Fun Fact: Up until the 1970s, Montalcino was a farming community, and the countryside surrounding the town was full of olive groves. Then, the Italian-American Banfi brothers arrived by way of Piedmont enologist Ezio Rivella’s recommendation – he saw great potential in the area for wine creation and exportation.
After freezes destroyed many olive trees, local farmers shifted their attention to the wine business. They already had a quality product (thanks to producer Biondi-Santi), but the Banfi investment in the area helped local vineyards focus on learning the business of producing and exporting their quality Brunello wine.
Now, almost half a century later, Montalcino’s family-run and industrial-sized vineyards produce some of the world’s best and most well-known wines – Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino.
Even those who aren’t infatuated with Montalcino wine will appreciate the spectacular views of the open countryside below – full of vineyards, farmland, and other small villages in the Arbia and Orcia Valleys.
It’s near other towns and places worth visiting (like Pienza, Siena, and Bagno Vignoni), so it can be used as a base for exploration, or you can see it on a day trip from nearby villages.
There aren’t any ‘must-dos’ in town – just relax, wander the small lanes, soak up the views, have aperitivo with a glass of Brunello wine, and enjoy the simple and delicious Tuscan cuisine.
Where is Montalcino, Italy?
Montalcino is in the province of Siena in the southern part of the region of Tuscany, in central Italy. It’s on the western edge of the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Val d’Orcia (Orcia Valley) and is less than one hour from Siena by car.
Montalcino Italy Map
How to Pronounce Montalcino
Montalcino is pronounced mohn-tahl-CHEE-noh.
Listen to it here:
Fun Fact: Montalcino gets its name from “mons ilcinus,” Latin for mount(ain) of holm oak.
When to Visit Montalcino
You can visit Montalcino year-round, but the best seasons to visit are spring, summer, and fall.
Spring in Montalcino
Spring (April and May) is our favorite time to visit Montalcino. The countryside is gorgeous in the primavera – the hills are a vibrant green and are dotted with colorful wildflowers, including the cheerful red poppies. Vineyards and fields of yellow rapeseed flowers create postcard landscapes.
You can visit vineyards and the town center without many crowds. Some shops in town stay closed until late spring when more visitors arrive. However, it’s always best to contact the vineyard in advance if you’re set on a particular winery or day/time.
Summer in Montalcino
Summer is also a nice time to visit Montalcino. The beautiful green hills are replaced partly with some golden crops and tilled earth later in the summer, but the green vineyards persist.
The town is livelier, more shops are open, and the weather is typically sunny and warm (perfect for a dip in the swimming pool). The festival ‘Jazz & Wine in Montalcino’ takes place in July.
There are more visitors to the town, so be sure to reserve vineyard visits and restaurants for dinner.
Fall in Montalcino
Fall in a wine area has a special buzz, and Montalcino is no exception. This is a fun time to visit the town, and the weather is usually still pleasant.
Smaller wineries will be busy with the harvest and may not be able to accommodate all visit and tasting requests between mid-September and early October.
Winter in Montalcino
If you want to visit a winery, be sure to call ahead to make sure someone will be there to give a tour and tasting.
Summers are hot in Montalcino, with high temperatures in the upper 20s and low 30s (Celsius) from June through September.
Spring and fall are mild and pleasant, while temperatures drop to close to 0 (Celsius) in the evenings in the winter, and hover in the teens during the day.
The rainiest months are April, October, and November.
How Long To Spend in Montalcino
If you’d like to visit multiple wineries, you could easily spend 3-5 days visiting vineyards and trying the local wines.
If you’d like to see a winery and visit the town center, one day is plenty of time for an enjoyable and unrushed visit.
You can use Montalcino (either the town center or the surrounding countryside) as a base for exploring other villages in the Val d’Orcia and southern Tuscany.
Things to do in Montalcino
Climb Montalcino’s Fortress – La Rocca
This is our favorite thing to do in town. We even climb it on return visits!
