the tall, rolling hills south of Siena that produce some of Italy's mightiest red wines lies the hilltown of Montepulciano, home to the powerful, versatile Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

For more than 1,200 years, this "noble wine" has been aged and bottled in the wine cellars under Montepulciano's Renaissance palazzi, warrens of stony rooms and tunnels carved into the tufa bedrock—some dating back to the ancient Etruscans.

The wine cellars of Montepulciano

Many are open to visitors under shop fronts offering free samples of wine, grappa, and sometimes cured meats, cheeses, and breads produced by the vineyards' farms. Who said there's no such thing as a free lunch? Plus, you'll never find a better price on bottled of Italy's top wine labels to take home.

These free smorgasbords concentrate at the bottom of town along Via Gracchiano nel Corso, and at the top of town on and around Piazza Grande, but four stand out.

Ercolani/Pulcino, Via Gracchiano nel Corso 80, is the most commercial, with archaeological bits and an Etruscan tomb displayed in its cellars, and boasts the most free samples.

Its neighbor Avignonesi, no. 93, is the classiest cantina in town; no cellars to explore, but a bar to tipple gratis from one of Italy's oldest and most respected wineries.

Giant casks with glass baubles aging Vino Nobile di Montepulciano in the Cantina de Redi cellars.Giant casks with glass baubles aging Vino Nobile di Montepulciano in the Cantina de Redi cellars.

Classic Cantina del Redi, installed in the multi-story foundations of Palazzo Ricci on Via Ricci, stacks huge barrels in a series of towering, narrow brick vaults connected by steep underground staircases running from the palazzo's lovely panoramic courtyard on Via Ricci down to the tasting/shop outlet on Via di Collazzi.

At Gattavecchi, Via San Donato, the "shop" where you enter is just a large storage closet off the bottling room, but you can always rustle up a friendly face to pour a sample atop an upended barrel and flip on the lights in the most wonderfully creepy, moldy cellar tunnels in town.

Other sights in Montepulciano

To connect the free booze and nibbles at either end of town, follow the winding main street (it goes by numerous names, all ending in "Corso") lined with an astonishing number of Renaissance palazzi, including Palazzo Bucelli (no. 73), which incorporates a collage of 2,700-year-old Etruscan funerary urns as its foundation.

The Tempio di San Biagio is a nearly perfect example of Renaissance architecture designed by Antoio da Sangallo the Elder just outside the walls of Montepulciano.The Tempio di San Biagio is a nearly perfect example of Renaissance architecture designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Elder just outside the walls of Montepulciano.The street climbs steadily, often steeply, to the top of the hill and Piazza Grande, one side of which is flanked by Michelozzo's Palazzo Comunale, a 14th century travertine copy of Florence's old city hall. Wend your way inside, past civic offices and overstuffed filing cabinets, to climb the crenellated tower for fantastic countryside vistas.

The rest of the piazza is lined by Renaissance palaces designed by Antonio Sangallo the Elder, closed at the top end by the rough, never-finished brick façade of the Duomo (Cathedral), filled with early 15th century sculptures and a golden altarpiece by Taddeo di Bartoldo.

Just outside this end of town sits an exercise in geometrically precise Renaissance architecture, Antonio da Sangallo the Elder's celebrated Tempio di San Biagio (1518-34), a travertine temple to Classical models built on a grassy lawn.

Planning a trip to Montepulciano

Hotels in Montepulciano
Useful links


Train tix

Shortcuts to popular planning sections:

Airfares, Cars, Trains, Tours, Packages, Cruises, Lodging, Itineraries, Info, Packing, Prep, Comm

Follow ReidsItaly
Follow ReidsItaly on Twitter  Join the ReidsItaly fan page  Follow Reids Italy Adventures blog