South of Siena one finds an enchanting and untouched medieval “borgo”, Montalcino. It is an almost fabulous place, surrounded by majestic walls and dominated by the perfect architecture of the great castle. The city of Montalcino became renowned worldwide thanks to the Brunello, one of the red best wines in the world (there is also an ancient muscat wine, the Moscadello). There is much more than wines in the Montalcino territory however, there is culture and art. The historical centre boasts first of all its mighty Rocca, a fortress built in 1361, from here one can start a tour leading to the many, important churches, the City Hall, and the Civic Diocesan museum of Sacred Art, with one of the largest collections of paintings and wooden sculptures of the Siennese school. What is more impressive to travellers is perhaps the wonderful panorama one can admire from the fortress’ battlements, ranging from the tall Monte Amiata to the Siennese Clays up to Siena, through an impressive view of the rugged Val d’Orcia, and beyond, to the Maremma Hills. Slope after sweet or steep slope, it is a continuum of low hills and valleys and dunes with rows of cypresses, olive groves, red and yellow flowery fields, winding country roads and old oaks. Orderly vineyards and lonely cypresses also dot the immense landscape.
Vineyards and their fruits are important in Montalcino, and the Brunello is the top wine. But there are many other local and/or organic products that are also very high-quality: among them, honey, typical cold cuts and salami, extra virgin oils, and various sorts of cheese. All of them can be bought, and also tasted and savoured in the many restaurants, wine bars and taverns. If you are in Tuscany on the last Sunday of October, you cannot miss the “Festival of the Thrush”, a way of experiencing local culture through the commemoration of ancient, not only culinary traditions
Just a few kms away rises Sant’Antimo Abbey, an impressively evocative Romanic Abbey from the twelfth century. The narrow country roads leading to the Abbey wind through valleys, beautiful crop fields, and trees. The great Abbey is also a wonderful sight, as it is built in travertine with golden veinings, and lies in a large clearing surrounded by centuries-old olive trees. Entering the Abbey itself, with its out of time, solemn and austere atmosphere, is a great experience, a way of living the times and monastic way of the middle Ages. During masses, one can still hear the mystical Gregorian chants sung by the Franciscan monks, all in their white cowls. A truly unforgettable experience!