Less than an hour drive from Siena is Montepulciano, a small town known as a “jewel of the 1500s” because of its Renaissance architecture and art. You can pack a lot in a day trip visiting this car-free town.
No major building work has taken place since 1580 within Montepulciano’s old centre. The spectacular central square, Piazza Grande, is flanked by beautiful buildings of the Duomo, Palazzo Comunale, Palazzo Tarugi and Palazzo Contucci. Climb to the top of the tower of the Palazzo del Comune to see the surrounding Tuscan countryside with its gentle hills, vineyards and olive groves.
Il Duomo, or the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta dates back to the 17th century and is adorned by many masterpieces, such as the gold-decorated altarpiece created in 1401. Do not miss the Baroque church of Santa Lucia which has an altarpiece by Luca Signorelli and the beautiful 15th century church of St. Augustine, which has a wooden crucifix attributed to Donatello.
Follow the main long street, the Corso, to see a spectacular display of power and riches: each palazzo built by a noble family from the past can tell a story of this magnificent town, an ancient enemy of Siena. Downhill, only 10 minutes on foot from the town, you will find the old pilgrimage church of San Biagio, one of the best examples of Renaissance art.
|Montepulciano - Palazzo Comunale|
Montepulciano is world-famous for its elegant red wine, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and its strong wine-making traditions, which can be traced back to the 8th century. During Renaissance the town was renowned for its wine described as "un vino da signori" (a wine for aristocrats). There are many cellars in town where you can enjoy Vino Nobile: Enoteca La Bottega del Nobile (Via di Gracciano nel corso, 95), Antico Caffè Poliziano (Via Voltaia nel corso, 27), with its beautiful terrace boasting stunning views over the Valdichiana, and Cantina de' Ricci, one of the oldest wine cellars in the world.
Photos via Flickr by: James Good, Andy Hay.