Val d'Orcia means first of the Montepulciano and Montalcino hilltop towns, and the scenic, rolling Crete Senesi fields, in between. While the Crete produce wheat - and bread - and great cheeses, the hills are the Vino Nobile and Brunello terroirs, as to show better teh harmony of nature, here you taste teh best cheese with the best wines. We explore two delightful Città del Vino, Montalcino, and Montepulciano, in the Siena province, unmissable for any wine lover. Both are endowed with fortresses and city walls, churches and mansions, ancient homes and alleys, like every respectable medieval hilltop town - where else good wines may come from ? - and are very pleasant to visit on foot.
In Montepulciano, where wine is a cult since ancient times, there we taste and visit two stunning old cellars, deeply dug undergroud, underneath the most important Renaissance mansions.
From the top of the city, we enjoy breathtaking views on the wide, open Valdichiana and Cortona, and on the richest vineyards of he Vino Nobile. We drive to beautiful Pienza, then cross the more romantic, and scenic farmland, source of fine pecorino cheese, and absolutely the most photogenic view, the Crete. Rolling fields like slow moving waves, of uniform green colour in springtime, they quickly shifts to yellow and brown, grey eventually, before the new green in the fall, with the massive, twin peaked Amiata volcano in the background. Few cypress-lined windy roads, like brush strokes, few villages, and rare farmhouses, balanced on the ridges. You see little of anything in facts: people, noises, cars, sheep, or visitors.
The area may still inspire retreat and meditation today, and it was a retreat place for centuries. A detour a bit off the main roads may take us to the peaceful S. Anna monastery - stage of the English patient - to the impressive, romanesque S. Antimo, a little piece of France transported in Tuscany, or to the impressive Monte Oliveto abbey, once a secluded hermitage, with its amazing frescoes and cloister.
Vino Nobile is made around here since perhaps 1300. It stands like the original “super” tuscan. Brunello is, in comparison, the “new” boy, an austere, intense varietal, essential like a good Burgundy, élitistic like the Barolo, both sharing a somewhat proud, patriotic origin in 1800. Nothing less than the best, hence, in this area, nothing that one may want to do in a hurry! So let’s take time, to walk down a large underground cellar, to explore a dirt road to meet a secluded small vintner, and hear its stories, to visit one of teh lady wine makers. Or to enjoy our fine lunch vith a view, to stand in front of a Renaissance fresco. Take time in Pienza for a comparative pecorino and a Nobile vertical tasting, so to speak.
Brunello is one of the four bigger, longer ageing reds in Italy, with amazing concentrations, and no less than 5 years ageingit reveals the essence of the pure Sangiovese flavour. In detail, there are cooler or warmer terroirs, family and large commercial estates, rural and fancy winemakers usually making Brunello with traditional or milder “international” taste. Exploring and tasting in such legendary vineyards, you can pin down which are your favourite zones, and which you favourite Brunello style. besides that, we might visit the XII St. Antimo’s abbey, founded by Charlemagne way before, almost a piece of France in Tuscany. Pienza, is a miniature Renaissance city, known today for the superior sheep cheese production, more than for its Renaissance buildings.
Montepulciano high on a hill with great views is where, before Renaissance times already, the blend of Sangiovese, Prugnolo and other grapes was selected to make rich, long ageing wines that only the nobili would afford, it was in fact the first supertuscan, but nobody knew that yet. The Vino Nobile aged in huge barrels, down impressive cellars dug in the local soft sandstone, beneath the nobles’s mansions. We visit a cellars that was dug 900 years ago, and another only 500 years old. Out in the countryside we could stop in romantic S. Anna, once a simple monastery, concealed in a wood, where The English patient was filmed. In the coldseason, we might take a break in the warm Bagno Vignoni pool, fed by natural hot springs, a must for travellers and pilgrims early in medieval times. The art lover’s, instead, won’t miss Monteoliveto abbey. The cloister reveals with 34 large, beautiful frescoes, which are a masterpiece of the Renaissance painting.
Read the next Experience →
New user ?