Don’t you just love the sound of that word? Mon..teh…pul…chee…ahh…no… How it rolls off the tongue. It sounds so, well…Italian.
A wonderful Tuscan Medieval and Renaissance Italian hill town, Montepulciano is set on top of a narrow ridge of volcanic rock, much like Civita di Bagnoregio. With steep, car-free, walkable and winding streets made to discover its art and architecture, the town is a major producer of some great Italian food. Pork, cheese, thick pasta, lentils, and honey.
It is also world-famous for the region’s finest wines, the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, a red wine made from the vineyards surrounding the town. Not to be confused with another popular wine, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, made from a different grape from a region in east-central Italy.
I even had some tasty gelato here!
Monday, June 21, 2004:
I visited another Tuscan hill town today on a day trip from Siena. I took a 10:50am bus which took one and a half hours of winding through the scenic green and brown Tuscan countryside to get to Montepulciano.
We arrived at the main bus station, and then I took a smaller bus to the top of the town, to the Piazza Grande. The town is basically built on a slanted hill, so most people take the bus to the top, and walk back down. (I’m not sure why I didn’t walk up. I really could have.) After the small bus dropped me off, I spent about five hours in Montepulciano.
The first thing I did was go into a church, as I like to do whenever I visit a new town, the quaint and amazing Cathedral di Santa Maria Assunta.
My main goal of the day was to wander as many streets of Montepulciano as I could. But before doing that, I wanted to see a church that was down hill, out of the main area of Montepulciano. Tempio di San Biagio. The outside of this church was pretty unique, with a blue dome and a bell tower. I haven’t seen many blue domes around Italy. The inside was as beautiful as any other church, but differently shaped than others, kind of square-shaped, with a lot of white walls and ceilings.
I walked back up hill (guess I got to walk up hill after all) to explore the “back streets” of Montepulciano, to get away from the crowds, and to see how the locals live. It was during the middle of the day when people are at home for lunch, so I heard many in their homes talking in Italian, cooking (ahh, the aromas) and eating. (Too bad I couldn’t join them.) It was a very pleasant local experience.
I took photos starting here, and throughout the day, on the “windows and doors of Montepulciano.”
I then ventured through the touristy streets. I got a salami sandwich for lunch, and ate it on the steps of a church. Then ate a gelato on the same steps. After, I went into a wine store next door and had a sample of Montepulciano wine. The Italian cuisine! This town is known for their wine.
After eating, I entered another church, Chiesa di Sant’Agostino, which had a great sculpture outside above the door of Mother and Baby and two Saints. Inside it was white and cream colored, with organ pipes as part of the altar.
I continued to meander the streets. I sampled some more wine, and ate bread with some kind of yummy olive oil and sun-dried tomato thing on it. I still had time to explore till the 5:45 bus, so I went into another church, twice. The second time, I just sat for a while. I waited till the bells chimed at 4pm. Nice sound. This church, Chiesa di Sant’Agnese, had a great marble statue in the main altar illuminated by the sun that was shining on it through a window. A stained glass window was also lit by the sun, making a colorful reflection appear on the floor. And a dark painting was also brightened by the sun. It all felt so very “angelic.”
I wandered through a park, some more streets, and into a shop or two till about 5:20. I returned to the bus station, and took the bus back to Siena, arriving about 7:20pm. I found an internet cafe so I could check my bank balance (it’s all good!), and respond to a few emails.
And to check train schedules to Orvieto for tomorrow. So Italian!
Some information on Montepulciano from Wikipedia.