Montalcino & San Quirico d'Orca- the perfect day trip!
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Lunch with a view of Montalcino from Il Moro's balcony
Heaven: pecorino & honey
San Quirico- church
San Quirico- 16th c. garden
The elixir of the gods.
I'm referring, of course, to Brunello di Montalcino. If you are a wine lover- and prefer reds- this wine is so smooth, so flavorful, and so divine that it should be on everyone's bucket list.
Montalcino is a charming hilltop town dating back to Etruscan times and located 42 km (26 miles) from Siena in the beautiful Val d'Orcia.
In 1960, there were only 11 wine producers in the region. Today, thanks to the worldwide popularity of Brunello, there are over 200 (producing about 350k cases). Brunello was the first wine to receive the high quality status of DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita- or- Guaranteed and Controlled Denomination of Origin).
NOTE: as prestigious as the DOCG label is, remember that the "Super Tuscans" bear no such label and refuse to follow the rules.
What makes Brunello so special? Well, historical records show its production dating back to the 14th century. The Sangiovese grapes that grow in Montalcino are considered the finest in the region due to the area's micro-climate (it is the warmest and driest in Tuscany). This particular variety of grape contributes greatly to the color and body of the wine.
I recommend heading out to Montalcino in the morning to explore, shop, and enjoy lunch. The fortress of Montalcino (built in 1361) houses an enoteca / eatery on the ground floor, offering food and wine tastings. For 4,00 euro, you can explore the fortress, which has remarkably well-preserved rooms. The views from the ramparts are incredible, too. Not far from the fortress is the Church of Sant'Agostino that has an original 13th century facade.
LUNCH: with so many good places to choose from, deciding where to eat may prove difficult. Most eateries offer wine tasting menus at reasonable prices, too. We chose Il Moro for two reasons: interesting menu and outdoor seating with a view. The food was wonderful and the service was even better. Rabbit in Brunello wine sauce, pici with garlic and chilli oil, and warm pecorino cheese with artisan chestnut honey- all delicious. Everything was washed down with Brunello and a shot of grappa di Brunello (for digestion, of course).
Il Moro Tel: +39 0577 849384
Via Mazzini, 44
53024 Montalcino (SI) Italia
A short car ride away is a small medieval town not to be missed: San Quirico d'Orcia. The commune houses only 2500 inhabitants, but has some incredible sights. The outside of the church captures the spirit of the Middle Ages, complete with lions and Romanesque arches. There is even a 16th century formal garden with boxed hedges. The old tower homes, which have been cut short, are now homes that can be rented for vacation. Each one offers a stunning view.
Low season is the best time to enjoy these towns, as you will have the whole area practically to yourself. If you are staying in Siena, it is well worth renting a car to explore the region. Thank you for reading!
C. De Melo