Montalcino is a tiny hill town south of Siena which produces one of Italy's most prized wines, Brunello. Brunello marries the Italian Sangiovese grape with French-style careful aging processes to create an exquisite, rich red wine that competes with Barolo to be the most coveted wine in Italy. Rosso di Montalcino is also a very good wine, made from the same type of grape (although sometimes of lesser quality), but not aged as long—think of it as Brunello's cheaper, more-accessible sibling. Some wineries also produce a Riserva, which is a special Brunello (often made with the choicest grapes) aged an extra year. The town itself is also picturesque, with a nice church and belltower, an abbey with Gregorian chant (Abbey of Sant'Antimo) nearby, lots of enoteche (wine bars, one of which is in a medieval castle or fortezza), good restaurants, and hundreds of vineyards within a short drive. Note that a car (or driver) is almost a necessity when visiting Montalcino if you want to see more than the handful of wineries close to the town center. Contact the tourist office for a list of places offering rooms, or an excellent map of the wineries (including contact phone numbers).
For a full list of Montalcino wineries, a map, and contact information, see the Montalcino Consorzio website. To learn more about Brunello, check out Il Palazzone's excellent 8-quick facts introduction (reproduced here).
Biondi-Santi - Brunello was invented here in the 19th century, and they still have a few bottles of the 1891 vintage! While they charge €15 for a tasting, once you try their Brunello and Rosso, you'll understand why they can charge double what many wineries do.
Barbi - A charming winery which is situated very close to the informative Brunello Museum, Barbi also features an outstanding restaurant, cheese shop, and salami/sausage shop on the premises. You can rent out apartments for around €90 a night as well. They make wonderful Brunello, including an extra-special variety called Vigna della Fiore, as well as excellent olive oil.
Poggio di Sotto - Situated close to Castelnuovo dell'Abate (a town just south of Montalcino close to the Abbey of Sant'Antimo, where you can hear Gregorian Chant), this small winery has beautiful views. While he charges Biondi-Santi level prices, Piero Palmucci can get away with it because his wine is just that good: one person in our group said it tasted like "ambrosia"! Don't miss a tour of his cantina (cellar) which includes humidity and climate controlled rooms to age the casks. He also rents a beautiful apartment for €120 per room per night.
Il Palazzone - Loc. Le Due Porte 245 (43°3'16"N 11°29'6"E ??), 057-784-6142, firstname.lastname@example.org Owned by an American, former President of Citigroup Richard Parsons, this tiny winery is run by the warm-hearted Laura Gray and her husband Marco. Since Mr. Parsons owns the winery more for fun than profit, they are able to make great wine from their small plot of land overlooking the Tuscan countryside. Don't forget to ask about their Rosso, which is only available on the property.
Sesti - Castello di Argiano (42°59'6"N 11°25'21"E ??), 057-784-3921, email@example.com Half of the fun of Sesti is visiting their beautiful estate at the Castello di Argiano and meeting proprietor Giuseppe Sesti, a Harry Potter-bespectacled Renaissance man who speaks great English, wrote books on the constellations, and used to organize a Baroque opera festival. Still an avid astronomer, he plants and picks his grapes according to the movement of the heavens, and even depicts astronomical events on his Riserva labels. Whether the moon has anything to do with it or not, it is fantastic wine. (That being said, it's often hard to get ahold of them to arrange a tour, and it's not clear if Giuseppe receives visitors anymore...)
Castello Romitorio - Owned by painter and sculptor Sandro Chia, Castello Romitorio fills both its grounds and labels with art. They make some wonderful wines, including an up-and-coming DOCG called Morellino di Scansano (a blend of 85% Sangiovese and 15% Syrah, which is a great value). Sandro's Beatnik son Filippo (also an artist--a photographer) studied at NYU and speaks impeccable English (we thought he was American at first!).
Poggio Antico - On a sprawling estate just south of Montalcino, Poggio Antico also has a classy (but fairly expensive) international restaurant rec'd by Gambero Rosso, Michelin, and TCI.
Fattoi - Podere Capanna, località Santa Restituta, 057-784-8613. A true country estate, this charming winery produces some wonderful wines. Their Rosso won an award for one of the best Tuscan wines under €10.
Castel Giocondo - Another of the great Brunellos; don't miss their Riserva.
Where to Stay
Il Giglio - nice hotel in town associated with the Giglio restaurant, Via Soccorso Saloni 5 (near Piazza Garibaldi), 057-784-8167, www.gigliohotel.com (various prices for hotel or apartments; for example, €120 for apartment with 2 "matrimoniale" rooms, rec'd by Laura Gray...we stayed in one of their apartments for our honeymoon in 2014 and really enjoyed it, great option for staying "in town".)
