Perched on a hill in the southern province of Siena stands the majestic town of Montepulciano. It occupies a privileged position, sitting snugly between two very different valleys. To the west is the Val d’Orcia, famous as one of Italy’s best wine regions, and the Val di Chiana sits eastward.
Despite its idyllic and peaceful ambience in these modern times, Montepulciano has experienced a troubled past, with numerous battles being fought over the town during the historic power struggles between Florence and Siena during medieval times. However, despite these many battles, beautiful examples of medieval and 16th-century architecture have persevered, including palaces, which can be found in Montepulciano’s historic center.
Entering the city center through Porta al Prato, you will immediately come to the town’s main street, which is buzzing with shops selling local delicacies, such as red wine, cold cuts, cheeses and much more. This is a wonderful area to stop and browse, but we recommend saving to make your purchases until later so that you don’t have to carry your finds during your sightseeing!
Leaving Porta al Prato behind you, take a few steps to see the famous symbol of the Florentine rule over Montepulciano: a magnificent lion standing on top of a towering column. Continuing along the main street, you will find many luxurious historic residences, which feature frescoed rooms that are simply divine! One of the noble palaces most loved by locals is Palazzo Bucelli, which has ruins dating back to the Etruscan era.
Continuing on, you can see the beautiful travertine façade of the Church of Sant’Agostino, which houses works of great artistic value. We recommend taking a short visit inside, but also spend some time admiring the exterior of the church, including the clock tower. Outside the church, you will also find the residence of the Cervini Family, from which Pope Marcello II is a descendent, as well as the Church of the Gesù, which is intriguing because the exterior was never completed and looks quite plain but it hides a stunning frescoed interior.
Walking up the hill, you will reach Piazza Grande, which is the central hub of the town where you’ll find the Cathedral and Palazzo Pubblico. The Cathedral is striking due to the simplicity of its external walls (due, again, to it being left unfinished), but inside you can admire important works of art so don’t let the exterior deter you from stopping inside!
Palazzo Pubblico is a fine example of the architectural transition between the Gothic and Renaissance styles and the building encloses elements of both. It is the work of architect Michelozzi, who was much appreciated at the time by the famous Medici Family. Also in the square you can see two beautiful buildings from the 16th century: Palazzo Nobili-Tarugi and Palazzo Contucci. The latter has secret wine cellars that you can visit to see the beautiful oak barrels, which are used to age the famous local wine, Nobile di Montepulciano.
And so our walk around Montepulciano comes to an end. This beautiful city is so much more than just its famous local wine and we highly recommend taking some time to discover its delights on your custom tour of Italy.