The views from both the walls and the tower are spectacular – you get 360° vistas of Montalcino and the surrounding valleys (Val d’Orcia and Val d’Arbia).
Climb the 50 steps and walk a complete loop around the fortress walls. At the end of the loop, climb a little further to the top of one of the towers. Kids can climb it easily. There are railings along the walls, but still, be careful!
Originally built in 1361(!), the castle was restored in the 1940s, and is now home to an enoteca and numerous events throughout the year.
Cost: 4€. Purchase tickets inside the Fortezza’s enoteca (enter the fortress and head to the left.
Good To Know: There’s a public toilet in the fortress – when you enter, look across the Fortezza on the right.
Taste Wine at an Enoteca
There are a few enoteche (wine bars) in town. We love the enoteca inside the Fortezza. After the climb up to the walls and tower, stop in for a glass (or a full wine tasting) of Brunello di Montalcino or Rosso di Montalcino.
You can enjoy your wine inside or outside on the terrace, and there is a limited menu if you’d like to eat something.
Hang out in the Piazza del Popolo
The ‘People’s Square’ is the heart of Montalcino. Grab a seat at the historic Caffè Fiaschetteria Italiana and enjoy a coffee and some people watching.
See the Palazzo dei Priori
While you’re enjoying a drink in the Piazza del Popolo, look up at the Palazzo dei Priori (aka the Palazzo Comunale) – you’ll see coats of arms including a particularly large one, the one with the six balls (pills) of Florence’s Medici family.
Under the portico stands the statue of the conquering Cosimo de’ Medici of Florence.
On the other side of the Palazzo, in Piazza Garibaldi, you’ll see a column with a she-wolf on top. If you’re wondering why a Roman symbol is in tiny Montalcino, it’s because Senius, the founder of Siena (Montalcino’s province and ‘ruler’), is the son of Remus. And Remus is the twin of Romulus. And the twins founded Rome.
Next to the she-wolf column, notice the colorful painted tiles on the wall. Each is painted by a new artist and honors that year’s Brunello wine.
Wander the Streets
Montalcino has a main drag (via Matteotti), full of restaurants, enoteche, cafés, and shops of all types (antiques, clothing, toys, ceramics, souvenirs, wine). There are a couple of other areas with shops, including via Ricasoli, a natural entrance into the town from the Fortezza.
The smaller side streets are charming, and you’ll see signs of everyday life – laundry drying in the sun, flowerpots full of colorful flowers.
Take a walk up and down the (steep) smaller lanes and occasionally you’ll be treated to a spectacular view and a photo-worthy sight of the valley below.
See the Duomo
Montalcino’s Duomo, also called the Cathedral of the Holy Savior, is set at the top of town and has a stellar view. Brush up on your high school Latin with the phrase engraved in stone above the pillars – “NON EST IN ALIO ALIQUO SALUS” (ok, I’ll tell you – “There is no salvation in any other.”
Other churches in town include Sant’Egidio, San Francesco, and Sant’Agostino (my favorite to peek into for its frescoes).
Things to Do in Montalcino’s Surroundings
Visit the Museum of Brunello
Fattoria dei Barbi winery hosts an interesting museum on the history of Brunello and life in the area. See the tools and learn about the life of artisans like shoemakers, stonecutters, and ironsmiths). Wander through it on your own or better yet, take a guided tour.
And while you’re there, sample some of Fattoria dei Barbi’s wines!
If you want to head to the source of the town’s delicious wines, visit a winery for a tour of its vineyard and cantina, and a tasting of its wines.
Montalcino’s countryside is dotted with small family-run vineyards, including:
Larger producers also offer a look at their vineyards, cantinas, and wines:
Just 10 kilometers south of Montalcino, you’ll come upon the incredible setting of the Romanesque Sant’Antimo Abbey. I highly recommend a stop here. The Benedictine monks have left, so you won’t hear the chanting anymore, but you may catch a service or choir practice. There’s a small shop with the monks’ products like liqueurs, honey, and healing ointments.