Porta Castellana - B&B in town rec'd by Laura Gray, Via S. Lucia, 057-783-9001 or 328-279-3202, 43°03'33''N 011°29'32''E, www.portacastellana.it, firstname.lastname@example.org, €88 for double room, €55 for single room, free parking.
La Casella - nice place run by the Fattoi winery women (Iolanda, Marcella, and Roberta), Loc. La Casella (just outside the town gate—a long walk but walkable), 348-353-0320/349-284-3699, www.lacasellamontalcino.com, email@example.com
Piombaia - just S of town, nice apartments for rent, hot tub and (in the summer) pool, as cheap as €88 for an apartment with a matrimoniale bed and a pull-out bed, okay restaurant on the premises, Loc. La Crocina/La Croce, 1, 057-784-7197/348-271-8580/329-420-6973, www.piombaia.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Barbi - rents out apartments (see contact info above)
Poggio di Sotto - rents an apartment (see contact info above)
Le Sette Camicie - agriturismo outside of Castelnuovo dell'Abate which has a natural hot tub, Via Borgo di Mezzo, 64, Sant'Antimo, 335-636-3730 (Lorenzo), 338-679-2927 (Laura), www.le7camicie.it, prices and minimum stays vary based on season
have a big group and a lot of money? Stay where the Obamas stayed in 2017 at Borgo Finocchieto (minimum €20K for 3 nights!) near Buonconvento
Where to Eat
***Il Giglio - Via S. Saloni 5, 057-784-8167, dinner only, closed Tues, also a hotel, various folks' favorite in town, "great, wonderful people", Michele, Anna & Mario Machetti, call ahead for pancetta arrosto, rec'd by Alice, ~€30, €34 tasting menu. One of the more "fancy" restaurants in town. 43°03'27"N 11°30'10"E. We ate here on our honeymoon in 2014 and it was one of our favorite meals of the entire trip!
***Osteria al Porta al Cassero - via della Liberta 9 & via Ricasoli 32, 057-784-7196, closed Tues, rec'd by Gambero Rosso and Slow Food Osterie d'Italia, simple and genuine, ~€25; popular with locals, this place offers simple favorites and traditional dishes that other restaurants are afraid to make (such as beef tongue).
Osteria al Giardino - piazza Garibaldi 10/Cavour 1, 057-784-9076, closed Wed, Gianluca and Paola Luca also include favorites from around Italy, friendly, Rick Steves rec's as very fresh, "near-gourmet local cuisine", also rec'd by Gambero Rosso, Espresso, Michelin, Slow Food, Veronelli, and TCI, ~€35-40, tasting menus for €30 or 45.
Trattoria Sciame - via Ricasoli 9, 057-784-8017, 12-2:30, 7-9:30, closed Tues, popular with locals, rec'd by Frommer's, inexpensive
Ristorante il Moro - via mazzini 44, 057-784-9384, closed Thurs, popular with locals, home-style cooking; also rents out rooms, inexpensive
Il Re di Macchia - via Saloni 21, 057-784-6116, closed Thurs, traditional, good-quality ingredients, Antonio and Roberta, rec'd by Alice, Lonely Planet, ~€30-35, also €23 tasting menu.
Taverna di Grappolo Blu - Scale di Via Moglio 1 (near Via Mazzini), 057-784-7150, Rick Steves rec's as "unpretenious and friendly", Luciano and Maria Pia, not too expensive, Chowhound reader says it is "getting better all the time with more seasonality on the menu", rec'd also by TCI
Osteria Le Potazzine - piazza Garibaldi 8, 057-784-6054, 10-7:30 (lunch only), closed Mon, Gambero Rosso rec's, traditional, local food, salamis and cheeses, pinci, ribollita, ~€20-25.
Enoteca la Fortezza - piazzale la Fortezza, 057-784-9211, good for sampling wines and also some local dishes, rec'd by PAN, ~€20 for a light meal.
Enoteca Osteria Osticcio - via Matteotti 23, 057-784-8271, open 9-8, kitchen open 11-7, closed Sun, rec'd by Gambero Rosso, does a €23-25 lunch which includes a full Brunello tasting.
