Montepulciano Walking Tour - 4K - With Captions - Prowalk Tours
Montepulciano is a small, picturesque, hilltop town in Tuscany, built throughout the medieval and Renaissance periods. The town sits on a limestone outcrop, 605 meters above sea level. We have just entered into the old town through the Porta al Prato, one of the ancient city gates. This is the main street in Montepulciano, Via di Gracciano nel Corso. Many streets inside the city are pedestrianized.
This is Piazza Savonarola and the central column is the Colonna del Marzocco topped with a lion, a symbol of the Florentine Republic. During the 14th century, Montepulciano was allied with the city of Florence. For 16 years until 1511, however, it came under the domination of the nearby city of Siena. The Colonna di Marzocco marks Montepulciano’s re-annexation to Florence. Montepulciano is known globally for its wine production. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, made primarily from the Sangiovese grape grown in the vineyards surrounding the town, is considered one of Italy’s finest wines.
This is a “cantina”, or wine cellar. Here, the Vino Nobile is aged in oak barrels. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano has DOCG designation, meaning it can only be produced in the hilly areas within the municipality. Barrels like these are used in an annual barrel-racing event called the Bravio delle Botte, held in August since the 14th century. In this small room, olives would have been pressed to make olive oil.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano must be aged for 2 years. If aged for 3 years, it can be called “riserva”. Another wine, Rosso di Montepulciano, is also made here with the Sangiovese grape varietal. High-quality Vino Nobile can sell for around $100 a bottle. Wine cellars like this one in Montepulciano allow visits and often give guided tours to learn more about the wine-making process. The Vino Nobile has ancient origins, with vineyards in the area being mentioned in a document dating from 789. Until around 1930, the wine was called "Vino rosso scelto di Montepulciano”. The name Vino Nobile di Montepulciano was first used by Adamo Fanetti for his wine produced in 1925.
You can see plenty of historic agricultural tools decorating this cellar. Even in the 19th century when industrialization was booming, Montepulciano remained a prominent agricultural center. Other famous food and drink products from Montepulciano include a type of pasta called “pici”, pork often made into cured meats, pecorino cheese, lentils, and honey. “Pici” are a kind of fat spaghetti, rolled by hand. Here are some torture devices including a chastity belt.
Grappa is also made in Montepulciano. Under Italian law, a company cannot be both a certified winery and a certified distillery so grappa is usually produced in cooperation but then sold alongside wine in the same winery. Now we return to the main street, Via di Gracciano nel Corso. This is Palazzo Bucelli, which once held a rich collection of Etruscan artifacts. Along the wall are fragments of Etruscan and Roman inscriptions, funerary urns and decorative stones forming a kind of outdoor exhibition. Montepulciano is full of grand Renaissance palazzi, built in a period of prosperity during the 16th century.
This is the church of Sant’Agostino founded in 1285. The church was restructured in the 15th century and extensively restored in the 18th century, altering the original layout. Inside are artworks by Alessandro Allori and Lorenzo di Credi. Above the altar, there is also a wooden crucifix by Antonio da Sangallo il Vecchio, an architect also responsible for some of the town’s elegant Renaissance architecture.
Antonio da Sangallo also designed the Madonna di San Biagio sanctuary, which is located just outside the city. This is the Torre di Pulcinella. “Pulcinella” refers to a character from traditional Neapolitan comedy and can be seen striking the bell on top. The mid-16th century saw grand architectural constructions from Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola, Baldassarre Peruzzi and Ippolito Scalza as well. This little street is Vicolo S. Cristofano. Montepulciano’s picturesque beauty has always drawn tourists, but there has been a sharp increase since the filming of Twilight here.
