The land of Southern Tuscany is one of quintessential hilltowns, grape vines, olive trees and big Tuscan red wines. Montepulciano is my favorite town to explore!

The walled town on a high ridge thrived in the 16th century and is full of Renaissance palazzo like Piazza Grande lined with the town’s unfinished Duomo. We arrived on a rainy afternoon excursion during our Easter Under the Tuscan Snow just in time for siesta. It was a great opportunity to roam the quiet streets and grab a bite.

While vineyards dot the landscape surrounding town, all you need to do to explore the wine is visit the walled town. Montepulciano exudes wine unlike any other town in Tuscany…streets are lined with enoteca (wine shops) ready for tastings AND there is a network of cellars under town with huge barrels of aging Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. You can do a tour of them or just visit Pulcino (Via di Graccinao nel Corso, 102) where the basement was an Etruscan tomb. Find barrels of wine among some of the artifacts they’ve discovered in the stone.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is a fabulous red wine and was the first DOCG (the Italian wine quality assurance label) in Italy. It is less complex and more versatile than neighboring Brunello di Montalcino (the biggest of the Tuscan reds). The wine is made of 70% minimum Sangiovese grape, up to 20% Canaiolo Nero and up to 20% other (the Mammolo grape is most often used which gives this wine a scent of violets). It must be aged two years years in oak or chestnut barrels, three years for those labeled Riserva.

In addition to visiting Pulcino and its underground caves, MUST GO’s include:

  • Il Greppo: This was my favorite red of the trip (just enjoyed a cellared bottle a month ago). Their tasting room is in town (Via di Gracciano nel Corso, 71) and they have an agriturismo and restaurant outside town.
  • Avignonesi: One of the most well known Montepulciano producers, the Falvo brothers were key to reviving the quality of the area grape in the 1990s. They also have a tasting room in town (Via Gracciano nel Corso, 91).
  • Bottega del Rame (Via dell’Opio nel Corso, 64): Check out the Mazzetti family’s store of amazing hand-hammered copperware.
  • Osteria del Borgo: Just off Piazza Grande, we enjoyed a yummy lunch in the rustic wine cave. In nice weather they have an awesome patio with views of the countryside.

Montepulciano has lots of summer festivals like Bravio dell Botti, the last Sunday in August, a competition where 80-kilogram wine barrels are rolled up the narrow streets of town. Visit Strada del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano for more information on everything in the area. And visit the gallery for photos from our trip.