Trattoria l'Angolo - via Ricasoli 9, 057-784-8017, 12-2:30, 7-9:30, closed Tues, rec'd by Rick steves as "family-run hole-in-the-wall", Lonely Planet
Osteria Les Barriques - piazza del Popolo 21, 057-784-8411, closed Tues, good reviews online
Pasticceria Mariuccia - piazza del Popolo 29, 057-784-9319, one reviewer says "this bakery in Montalcino was my favorite part of the trip"
Just outside Montalcino:
***Il Leccio - via Costa Castellare 1, 057-784-4175, closed Wed, rec'd by Veronelli. While it is a bit of a drive from Montalcino in a town called Sant'Angello in Colle, this trattoria features many Tuscan favorites and is frequented by many of the local vintners, so you know it's a great place. If you're lucky, they'll break out some of their Vin Santo or show you their ancient wine cellar. They also have an excellent cafe and enoteca in Montalcino. See a review here, also mentioned in this NY Times article.
***Trattoria il Pozzo - Piazza del pozzo 2, Sant'Angelo in Colle, 057-784-4015, 12:30-2, 7:30-9:30, closed Tues, just down the street from Il Leccio, great pinci & bistecca, "the best [bistecca] I have ever had in a restaurant" says one reviewer, rec'd by Gambero Rosso and Frommer's, ~€25
Le Ferraiole - Localita Ferraiole, Castelnuovo dell'Abate, 057-783-5796 or 340-702-3097, closed Thurs, agriturismo near Sant'Antimo abbey, also bed & breakfast for only €40/person, ~€25-30, rec'd by Alice.
Osteria Bassomondo - via Bassomondo 7, Castelnuovo dell'Abate, 057-783-5619 or 057-783-5750, closed Mon, rec'd by Slow Travel reader as a typical "mom and pop" place, inexpensive, "best place for lunch when visiting the monastery"
Osteria La Crocina (at Piombaia farmhouse) - Localita la Crocina 1, 057-784-7240, one reviewer said "menu is more than adequate...it felt like a local place". 43°02'24"N 11°30'10"E.
Locanda Sant'Antimo - via Bassomondo, Castelnuovo dell'Abate, 057-783-5615, inexpensive (~20/person), glowing review (in Italian)
Locanda Pane e Vino - on road towards Buonconvento, 057-784-7063 or 347-390-8935, closed Thurs, local cooking at working farm (Agriturismo Colsereno), inexpensive
Taverna Barbi - localita Barbi, 057-784-7117, closed Wed, rec'd by PAN, Veronelli, TCI, L'Espresso, and Michelin, although one reviewer called this a "tourist trap," ~€35-40, or €45 tasting menu
(in Buonconvento:) Da Mario - rec'd Osterie d'Italia
(in San Giovanni d'Asso, ~20 min north of Montalcino): Da Roberto Taverna in Montisi - rec'd by Osterie d'Italia
...also check out the Tuscany page for more places nearby (e.g. on the Crete Senese drive towards Montepulciano)
Things to Do
Wine Tasting (duh, see above)
Drive the Crete Senese (see Tuscany page for more info on this beautiful postcard-perfect drive)
Sant'Antimo Abbey (Abbazia di Sant'Antimo) - beautiful, ancient medieval abbey where you can hear monks sing Gregorian chant, www.antimo.it, more information at Slow Travel, church is open from 6:45 AM to 9 PM (9:30 in July/August); if you want to hear the chat come during prayers such as Vespers (7 PM most days and 6:30 PM on Sundays); they ask that you only visit the church grounds there are not services: M-Sat from 10:15-12:30 and 3-6:30, and Sundays/holy days 9:15-10:45 and 3-6.
If you want to visit any wineries it is advisable to drive; however, it is also possible to take a bus from Siena. Bus line 114 is a slightly over 1 hour bus ride; see schedules on Siena Mobilita's website (look under "Extra-urban Service"), €3.45 fare (buy before boarding). Another option is to take the train to Buonconvento, and then bus to Montalcino (also line 114 but runs more frequently, 30 min ride, €1.85 fare)
Driving from South: From A1 take Chiusi-Chianciano Terme exit (SS146); follow signs/drive through Chianciano Terme, Montepulciano, and Pienza. At San Quirico d'Orcia, take SS-2 towards Siena. Eventually you will see signs for Montalcino (near Torrenieri)
Driving from North: From A1 take Firenze-Certosa exit. Take the Firenze-Siena motorway in direction "Siena"; get off on Siena Sud exit. Get on SS2-Cassia towards Rome/Grosseto/Viterbo. Eventually you will see signs for Montalcino (just past Buonconvento)
Driving from Rome: in addition to the A1 route (described above) you can also take SS1 Aurelia to Civitavecchia, then Grosseto. Then take SS-223 towards Siena/Roselle, get off on Paganico exit, and follow signs for Monte Amiata/Montalcino.