This is Palazzo Cervini, now home to a bank but originally an elegant residence designed by Antonio da Sangallo. This is Caffè Poliziano, a famous coffee house established in 1868 and decorated in Art Nouveau style. The café has a panoramic terrace from which you can see the surrounding valley and vineyards. We are currently on the Via Voltaia nel Corso. This building is the Chiesa del Gesù. I accidently wrote the wrong title in the video. Construction began in 1691. In the side altars are paintings by Antonio Colli that imitate architecture, creating a wonderful trompe l’oeil effect.
Montepulciano is also famous for its leather goods, like the rest of the Tuscany region. There are many workshops and independent shops selling leather bags, shoes and other items here. You can even get items made to measure in many shops. Heading down some of these side streets, you get a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside. From various points around the town you can get breathtaking views of the surrounding Val di Chiana and Val d’Orcia. At many of the wine shops and cellars you can do a free tasting! This is the Porta delle Farine, another of the city’s ancient gates. This is another of the town’s “belvedere” viewpoints.
Montepulciano was founded by the Etruscan King Lars Porsena of Chiusi, according to legend. Here we are in another “cantina”, or wine cellar. More reliable accounts of Montepulciano’s origins come from evidence of a settlement here in the 4th-3rd centuries BC.
Under the Lombards, the town became a flourishing religious center. In the 12th century, Montepulciano frequently had to defend itself against attacks from the nearby Republic of Siena. It was about this time I recognized the two girls ahead. I had met them at the Saturnia Hot Springs a couple days earlier.
There were speaking English so I stopped and talked with them for a while. We have just entered Montepulciano’s main square, Piazza Grande. Across the piazza is the town hall, or Palazzo Comunale, designed by Michelozzo in Florentine style.
You may recognize the Palazzo Comunale from the Twilight Saga film, New Moon. After taking the elevator to the next floor, there is a steep and narrow staircase to the top. The staircase is very dark and barely big enough for one person. This is the mid-level terrace. You can see they are preparing for an outdoor concert. The Piazza frequently hosts theatrical performances and other festivities throughout the summer.
We will climb up to the top here in a moment. This is staircase is very cramped and more like a steep ladder. The battlements and tower of the Palazzo Comunale are reminiscent of the Palazzo della Signoria in Florence.
Can you see the dome of the San Biagio sanctuary in the distance? We will go there at the end of this tour. The typical red roofs of Tuscany. This is the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption. We will visit it shortly. The Bravio delle Botti barrel racing event’s final stages are held in this square.
The Cathedral was built between 1594 and 1680. On the high altar is a prominent example of the Sienese school of painting, a grand Assumption of the Virgin triptych painted by Taddeo di Bartolo in 1401. Unfortunately, at the time of filming it was undergoing restoration. Within the painting, there is a self-portrait of the artist as the apostle Thaddaeus.
The façade of the church is unfinished. The cemetery of Montepulciano is in the valley below. Coming up on the right is the Museum of Torture. There is also a Museum of Torture I have been to with my family. I would not recommend taking young children to the Museum of Torture.
After seeing a few of the pictures and torture devices, my wife and daughter decided to wait at the entrance for my son and I to finish looking around. We are now arriving at the Fortezza Medicea di Montepulciano. The Fortress was originally constructed in 1261, however it has undergone multiple reconstructions. The last major reconstruction was undertaken by Antonio da Sangallo, but restoration work also took place in 1885. This is the Enoliteca Consorzio Vino Nobile. Under the glass floor are important archeological finds. From the panoramic terrace you can see the Sanctuary of San Biagio and the valley.
Here, you can buy and taste local wine, like the Vino Nobile. There are over 100 different labels here from various producers that form part of the consortium. The fortress was originally built for military purposes. Later it became a high school until the 90s. Currently, some of its premises are used as exhibition spaces. Others are used by the Kennesaw State University of Georgia.
