Montepulciano, the "Pearl of the 1500's"
The origins of this splendid city are not quite certain, as we don't know why it carried the ancient name of Mons Politianus. Legend tells that Montepulciano was perhaps founded by the mythical Etruscan King Porsenna: it is said, in fact that he transferred from Chiusi to the ancient hill of Mons Mercurius followed by the inhabitants of Chiusi that later changed the name of the hill to Mons Politicus. Unfortunately the first historical writings, defined it as a "fortified settlement", only from 715AD. There was already established a Commune in the XII century, in the late Medieval it was the object of a dispute between Siena and Florence due to its strategic position in the control of Tuscany.
It came under the control of the Florentines in the Humanistic and Renaissance period. In this time the urban centre was transformed and gradually assumed the aspect that we admire today. Splendid places were constructed, churches and monuments in the prefect Florentine Renaissance style. Also the visitors less interested can clearly see the different architecture between Montepulciano and the other historical centres, in the Sienese style, in the nearby towns; it is sufficient to look at the Town Hall to find evidence likeness with that of the Palazzo della Signoria of Florence.
Today Montepulciano conserves in tact the beauty of a time. In this splendid city, it is not by chance called the Pearl of the 1500’s, the visitor can admire the beautiful places and churches the carry the signs of the best Renaissance architecture.
Something not to miss is the suggestive Piazza Grande, surrounded by Renaissance places, with the Town Hall and the Cathedral with its unfinished facade. Descending into the valley, immediately under the town, stands out the imposing Temple of San Biagio, a church on a Greek Cross the work of Antonio da Sangallo the Elder.
Montepulciano is also noted in Italy and in the world for its importance as a great producer of wine. Wine with a great historical tradition; Francesco Redi - the famous doctor, naturalist and poet of the 1600’s - in his dithyramb Bacchus in Tuscany said, without doubt: "Montepulciano is the King of all Wines".
The most well know and appreciated is Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, a ross of high quality and esteem, annually classified among the best Italian wines that carries the DOCG mark (denominazione di origine controllata e garantita).
Montepulciano is also a centre of lively cultural activity. Among the events most noted are, the Cantiere Internazionale d’Arte that happens in the month of July and the representation of the folk theatre, the Bruscello, in August.
Also to underline the Bravio delle botti: a week of festivities, dinners, processions and parades with costumes from the 13th century where the protagonists are the eight contradas of the city with end with an original palio the last Sunday of August. The competition has two representatives from every contrada that pushes a barrel of 80kg for 2km up hill in the historical centre.
The Val d'Orcia
For those who love nature cannot miss this appointment. Just outside of Montepulciano in the direction of Pienza and Monticchiello, only a few kilometres in distance starts the marvellous Val d’Orcia. It is probably thought to be the most typical Tuscan countryside imagined in the area, and it is difficult to not have at least seen a photo that brings back the harmony and colours of this land.
The countryside of the Val d'Orcia is made up of hills, gullys, isolated cypresses on green hills or that follow the harmonious countours of the roads. Perfectly in tone with the countryside, appearing here and there oak woods, vineyards and olive groves. High on the hills, there are old buildings and suggestive fortified hamlets. Also within the territory is the majestic Mount Amiata, with its 1,738 metres is the highest extinct volcano in Italy.