Walk or Cycle the Via Francigena
Montalcino is just west of the Via Francigena, the historic pilgrimage route from Canterbury to Rome. Both the cycling and hiking routes pass nearby. You could trace the route between Buonconvento and San Quirico d’Orcia.
Events & Activities in Montalcino
Even if you’re not a cycling fan, seeing the Giro d’Italia live is an incredible experience, and when it visits Montalcino, it’s always exciting. Montalcino’s at the top of a hill so the climb up is tough, and you get to see extreme effort from the cyclists.
Jazz & Wine in Montalcino
Each July, Montalcino is alive with jazz and wine! For a week, Italian and international jazz musicians come together to play at the Fortezza in Montalcino and at the Castello di Banfi winery and estate. Delight in the live music while you sip on amazing wines.
The original Eroica bike race route passes through Montalcino. If you don’t catch the ride in October, you can ride the permanent and signed route on your own year-round. The scenery on the strade bianche (white roads) of the Val d’Orcia is spectacular.
Sagra del Tordo
The ‘festival of the thrush’ is a tradition that began in the 1950s to celebrate the migration of the song thrush (bird) that’s been happening since medieval times. During the festival at the end of October, the four neighborhoods of Montalcino dress in costume, and there are parades and an archery competition.
Where to Eat in Montalcino
Taverna del Grappolo Blu (Scale di via Moglio, 1) – Simple Tuscan cooking, beautiful views.
La Torre Pizzeria (Piazza del Popolo) – The best pizza a taglio (pizza by the slice) in town
Osticcio (via Matteotti, 23) – Elegant dining, gorgeous views. Owner Tullio loves to talk wine!
Boccon DiVino (via Traversa dei Monti, 201) – located outside of town; farmhouse dining on the terrace with views of the countryside
Coop (vicolo Sant’Antonio, 5) – Grab picnic supplies and have a picnic at a park with a view! There are plenty of benches and shady spots for the hot summer months.
Food/drinks to try in town:
- Moscadello dessert wine
- Ossi di morto (crunchy almond cookies)
- Brunello gelato (at the gelateria in Piazza del Popolo)
- Wild boar (as salame, in a stew, or as a sauce on pici pasta)
Where to Sleep in Montalcino
Castello Banfi – Small, luxury hotel and Relais & Chateaux member perched on a hill outside of Montalcino. Visit the castle, sample the estate’s wines, and dine at the Michelin-starred restaurant, La Sala dei Grappoli.
Castiglion del Bosco – Rosewood Hotels member that focuses on luxury, privacy, and unique experiences in Tuscany.
Capanna Suites – Tranquil, romantic, and elegant property with spectacular Tuscan views. Dine on the terrace and sip Capanna’s wines.
Tenuta San Filippo – Countryside living in apartments. Relax by the swimming pool after a day of exploring the Val d’Orcia.
Locanda Franci – Clean, stylish rooms next to the fortress in Montalcino.
Agriturismo Le Ragnaie – Beautiful setting and views, hospitable owners, and excellent wines.
How to Get To Montalcino
The best way to reach Montalcino is with a rental car. Having your own car gives you the flexibility to visit vineyards in the area and other smaller towns in Tuscany. The most convenient places to rent from locally are Siena and Florence.
There is a gas station just below town, on the SP14.
Renting a car in Italy? You may want to check out:
Renting a Car in Italy in 2022
International Driving Permit – Why and How to Get One
Can I Drive in Italy With a US Driver’s License?
You can take a 1 hr 20 min bus from Siena that changes once in Buonconvento.
You can take a train to Buonconvento and catch the bus from there to Montalcino. The quickest journey takes around 1 hr 20 min.
If you’re coming directly to Montalcino from outside of Italy, the best airports to fly in to are Florence (FLR), Pisa (PSA), Rome Fiumicino (FCO), or Rome Ciampino (CIA).
Getting Around Montalcino
The town of Montalcino is tiny, and the best way to move around is on foot.