Now we are back in the Piazza Grande. Ahead is the Palazzo Nobili-Tarugi, attributed to Antonio da Sangallo. It is faced in travertine and on the ground level is an imposing portico that was once open to the public. On the left is Palazzo Ricci, now the European Academy for Music and Performing Arts. The Academy holds masterclasses and workshops, attended by musicians from across the globe. It also organizes concerts. I took a tour, and the guide mentioned the significance of the 8 lines converging on this one point, but I forget what they meant. Sorry. The Palazzo was originally built for the wealthy Ricci family in 1534 by prominent Sienese architect Baldassarre Peruzzi.
There is also a wine cellar housed in this building, dubbed “the most beautiful cellar in the world”. Enrico, the owner of the De'Ricci Cantine Storiche, allowed me to film a tour of the Cantine but it was very dark inside and the video did not turn out great. Here is the owner's son who gave me the tour. The vast underground cellar seems like a Gothic cathedral with soaring arches and 6.7 meter high pillars. After the tour, guests enter the tasting room and get to try an assortment of different wines. Here we are in Piazza Grande again.
This well was designed by Antonio da Sangallo. It is topped with two lions, griffins, and a shield of the Medici family. The building on the right is the civic museum, the Museo Civico Pinacoteca Crociani. The museum is located inside the 14th-century Palazzo Neri Orselli.
This is where the tour begins of the De'Ricci Cantine Storiche. The collection includes archeological artifacts and an art gallery. The major artworks in the collection include a Crucifixion by Filippino Lippi, a Holy Family with young St John the Baptist by il Sodoma; an Enthroned Madonna and Child by Luca Signorelli. This city gate is used by many famous brands as the backdrop for their ad campaigns. My Airbnb was just up ahead on the right. Ahead of us is the Convent of San Francesco. The main part of the structure dates from 1600 when the original church building was expanded.
The entrance of the original church can still be identified in the current transept. Inside, there is a fresco from the 14th century of Madonna and Child with Saints of the Sienese school. We are currently walking down the Via del Poggiolo. We will now walk up Via dell’Erbe. This is Chiesa Santa Lucia, a Baroque church designed in 1653.
On the main altar is a wooden crucifix by Giovanni Battista Alessi. In a chapel to the right of the entrance door, the Ceppari Chapel, is an altarpiece of the Madonna della Misericordia by Luca Signorelli. Returning down the Via delle Caldaie, we reach Via del Macellino. We are now back on the main street, Via di Gracciano nel Corso. As you have seen, this street is the main artery of the town, combining history and commerce.
Up ahead is the Oratory of San Giovanni Battista in Poggiolo, built by the Silvestrini monks. The building functioned as a church until the mid-17th century, after which it became an Episcopal Seminary. The 15th-century entrance portal is in travertine and was taken from the church of Santa Maria della Cavina. To the right is a 14th-century gravestone depicting a monk.
Inside are frescoes of episodes from the life of San Silvestro dating from 1412 but only discovered in 1988. We are now walking down Via Piana with the Convent of San Francesco above on our left. This street leads down the hill and straight to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Biagio (Tempio di San Biagio).
Instead of filming the walk down the hill, we will transition there in a moment. That famous gate is just around the corner up to the left. This church was built between 1518 and 1545 and was designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Elder. Antonio da Sangallo designed this church based on his brother's designs of the Basilica of Santa Maria delle Carceri in Prato. Those same designs were used and applied to the construction of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.
The church has a Greek cross plan, with four symmetrical rectangular arms that meet in the square cross. The pipe organ to the right of the alter was built in 1781. This is the base of the bell tower. There was supposed to be a second symmetrical bell tower on the other side of the façade but it was never completed.
You can see the incomplete bell tower on the right side. It is a beautiful building but it is a shame the second bell tower was never built. The exterior dome is much higher than the dome inside the church. Before the church was built, the remains of a millenary parish church were once at this location and part of a 14th century fresco of the Madonna with Child remained. The story goes that on April 23, 1518 two maidservants saw the Madonna blink her eyes.
It was this miracle that launched the construction of the church. Please leave a LIKE on this video. Grazie!