Montepulciano, Tuscany
One of Tuscany's Top Hill Towns

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Montepulciano, a hill town in southern Tuscany, is in the heart of the Vino Nobile wine territory. The town is visited for its pretty main square, shops, beautiful medieval and Renaissance buildings and churches, and great views. There are several places to taste or buy Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wine in town, too. Located near Pienza and the beautiful Val d’Orcia, Montepulciano makes a good base for visiting the wine region and other towns in this area.

montepulciano photo
Montepulciano, Tuscany Hill Town, by James Martin

What to See and Do in Montepulciano

Starting from the lower end of town, first head to the tourist office in the parking lot to pick up a map. Enter the historic center through the 13th century Porta al Prato, one of the medieval gates in the city walls. From Porta al Prato, walk up the winding streets lined with shops, bars, and restaurants. On the way up the main street, take a look at the top of the Clock Tower to see the whimsical bell ringer above the clock.

Piazza Grande, the main square, is near the top of Montepulciano. The well, topped with lions and griffons, was built by Sangallo the Elder in 1520. On the square are the cathedral, town hall, clock tower, and 14th – 16th century palaces. There’s even a place to taste wine.

montepulciano piazza grande
Piazza Grande in Montepulciano, Tuscany

The Duomo or Cathedral dates from the early 17th century and has an unfinished facade although the 15th century bell tower from the old church still stands next to it. Inside is Taddeo di Bartolo’s magnificent Assumption of the Virgin triptych painted in 1401 (see photo near the end of the article).

Palazzo Comunale, the town hall, is a Gothic style building partially modeled after Florence’s Palazzo della Signoria. Climb the 15th century tower for great views of the town and countryside.

A little farther up, the Fortezza sits at the top of the town. The medieval fortress was destroyed several times and rebuilt. Its most recent uses were as a silkworm farm and then a school in 1935.

Near the main square on Via Ricci, the Civic Museum is housed in the 14th century Palazzo Neri-Orselli. In the museum are works from the 13th through 19th centuries, including illuminated manuscripts. Across the street, the 16th century Palazzo Ricci houses a historic winery.

On your way back down, walk on Vicolo di Voltaia nel Corso and stop in the historic Liberty style Caffe Poliziano for a glass of wine, cocktail, or tea or try one of their unusual coffee drinks such as caffe al pepe with chocolate, cream, and black pepper.

On Thursday mornings there’s an outdoor market.

If you have a car, visit La Foce Garden, a few miles to the south.

The stunning Renaissance church you see below Montepulciano is Madonna di San Biagio. Considered to be Sangallo’s masterpiece, he worked on the project from 1518 until his death 16 years later.

San Biago Church
The Madonna of San Biago Church Sits Below Montepulciano.

Where to Stay in Montepulciano

  • Il Tosco is an elegant hotel in a renovated 15th century building in the historic center.
  • Residenza Fabroni, Montepulciano is a bed and breakfast inn, also in the historic center, with a terrace offering 360 degree views.
  • Il Rond√≤ Boutique Hotel is a 3-star hotel with parking, a short walk from Montepulciano’s historic center.
  • Agriturismo Poggio Etrusco, in the countryside near Montepulciano, has 3 beautifully restored apartments and a double room. It’s owned by cookbook author Pamela Sheldon Johns and artist Johnny Johns who are available to help guests with suggestions for things to do, arrange winery tours and make reservations, and give cooking classes at the farm.

Getting to Montepulciano

Although Montepulciano can be reached by the regional train from Siena or Chiusi, this part of Tuscany is best explored by car. If you’re driving, park in one of the lots on the edge of town as cars without special permits are not allowed to drive in the historic center. There’s a small local bus that goes through the center if you don’t want to walk.

Montepulciano’s small train station is a few kilometers outside town and buses connect the station to the town. Buses run right to town from Chiusi train station, on the major rail line between Rome and Florence . Buses also run to nearby Tuscany towns like Siena and Pienza. Note that buses may not run on Sundays and schedules are not always convenient for tourists. From Montepulciano’s bus station you can walk into the historic center.

Montepulciano in the Movies

Montepulciano was used as in filming the final scenes of Twilight Saga New Moon, although the story is really set in the town of Volterra. Other movies with scenes in Montepulciano are The English Patient, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Under the Tuscan Sun.

I visited Montepulciano as a guest of Tuscan Women Cook, based in the nearby hill town of Montefollonico.

More Hill Towns:

montepulciano duomo triptych
Assumption of the Virgin triptych by Taddeo di Bartolo in Montepulciano's Duomo

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Comments

  1. Joe Palisi

    Montepulciano is a beautiful Tuscan hill town. I remember it pretty much as you described it except it was raining the day we were there…pecato. We enjoyed a stop at the cafe Poliziano, and later in the day a fine dinner at Le Logge del Vignola. It was memorable because we were celebrating my 75th birthday. Entered the church of San Biagio also. Was surprised how small the interior was compared to Italian churches in general.

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