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Montalcino is one of the famous hill towns of Italy. It is located in the region of Tuscany in the Province of Siena. The town is 94 square miles in size and at an elevation of approximately 1900 feet. It is a relatively small town of about 5,300 year-round residents. There are some “flat” streets but the little side alleys are intriguing and fun!
Montalcino gets its name from a variety of oak trees that once covered the terrain. It sits in the Val D’Orcia known for its scenic beauty. The high elevation offers stunning views of the Asso, Ombrone, and Arabia valleys.
It is most famous for its Brunello di Montalcino wine which is one of Italy’s most prized wines. Brunello di Montalcino was the first wine to be awarded DOCG status (Denominazione di origione controllata e Garantita). DOCG is a notification on the label of a bottle of wine guaranteeing the quality and origin of a wine. It is made from the Sangiovese grape. The wine must be aged a total of five years before being sold and six years to be sold as a reserve. It is one of our favorite wines!
We were fortunate enough to do a great wine tour in Montalcino at Abbadia Ardenga. Mario, the owner spoke no English but our tour guide translated quite well. We had a great table and enjoyed some great wine and cheese.
History shows the town’s existence from the Etruscan times, approximately 814 AD. A church was built by monks from the nearby Abbey of Sant Antimo. Its population grew in the mid-10th century due to fleeing citizens of nearby towns.
In medieval times, Montalcino was best known for its tanneries (where they make leather) and for the shoes and other leather goods made from the high-quality leathers that were produced there.
During the middle ages, Montalcino was an independent town with considerable importance since it was on the main road from France to Rome. Like most small towns, it was conquered several times by Siena, and then by Florence. The town was also caught up in the wars between the Ghibellines (Rome supporters) and the Guelphs (supporters of the Pope) changing hands back and forth. When Siena was conquered by Florence under the Medici family rule (about 1555) it too was ruled by the Florentines until all Italy was united and one in 1861.
Today, Montalcino is supported by its wines, olive oil, and the tourist trade. The streets are narrow and at times, a bit hilly as you can see by our pictures below! Montalcino is one of the most beautiful hill towns in all of Italy!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in August 2014 and was updated in August 2022 for accuracy and additional information.