There are many cobblestone streets so make sure you wear comfortable shoes with non-slip soles. There are also steep ascents and descents, so take your time!
If you’re visiting wineries in the area, a rental car or private driver is the best option. There is a public bus system but you’ll need to plan well and organize timing for winery tours and tastings.
Parking in Montalcino
Don’t stress about parking in Montalcino. There are a few lots and they’re all close to the city center. Pay in the machines and place the paper ticket on your dash.
Via Aldo Moro Parking Lot
The easiest lot to park in is a large lot on Via Aldo Moro. When you get to the main traffic circle in town (with the large, colorful stone and mosaic Bacchus in the middle), follow the parking sign (blue square with a white ‘P’) to reach the lot. Take the path uphill into town (wide steps).
Good To Know: There is a public toilet in the lot near the start of the path into town.
Fortezza Parking Lot
If you drive up to the Fortezza (Fortress) and keep it on your right, you’ll find another lot at its base. This is where we usually park, and it’s the most convenient if you’ve got a stroller because you don’t have to negotiate any steps to get into town.
Viale Strozzi Parking Lot
This is a large lot on the western side of town with plenty of spaces. You’ll need to climb up quite a few stairs to get into town, so it’s not ideal if you have a stroller.
Towns and Attractions Near Montalcino
Had enough wine? Check out one of these nearby attractions or villages:
|Town/Attraction||Distance by car||What to see/do|
|Pienza||25 min (23 km)||Eat pecorino cheese, have a passeggiata along the town walls|
|Montepulciano||40 min (35 km)||Sample Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, explore the underground|
|Bagno Vignoni||20 min (18 km)||Soak in the thermal baths|
|San Quirico d’Orcia||15 min (14 km)||Explore an authentic Tuscan town|
|Buonconvento||15 min (14 km)||Have a coffee or dine in a lively trattoria|
|Monte Oliveto Maggiore Abbey||25 min (22 km)||Marvel at the frescoes; buy honey from the monks; enjoy the view of the Crete Senesi|
|Sant’Antimo Abbey||12 min (10 km)||Have a peaceful moment at the abbey|
|Siena||50 min (40 km)||Climb the Torre del Mangia; find your favorite contrada|
|Florence||1 hr 45 min (110 km)||See Michelangelo’s David; have gelato in its birthplace|
Practical Advice for Montalcino
Toilets in Montalcino
There are four public toilets in Montalcino:
- in the fortress
- just below Piazza Garibaldi
- near the playground and Chiesa della Madonna del Soccorso
- in the Via Aldo Moro parking lot
At the time of writing, each one costs 50 centessimi (cents).
Water Fountains in Montalcino
Montalcino has a few public water fountains, but some of them are turned off for sanitary reasons during the pandemic.
Grocery Stores in Montalcino
Montalcino has a small Coop grocery store on the western side of town. Parking is difficult, so it’s best to arrive on foot. The closest parking lot is the Viale Strozzi lot.
Montalcino with Kids
It’s easy to classify Montalcino as a wine town that offers nothing to kids, but we find it an easy place to pass a few hours with little ones.
We like playing in the grass in the green space at the north end of town, playing at the playground, walking along the fortress walls, and getting gelato.
For more details on visiting town with little ones, see our post on Montalcino with Kids.
What is Montalcino known for?
Montalcino is best known for its premium red wine, Brunello di Montalcino. Made from the Sangiovese grape, it’s enjoyed by wine aficionados around the globe.
Is Montalcino worth visiting?
Montalcino is a must-see town for wine lovers – it’s the home of the well-known Brunello di Montalcino red wine. It also offers spectacular views from its hilltop position, quaint piazzas and cobblestone lanes, and delicious Tuscan cuisine.
Is Montalcino the same as Montepulciano?
Montalcino and Montepulciano are both hilltop towns in Southern Tuscany and they’re both famous for their top red wines – Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. They’re 40 minutes from each other by car, on opposite sides of the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Val d’Orcia (Orcia Valley).