Montalcino, Montepulciano, Pienza
THE HAMLET OF MONTEPULCIANO
Montepulciano is nestled between the Val D'Orcia and Val di Chiana. Built along the narrow top of a limestone hill, this beautiful medieval village seems to be the natural continuation of the landscape on which it was built. Coming from the striking but more touristy city of Pienza, the landscape that you encounter just before reaching the village is the perfect reflection of classical Tuscany. Immediately below the town's castle walls and fortifications, you can admire the church of the Madonna di San Biagio. Piazza Grande, situated on the highest point of the town, is dominated by the great tower and the Gothic facade of the Palazzo Comunale. Opposite the town hall, you can admire the Cathedral which dates back to the late sixteenth century. Despite its undeniable beauty, Montepulciano is well-known internationally for its Vino Nobile, one of the most popular Tuscan wines in the world.
The town rises on a hill clad in olive-groves and vineyards which yield the renowned Brunello between the Ombrone and Asso valley. Approaching the imposing 300's fortress you can easily tell its urban layout and plan: a medieval military city with narrow and steep roads. From up here the views are incredible masterpieces as are the ones featured in the Civic Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art, with one of the richest collections of wooden paintings and sculptures from the Sienese School. Among the numerous churches: S. Agostino, neoclassical cathedral, The Sanctuary of the Madonna del Soccorso and S. Egidio, the church "of the sienese". Not to be missed is also the Palazzo Comunale. Only 9kms from Montalcino's city center you can find the solitary Abbazia di S. Antimo (example of great romanic-french architecture in Italy). Along with the territory of the Val D'Orcia, the one of Montalcino have been included in Unesco's Protected Heritage (2004).
The town stands perched on a secluded hilltop, designed as an ideal Renaissance city. The Pope Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini (Pius II) commissioned Bernardo Rossellino to redesign his native village, then named Corsignano. The death of the Pope and the architect in 1464 left the work unfinished. The true gem of the project is, on the highest reaches of the hill, Piazza Pio II the hub of Pienza's urban structure: the renaissance square holds all the main monuments: The Cathedral, imposing symbol of the Pope's faith, Palazzo Piccolomini, Rossellino's masterpiece (the 2nd most important building in the Piazza), The Bishop's Palace, now home to the Diocesan Museum with 11 rooms in chronological order where you can admire not only paintings, triptychs and altar pieces but also goldsmith's art, religious ornaments, tapestries and wooden sculptures.