We headed north from Montepulciano to the medieval hilltop town of Montalcino. Like most of the towns and villages that dot the picturesque Tuscan landscape, Montalcino is a town made up of steep narrow travertine lined streets lined with stone buildings dating from the 14th century and many enoteca’s (wine bars). In Montalcino this is where you’ll sample the wine that makes this town internationally famous: Brunello di Montalcino. More on that later.
From miles away as you approach the town Montalcino reveals itself delicately perched on its hill. Commanding the skyline is a Fortezza. A 14th century fort that protected the town from the battling Sienese and Florentines, depending on what century and who was in favor at the time. Inside this massive fort is an enoteca where we enjoyed you’ll find the largest selection of the local vino for tasting. If you take to heart tasting and not drinking you’ll want to walk up the steep narrow stone staircases to the rampart and feast your eyes on eternal views of the Tuscan hills, gentle gold and in this afternoons light somewhat surreal, like a painting.
Perhaps the best part of Montalcino is where we’re staying. In Italy, or at least Tuscany, there are a number of lodging options. From luxury hotels in the bigger villages or cities, to small boutique hotels, apartments (called cameres), rooms in private homes (called zimmers) or agriturismo (staying on private working farms or wineries in a farm). Of course, there are villas and more. In Montalcino we found a camere above a small wine shop directly adjacent to the giant Fortezza. Even better, the room is on the top floor of a 3 story building and features a large terrace where we can gaze across the vineyards and barren hills of the Commune di Montalcino, the rustic terracotta rooftops of the ancient Montalcino buildings and of course the Fortezza.
Montalcino is extremely hilly and steep. And if I haven’t noted before, after a few days walking these towns I’m getting a bit of a workout. Waking up in the morning to the reminder that streets of Newport and of New York City for Tim don’t tax the muscles as Montalcino and Montepulciano tend to.
I’m in awe at the elderly people I see daily walking up and down the steep streets. With the help of a cane they make their daily pilgrimage to the co-op, bakery, trattoria or friends’ homes. In Montepulciano I remember running into the same old woman using two canes and barely moving up the road at crawling speed. I’d pass her on the way up and the way down. Each time exchanging pleasantries and smiles. I saw here every day for the three days I spent there, amazing. And it’s the same in Montalcino. It reminded me something my ex-wife’s 93-year-old grandma told me when I headed to the elevator in her apartment complex. She insisted walking up the stairs. “I’m going to walk, Allan,” she’d say, “while I still can.” Anytime I think of using an elevator or escalator I think of here. And walk.Photos: 1) The view from the Fortezza in Montalcino at dusk. 2) Another view from thee rampart of the Fortezza of Montalcino’s clock tower and cathedral. Note the burnt siena colored building in the foreground with the terrace. This is where we’re staying in Montalcino. 3) Shot from our terrace across Montalcino rooftops. 4) Doing the ‘cane walk’. Tackling the steep streets is an everyday event no matter your age.