Montalcino and Sant’Antimo: two spectacular destinations od the Val d’Orcia
The timelss charm of Montalcino and the Sant’Antimo abbey
Montalcino and the nearby abbey of Sant’Antimo have always been among the most popular destinations of the Val d’Orcia, a wide valley that extends in the southernmost part of the province of Siena. The valley is entirely occupied by rolling hills, where the river Orcia flows, and its background is the summit of the Mount Amiata. The land, lovingly cultivated by local farmers, is disturbed only by groups of cypresses, farm houses, isolated religious buildings and ancient villages. This landscape is represented in many paintings of the Renaissance, and since 2004 is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Montalcino is located in the western part of the Val d’Orcia, about 40 km from Siena: it can be reached by driving along the Via Cassia and then the Provincial Road of Brunello. The Abbey of Sant’Antimo is just 6 km from Montalcino. You can also make the entire route by train and/or bus.
Things to see in Montalcino and Sant’Antimo
Montalcino is located on a hill, from which you can enjoy views of the Asso and Ombrone valleys. Its slopes are full of Sangiovese vineyards, that produce the prized Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, but also the Rosso di Montalcino and the Sant’Antimo. The first settlement dates back to the tenth century and four hundred years after the town was already in the current form. The visit of Montalcino should start from the pentagonal fortress of 1361, perfectly preserved on top of the hill; not far from the fortress you can then find the Museums, which preserve some of Simone Martini’s and Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s works. In Piazza del Popolo there is the Palazzo dei Priori, dating from the end of XIII – beginning of XIV century, on its facade you can see the symbols of the lords that ruled the city. A visit to Sant’Antimo is an unforgettable experience: the massive white stone building, located in a completely secluded position, stands proud on the green fields and blue skies. The structue is located on the remains of the oratory, built in 352 on the site of the martyrdom of Saint Antimo of Arezzo. A first monastery was built by the Lombards in 770 and was upgraded to imperial abbey by the Carolingians, while the present church is of 1118. A visit to these places can be very exciting: you will see the majestic imperial Romanesque church and the remains of the Carolingian structures including the fascinating crypt, perhaps the oldest part of all.
Things to do before leaving Montalcino and Sant’Antimo
The Abbey of St. Antimo and Montalcino offer pleasures for the mind and body. For example you should not leave the abbey without first attending to the liturgy of the Hours recited by the local monastic community. The moments of prayer are held in the abbey church five times a day, at 7, 12:45, 15:30, 20:30 and 18: the voices of the monks that resonate among the Romanesque walls recreate a medieval atmosphere, which can also fascinate the young. Instead in the shops and inns in Montalcino you can discover and taste the local products: not only the Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, but also the pici, the Cinta Senese cold cuts and pecorino of the near Pienza. The city also organizes several themed food and wine events, such as “Benvenuto Brunello” (February), the “Honey Week” (September) and the “Thrush Feast” (October). A great place to rejuvenate body and soul!